The demonstration of the properties of radio waves by the German scientist Heinrich Hertz, confirming the earlier theoretical basis for electromagnetic fields established by the Scottish scientist James Clerk Maxwell, led to the invention of radar whereby echoes from transmitted electromagnetic waves are received and processed to sense the environment.

Today, through its many and diverse applications, radar is a key tool for remotely sensing and monitoring the environment and for the tracking and surveillance of both civil and military objects.

The focus of the University of Adelaide Radar Research Centre is in the use of radar for surveillance and environmental monitoring. It brings together research groups from the School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering and the School of Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences together with various external organisations such as the Australian Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Antarctic Division and commercial companies such as Raytheon Australia, SRC Australia and ATRAD.

Key research themes in the Centre are in the area of radar systems and technology, RF propagation and radar signal processing.

The applications focus for the Centre's research will be the areas of environmental and atmospheric monitoring through radar sensing, surveillance and radar systems design.

The educational focus of the Centre is the training of radar researchers at post graduate level and in the delivery of post-graduate short courses of radars and their applications.