How can a radar perimeter security system take security beyond the fence line?

March 8, 2024 by
Spotter Global, Jamie Mortensen

In 2013, protectors of the electrical grid received an alarming wake-up call with regards to substation vulnerability. 

A little after midnight, an unknown number of assailants approached a PG&E substation near San Jose, California. They never got close enough to be seen by the substation cameras and were never picked up by any of the perimeter security sensors. 

Yet they destroyed over $15 million dollars worth of substation equipment and took the substation offline. 

Had power-rerouting abilities from other substations not been in place, they might have interrupted power flow to the thousands of homes and business operations in Silicon Valley, causing even greater losses.

All this from simply setting themselves up at sniper distance and firing on the large substation transformers for about twenty minutes before disappearing into the night. Late detection and confused security responses led to the extent of the damage not being discovered for more than an hour. 

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Security experts agree that, in a world of increasingly sophisticated security threats, security responses cannot wait until a perpetrator reaches the property’s fence line, if indeed they reach the fence line is part of their plan at all. Situational awareness needs to extend beyond the property line to detect, deter, and delay potential threats long before the perimeter is approached or any damage is done. 

To answer this need, radar technology has emerged as a powerful tool in expanding situational awareness beyond the fence lines. Used for a diversity of security needs, in a variety of forms, and in a wide range of locations, radar perimeter security is revolutionizing the security world with the ability to detect potential threats over great distances and serve as a force multiplier to comprehensive security design. 

In this article, we will explore the world of radar technology and its role in bolstering security measures and protecting property from modern security risks. 

Key Takeaways

  • Traditional security measures have limitations making them vulnerable to modern threats
  • Compact Radar technology can extend security beyond the fence line giving security personnel the time to prevent harm
  • Compact Radar has applications in Electrical Utilities, industrial, commercial, border, maritime, military, and defense settings 
  • Investing in the right radar system is important for enhanced security

Understanding the Limitations of Traditional Security Measures

Traditional security measures have long been relied upon to protect properties and assets and still have a valuable role to play as small-scale opportunistic security threats can and are still deterred by fences, locks, security guards, surveillance cameras, and alarm systems. 

It is critical to note, however, that these traditional security measures often rely on human intervention. And since security guards can only be in one place at a time, traditional security measures have too often proved inadequate in monitoring large properties and defending them against more sophisticated and determined security threats. 

Additionally, even more high-tech traditional security measures can leave security gaps. Smart surveillance cameras, for example, while often extremely useful, can only capture what is within their field of view, leaving blind spots that can be exploited by intruders. Fiber optic fencing won’t pick up on airborne threats. And even if triggered, none of the above-mentioned security measures may be enough to fully protect a site from a well-armed, sufficiently quick, or long-range assault on a property. 

Much of the risk comes from the fact that many security measures are reactive in nature and only come into play after a perimeter breach has occurred.

Incidents such as the 2013 sniper attack on the Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Metcalf transmission substation in Coyote, California as well as government facility infiltrations and sophisticated home invasions have proven the inadequacy of traditional security measures in comprehensively preventing harm making it clear that a more proactive and comprehensive approach is needed to guarantee security in the modern era. 

Brief Introduction to Radar Technology

Radar, short for Radio Detection and Ranging, is a technology that uses radio waves to detect and locate objects in its vicinity. It operates on the principle of emitting radio waves and then analyzing the reflected signals to determine the presence, location, speed, and trajectory of objects within its detection range. 

While initially used almost exclusively for military applications, radar grew in its use after WWII to find applications in meteorology, weather forecasting, and perimeter security.

Modern perimeter security radars come in several types, each with their own specifications and capabilities for serving different security needs. 

How Radar Technology Can Extend Security Reach




Radar technology can detect objects at long distances and with large field of views, extending the security reach of a system.


Radar technology can provide accurate information about the location, speed, and direction of objects, improving situational awareness.

