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Thales and DGAC operate the world’s first solar-powered Air Traffic Control radar station in Calama, Chile

  • The world’s first Air Traffic Control radar 100% powered by solar energy is now in full operation in the Atacama Desert, securing DGAC’s air traffic control and surveillance in Northern Chile.
  • A major innovation and engineering feat above 3,500 metres altitude, the radar station deploys 340 solar panels capitalizing on the high rate of solar incidence in Chile.
  • A precedent in terms of sustainable development, the ATC co-mounted radar, with a STAR NG primary and RSM secondary radar, ensure operational surveillance requirements of both civil and military air traffic control, detecting both slow and fast moving targets.
Thales co-mounted STAR NG & RSM Air Traffic Control radar, 100% powered by solar energy ©Thales
Thales co-mounted STAR NG & RSM Air Traffic Control radar, 100% powered by solar energy ©Thales

Chile’s General Directorate of Civil Aeronautics (DGAC), Chile’s civil aviation authority and Thales, a global leader in technology, are operating the world’s first 100% powered by solar energy air traffic control radar station. This technological innovation places Chile at the forefront of sustainable initiatives within the civil aviation industry for a greener future and ensures secure air traffic surveillance in Northern Chile.

Air safety is critical at all times. Whether an airspace is particularly busy, or whether it is going through a calmer period, Air Traffic Control Officers must maintain constant awareness of aircraft’s positions within their airspace. The slightest image gap could have significant consequences for air passenger safety.

Developed by Thales for the Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil (DGAC), the solar-powered radar system is comprised of an advanced and efficient STAR NG primary radar and RSM secondary radar. Combined, the radars provide all the operational surveillance requirements of both civil and military air traffic control detecting both slow and fast-moving targets such as helicopters, commercial planes, and jets. The 100% solar panelled ATC radar station will help monitor the commercial flights operated daily by the DGAC in the country, providing increased safety and reliability.

Located in the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile at more than 3500 metres, the radar station will run exclusively on sustainable energy by harnessing the region's high solar incidence. Equipped with 340 strategically positioned panels, the station has a maximum generation capacity of approximately 960 kWh per day, covering an area of 10,000 m2.

Launched one year ago, the innovation in terms of alternate and greener power generation is an example of Thales’ role as a strategic partner, with engineers and technology being at the forefront to deliver sustainable solutions in all environments. In addition to the solar panels, the system includes efficient energy use and advanced battery and backup generator technology to ensure the overall operation of the station.

With more than 1100 Air Traffic radars deployed in the world, Thales is recognized as a world leader in air surveillance technology and as an innovative strategic partner within the aerospace technology industry.

“For DGAC, at a strategic level, this new air traffic control radar station is undoubtedly a great contribution to air safety in the north of the country where there is currently a high air traffic density that will be fully covered by this new system, given its measurement range, which is the highest in the market at 100 nautical miles in the case of the primary radar and 250 nautical miles in the case of the secondary radar. The environment benefits are also outstanding and unique, limiting its impact on climate change by being 100% powered by solar energy which is consistent with the Chilean policies and the ones adopted by ICAO, in line with the concept that all nations should spare no effort to mitigate and reduce the environmental impact so that the next generations and our planet have a more sustainable future.” Juan Alegría, Systems Director DGAC


”This project delivery is a milestone in the civil aviation industry and a commitment to sustainability. This is not only a technological achievement for DGAC and Thales, but also an example of environmental responsibility, demonstrating Thales’ commitment and capability to create sustainable solutions in-line with customer sustainable requirements and global objectives of preserving the environment. It is an example of a project contributing to low carbon future, and contributes to the IATA to Fly Net Zero by 2050 commitment. It demonstrates how Thales advanced technologies are helping to make the world safer and more environmentally responsible”. Lionel de Castellane, VP Civil radars segment, Thales

As part of Thales' and DGAC's commitment to ESG objectives, the companies will also strive to ensure the preservation of archaeological sites in the region. With the authorisation of the native people, the site received special demarcation, preserving the history and memory of the place, for a more respectful and harmonious coexistence.

Thales has been present in Chile for 53 years and is responsible for managing air traffic management with TOPSKY ATC C, as well as delivering 75% of the radars currently operating in the country. The long-standing partnership with the DGAC allows Thales to help contribute to the Chile's aerospace industry and management of sovereign airspace.

Thales, Media Relations Ground Transportation
+33 (0)6 25 15 72 93
Alice Pruvot, Head of Media Relations, Aeronautics & Defense
+33 7 70 27 11 37