Open Access Software

radR: an open-source platform for acquiring and analysing data on biological targets observed by surveillance radar

Philip D Taylor1*, John M Brzustowski12, Carolyn Matkovich1, Michael L Peckford1 and Dave Wilson3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, Acadia University, Wolfville, Canada

2 Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Canada

3 Electro Marine Communications Inc., Oakville, Canada

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BMC Ecology 2010, 10:22  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-10-22

Published: 26 October 2010



Radar has been used for decades to study movement of insects, birds and bats. In spite of this, there are few readily available software tools for the acquisition, storage and processing of such data. Program radR was developed to solve this problem.


Program radR is an open source software tool for the acquisition, storage and analysis of data from marine radars operating in surveillance mode. radR takes time series data with a two-dimensional spatial component as input from some source (typically a radar digitizing card) and extracts and retains information of biological relevance (i.e. moving targets). Low-level data processing is implemented in "C" code, but user-defined functions written in the "R" statistical programming language can be called at pre-defined steps in the calculations. Output data formats are designed to allow for future inclusion of additional data items without requiring change to C code. Two brands of radar digitizing card are currently supported as data sources. We also provide an overview of the basic considerations of setting up and running a biological radar study.


Program radR provides a convenient, open source platform for the acquisition and analysis of radar data of biological targets.