Weather Resistance

Radar technology can operate in adverse weather conditions, such as rain, fog, and snow, providing reliable security coverage in any environment.

Low False Alarm Rate

Radar technology can distinguish between real threats and false alarms, reducing the workload of security personnel and improving response times.


Radar technology can be integrated with other security systems, such as cameras and access control, providing a comprehensive security solution.

Radar technology offers a compelling solution to the limitations of traditional security measures. By leveraging the power of radio waves, radar systems can extend the reach of security measures beyond what is possible with physical barriers, perimeter line sensors, motion detection cameras, and human intervention alone.

The main advantage of radar technology is its ability to detect objects over long distances and in adverse weather conditions. Unlike surveillance cameras that rely on visual cues, radar systems can operate effectively in low visibility situations such as fog, snow, dust, or darkness, making them ideal for monitoring large areas or remote locations where human presence may be limited.

By simply placing small to mid-sized radars at strategic locations around the perimeter of a property, property owners can create a virtual security net that extends beyond the physical barriers of their property line in every direction. Furthermore, and as will soon be discussed,by combining the strengths of different technologies, including radar, property owners can maximize their security capabilities and minimize vulnerabilities.

Spotter Radar looking out over Substation

CK Series Radars are great for Substations that need perimeter security and other locations that want to cover a distance from 100 to 250 meters out.

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The Force Multiplying Nature of Real-Time Radar: Customizing the Security Response to the Threat Level

Force multipliers are elements that come into a system and, rather than simply working well on their own, assist in maximizing the synergy between other system elements leading to impressive systemwide improvement. Which is exactly what radars do to security systems. 

Being able to detect an approaching vehicle from 500 meters away through thick fog is valuable. But more than being the most efficient means of extending situational awareness beyond the fence line (installing enough cameras or motion sensors to cover the same quantity of ground would be both difficult and expensive), perimeter radar systems can be integrated with other security measures such as surveillance cameras and alarm systems, to create a comprehensive security design that encompasses an entire property and much of the area outside of it.  

The benefits of a smart radar-enabled security systems include: 

  • Real-time detection and response. While many traditional security measures are passive, perimeter security radars continuously scan the surrounding environment. This allows them to detect threats from within or without the perimeter at the earliest opportunity, track and report on their location in real-time, trigger automatic security deterrence measures, and provide early warning to security personnel. This proactive, real-time approach can significantly reduce on-site and local authority response times and greatly increase the chances of preventing security breaches.
  • Integration with PTZ cameras. Smart radar systems, as soon as they have detected a potential threat, can cue the site’s PTZ cameras to zoom in on the potential threat(s) immediately, allowing security personnel to identify what kind of potential threat they are dealing with and choose the best countermeasure. For example, if a radar system detects multiple individuals moving in a coordinated manner toward a property, it could indicate a planned intrusion. This level of insight can help security personnel quickly make informed decisions, in this case probably a high-alert response, whereas a single hiker passing slowly by will necessitate a much milder security response. 
  • The reduction of nuisance alarms. Because radars track the movement of detected objects through electromagnetic waves instead of the visible spectrum, they are very good at identifying movement patterns and analyzing potential threats. This allows smart radar systems to learn to identify the difference between potential threats, such as a person or vehicle approaching the perimeter, and a nuisance, such as local wildlife activity. The radar system’s filtration of such nuisance alarms can save significant security personnel time and resources. 
  • The creation of alarm zones through integration with deterrence measures. Modern radar perimeter security systems can set up alarm zones in and around a property so that security deterrence measures can be automatically triggered at the first detection of a potential security threat. For example, a system might be set up so that if a person or vehicle gets within 100 meters of the fence line a light turns on, if they get within 50 meters an alarm goes off, and if they get within 20 meters the police are called. Alarm zones and responses are specifically tailored to site needs, closing the security gaps created by one-size-fits-all security solutions. 

