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Tutorial review of synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) with applications to imaging of the ocean surface

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1 Author(s)
Tomiyasu, K. ; General Electric Co., Philadelphia, PA

A synthetic aperture radar (SAR) can produce high-resolution two-dimensional images of mapped areas. The SAR comprises a pulsed transmitter, an antenna, and a phase-coherent receiver. The SAR is borne by a constant velocity vehicle such as an aircraft or satellite, with the antenna beam axis oriented obliquely to the velocity vector. The image plane is defined by the velocity vector and antenna beam axis. The image orthogonal coordinates are range and cross range (azimuth). The amplitude and phase of the received signals are collected for the duration of an integration time after which the signal is processed. High range resolution is achieved by the use of wide bandwidth transmitted pulses. High azimuth resolution is achieved by focusing, with a signal processing technique, an extremely long antenna that is synthesized from the coherent phase history. The pulse repetition frequency of the SAR is constrained within bounds established by the geometry and signal ambiguity limits. SAR operation requires relative motion between radar and target. Nominal velocity values are assumed for signal processing and measurable deviations are used for error compensation. Residual uncertainties and high-order derivatives of the velocity which are difficult to compensate may cause image smearing, defocusing, and increased image sidelobes. The SAR transforms the ocean surface into numerous small cells, each with dimensions of range and azimuth resolution. An image of a cell can be produced provided the radar cross section of the cell is sufficiently large and the cell phase history is deterministic. Ocean waves evidently move sufficiently uniformly to produce SAR images which correlate well with optical photographs and visual observations. The relationship between SAR images and oceanic physical features is not completely understood, and more analyses and investigations are desired.

Published in:

Proceedings of the IEEE  (Volume:66 ,  Issue: 5 )