Autonomously-operating radars employing the ‘ZLC configuration’ have been providing long-term datasets of insect flight activity to heights of about 1 km since the late 1990s. A unit of this type operating in Australia has recently received a major upgrade. The aim of the project was to maximize the utility of the radar to entomologists and aeroecologists by providing larger and more continuous datasets and extending observations to 2.5 km. The upgrade was achieved primarily by incorporating modern digital technology, which has enabled much improved data-acquisition, control performance, and data-archiving capacity; by implementing a more comprehensive observing protocol; and by replacing fixed electronic signal-acquisition gates with specially developed software that identifies insect echoes and applies a narrow moving gate that follows them. The upgraded version provides an approximately five-fold increase in hourly sample sizes, a doubling of the duration of observations (from 12 to 24 h per day) and a doubling of the height range over which observations are made. The design considerations (incentives and constraints) that informed the various subsystem implementations are identified, and the necessary compromises are discussed. Observations of the development of a layer echo during a migration by two different insect types are presented as a demonstration of the upgraded unit’s capabilities.
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