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SONAR vs RADAR | difference between SONAR and RADAR

This page compares SONAR vs RADAR and mentions difference between SONAR and RADAR. SONAR stands for SOund Navigation And Ranging and RADAR stands for RAdio Detection And Ranging.

Both the systems are used for detection of objects, but at different places. Sonar does detection under water, whereas Radar does it above the land or sea. The principle of operations of both sonar and radar is same but uses different wave types.


Active SONAR vs Passive SONAR

Following are the features of SONAR.
• Sonar stands for Sound Navigation and Ranging.
• It uses sound waves in the frequency range from 20KHz to 10 MHz for its operation.
• The sonar transmits waves at about 343 meters/second into the sea.
• The figure-1 depicts active sonar and passive sonar types.
• Sonar supports a lower range in comparison to radar. This is due to the fact that sound waves are affected by various layers of temperature/salinity/depth of the Sea.
• Sonar is unaffected by any countermeasures, but it can be affected because of attenuation of sound waves by marine life.

Following are the types of SONAR.
• Active Sonar
• Passive Sonar
• Handheld Sonar
• Intercept Sonar


Radar Tutorial

Following are the features of the common RADAR system.
• Radar stands for Radio Detection and Ranging.
• It uses electromagnetic waves (i.e. Radio waves) in the frequency range from 3 MHz to 300 GHz.
• The radar transmits waves at about 300 x 106 meters/second in the air.
• Radar supports greater range.
• Radar can be jammed and consecutively affected by electronic countermeasures (i.e. Use of jamming EM waves), but it is unaffected by birds.

radar types

Following are the types of RADAR based on their principle of operation.
• Primary radar, Secondary radar
• CW radar, Pulse radar
• Monostatic Radar, Bistatic Radar
• Radar types based on applications of use e.g. Weather radar, search radar, automotive radar, ground penetrating radar,

Tabular difference between sonar and radar

Let us compare sonar vs radar based on various parameters such as speed, frequencies, wavelength, range and applications, following table mentions the difference between sonar and radar. There are various environments in which sonar is used such as ocean-based, biomedical (environment: tissue), NDT (environment: solids) etc. For comparison purpose, we will take ocean based sonar.

Specifications Sonar (Ocean based) Radar
Platform Sea surface or sub surface Aircraft or Spacecraft
Platform speed < 37 Km/Hr 200 Km/Hr (Aircraft) to 27000 Km/Hr (Spacecraft)
Propagation speed 3 x 10 8 m/sec, constant ~ 1500 variable (varies with depth, temperature, salinity, time & location)
Waves Acoustic (Longitudinal) Transverse radio: Horizontal, Vertical & Circular polarization
Frequencies 5 KHz to 650 KHz 0.45 GHz (P-Band) to 10 GHz (X-Band)
Wavelength 0.3 meters to 2.3 mm 67 cm to 3 cm
Target ranges 10 meters to 10 Km 1 Km to interplanetary
Gegraphic references Few raliable Many GPS, Ground based tracking
Applications Hydrographic mapping, Object finding Topographic mapping, Surveillance and many others

In order to understand sonar-radar difference one need to refer following links on sonar and radar basics.


Refer following radar tutorial links which covers radar measurements, doppler radar, FMCW radar, radar bands, radar scope, weather radar, radar range and resolution, ground radar etc.
Advantages and disadvantages of SONAR   Active Sonar vs Passive Sonar   Applications of SONAR   RADAR tutorial   Radar Measurements   Doppler Radar   FMCW RADAR   RADAR BANDs   RADAR SCOPE   Weather Radar   Ground Penetrating Radar System  RADAR RANGE and RESOLUTION 

Radar calculators

Following are useful radar calculators to calculate radar range, radar PRF, radar resolution etc.
Radar Range calculator   Radar PRF vs Range   Radar Range Resolution 

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