Aircraft wake vortex is a pair of strong counter-rotating vortices and has attracted considerable attention in various fields including aviation safety and atmospheric physics. The characteristics and detection of wake vortex act as the basis for both behavior prediction as well as hazard assessment. This paper provides a short survey of the characteristics and detection researches. Initially, the wake vortex is classified as clear-air wake vortex (i.e., wake turbulence and contrail) and precipitation wake vortex (i.e., under rainy, foggy or snowy condition). Subsequently, the dynamics and scattering are introduced, and the main verdicts are: the radar (radio detection and ranging) scattering of wake vortex is relatively weak under clear air conditions, but the Lidar (Light detection and ranging) scattering is appreciable owing to the presence of particles such as aerosols. Wake vortices under precipitation conditions and contrails possess relatively good radar reflectivity owing the strong scattering characteristics of precipitation droplets and ice crystals. Furthermore, we have introduced a joint detection scheme of Lidar and radar for wake vortex along with parameter-retrieval algorithms. Finally, we have presented our conclusions and intended future research.