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Forty Years of Digital SAR and Slow GMTI Technology

John C Kirk Jr, Scott Darden

Uttam Majumder, Steven Scarborough

Goleta Star LLC


Torrance CA, USA

AFRL / RYAP,
Wright-Patterson AFB OH, USA

Abstract - 40-years of digital SAR and Slow GMTI


technology is traced from the first system to
demonstrate real-time digitally correlated SAR from an
intentionally maneuvering platform [1] to the current
lite-weight dual-channel radar (DCR) providing
simultaneous SAR and GMTI data. The Dual-Channel
Radar (DCR) has been developed providing lite-weight
SAR GMTI capability for Small UAVs. The prototype
radar weighs 5-lbs and has demonstrated the extraction
of ground moving targets (GMTs) embedded in highresolution SAR imagery data. Sum and difference
channel data is used in a DPCA algorithm to extract the
GMTs and display them on the Sum channel high
resolution SAR image.
Heretofore this type of
capability has been reserved for much larger systems
such as the JSTARS. Previously small liteweight SARs
featured only a single channel and only displayed SAR
imagery. With the advent of this new capability, SAR
GMTI performance is now possible for small UAV class
radars for DoD and DHS applications. The DCR is the
culmination of multiple Phase II and Phase II plus
SBIR efforts over the past 10-years, since 2002, for the
Army, DARPA and AFRL.

I.

INTRODUCTION

Synthetic Aperture Radar development began in the


1950s. The first operational SARs used post-flite
ground based optical processing to produce
sidelooking strip maps. Digital Signal Processing
(DSP) which began in the 1960s showed the promise
for providing real-time SAR imaging. The first realtime digital SAR flew in 1971 [1-3]. Digital SAR
development has continued thru the years and has
progressed along with the evolution of the key
technologies for digital processing.
Real-time
digitally processed SAR imagery is now
commonplace on many applications.
Some
highlights of this SAR technology development are
summarized in Table 1.
The application of multi-channel techniques for
Moving Target Indication (MTI) has been applied to
airborne radars over the past 50 plus years. Slow
GMTI (Ground MTI) techniques have been
developed over the last 40 plus years to provide for
the detection and location of slow moving ground
targets from an airborne radar [4-27]. With a single
channel radar, a fast GMT can be detected. With the
addition of a second channel, either a lower

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Table 1. Selected Highlights of SAR Imaging Radar Evolution


PERIOD

PHASE

CHARACTERISTICS

50s

Concept
Development

- Carl Wiley DBS concept


- U of Ill Experiment
- Project Michigan / Wolverine

60s

Optical SAR

- optical processing
- non-real time

70s

Digital SAR

- real time reconnaissance via data link

- tactical / strategic precision NAV


update and weapons delivery
- space based SAR
80s

Inverse SAR

- target imaging via target motion and


not radar motion

90s

Matured SAR

- Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS)


components
- advanced algorithms
- world wide

00s

UAV SAR

- Application of SAR to UAVs


- Miniaturization of SAR for Small UAVs

Minimum Detectable Velocity (MDV) can be


achieved or improved accuracy target azimuth
geolocation can be achieved.
With two channels, there is a choice between either
low MDV or accurate geolocation via monopulse
processing. For detecting slow moving targets the
primary technique is Displaced Phase Center
Antenna (DPCA), or Along Track Interferometry
(ATI). At least three subapertures or phase centers
are required to both detect and geolocate ground
moving targets. The leading application of this
technology is the Joint Surveillance and Target
Acquisition Radar System (JSTARS).
Clutter
Suppressed Interferometry (CSI) is the name given to
the JSTARS three phase center approach.
Much work is continuing on slow GMTI
development. There are one, two, three and four
phase center slow GMTI approaches. And, it has
been postulated to go to more phase centers for
potentially improved performance, via Space Time
Adaptive Processing (STAP). DPCA is essentially
the simplest form of STAP with just two spatial
degrees of freedom.
Although developed for
traditional Linear SAR, researchers have recently
applied the DPCA principle to Circular SAR data.
Both SAR and GMTI can be accomplished in a drag
beam strip mode or in a scanning beam Wide Area

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Search (WAS) mode. This WAS SAR is often called


Doppler Beam Sharpening (DBS).
The DBS
resolution is generally not as fine as the more
Hawkeye is an
common Strip mode. The E-2C H
example of WAS MTI, and WAS GMT
TI is performed
on the JSTARS.
II.