Types of Radars Used in Radar Perimeter Security

Security radars can vary widely in their size, detection range, physical design, software design, power requirements, and much more. While large military and meteorological research radars can often have ranges of hundreds of kilometers, perimeter security radars are usually small to mid-sized, often roughly the size of a college textbook, with detection ranges from 100m to about 2km. 

The advantage of such variation is that security managers and integrators can choose radars that suit their location’s needs and budget. A remote power plant, for example, may require longer-range radars while a small, urban substation may prefer short, narrow-range radars to detect potential threats coming through alleyways or perhaps a 3D radar system for detecting urban drone activity.

Security Radar Return on Investment

The price of installing any security measure is generally seen, not as an investment yielding an immediate or eventual direct profit, but as insurance against the loss of valuable assets,  the replacement cost of some assets being so great that the comparatively small cost of installing preventative security measures is seen as well worth the price. 

Radar perimeter security, though more expensive up-front than many other security measures, is often used to protect the most valuable of assets, including human lives, lucrative business operations, equipment worth millions of dollars, and the critical infrastructure and processes that uphold the daily lives and commerce endeavors of entire communities.

Spotter Global radars, for example, protect the power supply of approximately 25% of homes and businesses in the United States. If the critical infrastructure sites that deliver power to these locations were compromised, the result could be billions of dollars lost to both the electrical companies to day nothing of the potentially catastrophic loss of life due to hospital equipment failure, loss of heating, and possible food shortages in the community as well. [1

When such high stakes are involved, high-quality security design is of the utmost priority.  Those considering the purchase and installation of perimeter security radar for their property must weigh the value of their assets, replacement and recovery costs, evaluate the vulnerabilities of their sight, and consider if, and if so, which radar security systems would best insure their property and assets against significant loss. 

Typically, consultation with a security professional or security system integrator is the best way to determine what perimeter security radars may be needed and how to get them at the best price. 

Radar Applications in Industrial and Commercial Settings

Radar technology has found numerous applications in industrial and commercial settings. From securing manufacturing plants to protecting retail establishments, radar systems have proven useful in protecting against theft, sabotage, delinquent behavior, and much more.

In industrial settings, where large areas need to be monitored, radar technology can provide efficient ground coverage outside the perimeter. Additionally, by deploying radar systems at strategic locations, such as entrances and perimeters, security personnel can effectively monitor the movement of people and vehicles through sensitive areas. This can help prevent unauthorized access, detect potential safety hazards, and ensure compliance with security protocols.

Similarly, in commercial settings such as shopping malls or office complexes, radar technology can detect individuals approaching access points and trigger the appropriate responses, such as unlocking a door or activating an alarm. This level of automation not only improves security but also enhances the overall user experience.

Radar for Border and Perimeter Security

Border and perimeter security is a critical concern for nations around the world. Whether it's a case of smuggling, illegal immigration, or hostile invasion, border control has a need for constant and comprehensive detection abilities and situational awareness. 

To achieve this situational awareness, border control agencies utilize long-range radar systems to monitor the vast areas on either side of international borders to detect unauthorized crossings or suspicious activities. This early detection capability allows for timely response and enables proactive measures to be taken.

Furthermore, radar technology can operate effectively in various weather conditions, making it ideal for border environments where dense fog or heavy rain may be used as cover for illegal border crossings. In such times, radar perimeter security applications can provide reliable detection capabilities, ensuring that no potential threats go unnoticed.

Several countries have successfully implemented radar technology for border and perimeter security. For example, the United States utilizes a network of radar systems along its borders to detect illegal crossings and drug smuggling activities. Similarly, European countries have deployed radar systems to monitor their maritime borders, detecting unauthorized vessels and preventing illegal immigration.

Radar for Maritime Security

Radar technology plays a crucial role in maritime security. Maritime activities are vital for both national security and the world’s economy as over 90% of the world’s international trade goods are transported by sea. With vast oceans to patrol, protect and manage, maritime authorities rely on radar systems to detect and track vessels, ensure safe navigation, and prevent illegal activities. 