First Real-Time Digitaal SAR

The first real time in-flight processedd digital SAR


was flown on 18 March 1971. It w
was part of a
program called the Future Weapon C
Control System
(FWCS).
That system eventuallyy incorporated
motion compensation with the motionn measurement
sensor being an Inertial Navigation System (INS)
integrated with a Doppler Nav System.. At that time
it was desired to show the beneffits of digital
processing relative to optical. These w
were: (1) Realtime in-flight on-board processinng, (2) nonsidelooking SAR, ie squint mode, andd (3) strip SAR
Image Formation Processing (IFP) duriing maneuvers.
The early SARs all used non-reall-time ground
processing.
The look angle wass 90-degreees
sidelooking, and the aircraft flew a sitting duck
flight path which was a tube with a widdth of typically
50-feet. We sought to show that we coould image at a
non-orthogonal squint angel, with 45--degrees being
the nominal choice. We also establisshed a tube of
about 4-nmi width in which the aircraft could
maneuver. This is illustrated in Fig. 1. This type of
processing was accomplished and demonstrated on
FWCS during 1971.

Fig. 1. Digital SAR Squint Mode Imaging durring Intentional


Maneuvering

An example image of the Washington DC area taken


during intentional maneuvers is shownn in Fig. 1. An
additional expanded image is shown inn Fig. 2. It is
from a long 45-degree strip of the Baltiimore MD area
showing the inner harbor area. A Google Earth
image is shown for comparison. Thhe images are

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Several interesting
approximately aligned up.
n these two images,
features can be noticed between
radar vs optical, and 1971 vs 2013. Notice the
changes in the inner harbor in paarticular. This SAR
image was obtained during inten
ntional maneuvers of
10-deg and 2000-ft. We werre limited mostly by
the gimbal angle limit of 60-deg
grees. So, we asked
the pilot to keep the maneuvers < 15-degs. There
ns in the image, as
were no noticeable degradation
geometric fidelity and linearitty appeared to be
accurately preserved during thesee maneuvers.

Fig. 2. Comparison of 1971 SAR image and 2013 Optical Image

III.

hniques
GMTI Tech

pproach relies solely


The single phase center GMTI ap
on a large antenna, a slow radar velocity and a high
RF for achieving a good MDV. Targets have to be
MBC) for detection.
clear of Main Beam Clutter (M
Location is poor since only amplitude centroiding is
available.
However, multi-radar multi-lateration
could be used for cross range loccation accuracy. The
Multi-lateration Surveillance Strrike System (MSSS)
of the 1970s was such an approach.
Two phase centers permits detecction of slow movers
in clutter via DPCA, with no monopulse or
interferometric repositioning for the detected targets
available. Three and four phase center approaches
pulse simultaneously.
allow for both DPCA and monop
Peak-a-Boo (PAB) evolved from
m trying to locate a
moving target located near the skirt of MBC in a
single channel radar. Locating a moving target and
correctly repositioning it is callled GMT Location
(GMTL), or geolocation. Imp
plementing multiple
phase centers for achieving a low
w MDV is also called
slow GMTI, or sometimes SMTI..
The three / four phase center apprroaches have enough
phase centers or degrees of freed
dom to provide both
clutter canceling and monopullse location in the
Doppler filters that are in the MBC region.

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DPCA Processing
DPCA achieves its clutter rejection by aligning the
apertures in space on two successive PRIs. Thus
clutter cancellation by a two pulse canceller should
be near perfect.
In practice the two pulse
cancellation is applied after Doppler filtering
individually and adaptively on each Doppler filter.
Hence it looks and performs about the same as CSI.
A very simple view of DPCA clutter canceling is
presented here.
Consider the simple geometry
illustrated in Fig. 3. For this simple case there is a
single piece of clutter. Consider a pair of pulses.
The radar transmits and receives on the fore antenna
at time t1 and then transmits and receives on the rear
antenna at time t2. These two events are labeled 1
and 2 in the figure.
V