In order to reliably detect threats through all weather, radar security systems are often ruggedized to operate harsh marine environments so they can detect small vessels, even in rough seas and adverse weather conditions. 

By continuously scanning the surrounding waters, radar systems can provide real-time information about vessel movements and, in addition to maintaining maritime perimeter security, may also be used for collision avoidance and search and rescue operations. Perhaps if the Titanic had had a radar onboard, she would not have sunk so tragically.

The Role of Radar in Military and Defense Operations

Radar technology has long been an integral part of military and defense operations. In fact, the first compact, portable surveillance radar was developed by Spotter Global (then SpotterRF) to protect mobile military operations in the field. [2]

From early warning systems to target tracking and missile defense, radar has and continues to play a crucial role in ensuring national security in air defense, ground surveillance, and navy operations. 

Of particular note, are the small to mid-sized radar systems that are now being adapted to protect military operations and critical infrastructure from the fast-evolving threat of unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) or drones in armed conflict across the world. A single UAS threat, if undetected and undeterred, can cause millions of dollars worth of damage in a single run and radars promise to be vital in the evolving landscape of defense against such attacks. 

The Future of Radar Technology and Security

As radar perimeter security systems continue to be implemented in more and more locations, the limits of radar security continue to be tested, refined, and expanded. And with such a wide and varied field of feedback to draw from, security radar designers and technicians continue to push the limits of radar capabilities, including range, accuracy, software, and integration capabilities, ensuring a bright future for radar security. 

One area of advancement is the continued miniaturization of radar systems. For example, there is potential for handheld radar devices to be used by law enforcement officers for personal protection or to detect concealed weapons. Similarly, small radar systems are increasingly used in smart doorbell systems, car navigation, and highly precise machining operations. 

Choosing the Right Radar System for a Property

When it comes to choosing a radar system for security purposes, several factors need to be considered. The specific requirements of the site, such as the size of the area to be monitored or the desired detection range, will determine the type of radar system that is most suitable.

For example, if the goal is to monitor a large area such as a border or an industrial facility, long-range radar systems would be ideal. These systems offer extended detection ranges, can cover vast areas effectively, and can be set up with more customized alarm zones. On the other hand, if the focus is on securing a smaller property or a specific location, short-range radar systems may be more appropriate.

Additionally, the environmental conditions in which the radar system will operate should also be taken into account. For example, if the area is prone to heavy rain or snow, a radar system with weather-resistant features would be necessary. In such cases, look for radars that pass the IP67 standard or offer other proof of weather-resistant design. Similarly, if the area is subject to extreme temperatures or high humidity, a ruggedized radar system would be required.

It is also important to consider the integration capabilities of the radar system. Depending on the existing security infrastructure, compatibility with other technologies such as surveillance cameras or access control systems may be crucial. Choosing a radar system that can seamlessly integrate with the security features and system already in place will ensure cohesive and comprehensive security coverage.

The Importance of Investing in Radar Technology for Enhanced Security

In conclusion, radar technology offers a powerful tool in extending security reach beyond property lines. By harnessing the power of radio waves, radar systems provide enhanced detection capabilities and improved situational awareness. Whether it's protecting residential homes, securing industrial facilities and critical infrastructure, or monitoring national borders, radar technology has proven to be an invaluable asset in enhancing security measures.

The limitations of traditional security measures have become increasingly evident in today's complex security landscape. Relying solely on physical barriers and human intervention is no longer sufficient to address the evolving threats we face. Radar technology offers a proactive and comprehensive approach to security, enabling early detection and both timely and customized response to potential threats.

Investing in radar technology is not only a wise decision but also a necessary one. As technology continues to advance, so do the capabilities of those who seek to breach our security measures. By embracing radar technology and staying ahead of the curve, we can ensure that our homes, businesses, and nations remain safe and secure. 

Spotter Global, Jamie Mortensen March 8, 2024
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