1
2

Fig. 3. DPCA GMTI Clutter Canceling Concept

To cancel the clutter, the two returns are aligned and


subtracted. For perfect DPCA, the two phase centers
will overlay and the clutter will cancel exactly. This
is normally accomplished by aligning the antenna
with the velocity vector and adjusting the radar
timing.
Even if the phase centers dont overlay, the clutter
can still be cancelled, by phase shifting one of the
returns relative to the other prior to subtraction.
Adaptive DPCA Concept
Even for the case where the two phase centers dont
overlay, clutter canceling can be implemented by
phase shifting or complex weighting one return with
respect to the other. For example the sum S1 K*S2
is always equal to zero if K is set equal to S1 / S2. In
general the two returns are complex. The ratio is
given by A1 ej1 / A2 ej2 = A1 / A2 ej(1 2). If the
amplitude of the two returns is the same, the ratio
will provide a phase shift. Thus the adaptive weight
is determined from the data itself. The ratio S1 / S2 is
normally formed as (S1 S2*) / (S2 S2*) so that the
denominator is a real number. The key to the more
complex clutter rejection approach is a
straightforward extension of this simple concept.
The two-channel adaptive DPCA processing is
illustrated functionally in Fig. 4.

Fig. 4. Dual-Channel Adaptive DPCA FFT Processing

FFT or SAR Doppler Processing


The real key to adaptive DPCA is to perform the
clutter canceling subtraction after FFT Doppler
processing. Doppler filtering divides the antenna
MBC clutter return into smaller (SAR or DBS)
angular regions. Adaptive DPCA can then be applied
on each Doppler filter individually. This approach
provides greater clutter canceling than doing 2-pulse
DPCA prior to the FFT.
IV.

Highlights of Multi-channel GMTI


Development

Some highlights of slow MTI development are


presented here, and a summary is given in Fig. 5.
The USN AEW Hawkeye radar is included here,
even though it is an AMTI (Airborne) and not a
GMTI radar, since it uses DPCA to minimize the
MBC Doppler spread and improve Doppler visibility
between the PRF lines. Actually that radar had a
major design problem to eliminate the ground movers
and leave the airborne targets. Hence, inadvertently,
overland it became a GMTI radar.
USN E-2C Hawkeye UHF AMTI
- 2 Phase Center DPCA

- Unintentionally had GMTI capability over land


MIT/LL Multiple Antenna Surveillance Radar
(MASR)
- 4 Phase Center, DPCA plus Monopulse
USAF Joint STARS
- 3 Phase Center, DPCA plus Monopulse
Dual Channel Radar (DCR)
- 2 Phase Center, DPCA or Monopulse

Fig. 5. Highlights of Multi-Channel GMTI Development

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During the 70s, a Multi-lateration Surveillance


Strike System (MSSS) approach was developed, and
it is interesting since it sought to detect ground
moving targets and then to reposition them through
multiple aircraft multi-lateration. The problem being
that there is an uncertainty in the targets cross range
location comparable to the antenna beamwidth which
can be kilometers wide at long range, whereas the
range resolution can be down to tens of meters. Thus
wide angle multi-lateration using range should reduce
the cross range accuracy to that comparable to the
range accuracy.

accept the output from the two receiver channels.


The Motion Measurement Sensor (MMS) is provided
by a good performance 2-lb INS/GPS.

During the same time span, MIT/LL flew their four


phase center MASR. MASR sought to do DPCA and
precision monopulse location from a single radar.
The problem being that monopulse and DPCA
require two phase centers each. The phase centers
are degrees of freedom (DOF) and if they are used
for DPCA they cannot be used for monopulse. Thus
the four phase center approach provides independent
DOFs for both DPCA and monopulse.

Quick-look processing is used in-flight to verify the


data. The collected data has been processed by
multiple image formation processing (IFP)
algorithms: a simple Back Projection Algorithm
(BPA), Wavefront Reconstruction (RMA or -k) and
with the Polar Format Algorithm (PFA).

Pave Mover was a competitive program to develop a


slow GMTI surveillance system. There were two
contractors. Grumman flew a Norden three phase
center approach and Hughes flew a two phase center
approach. The Hughes approach was an outgrowth
of their Monopulse Anomaly Detection (MAD)
concept which was flown earlier on the USAF
FLAMAR program. The USAF selected GrummanNorden and this became the JSTARS system.
Thus, in summary and as was mentioned in the
introduction, there are one, two, three and four phase
center slow GMTI approaches. And it has been
postulated to go to even more phase centers for
potentially improved performance; hence STAP.
DPCA is essentially the simplest form of STAP with
just two spatial degrees of freedom.
V.

Dual-Channel Radar Description

Legacy light-weight Goleta Ka-band radar


technology has evolved into the sub-10-lb Ka-band
dual-channel radar (DCR).
This legacy radar
hardware has been upgraded and modified to provide
along track dual phase center data collections to
support SAR / GMTI algorithm development. The
radar is liteweight and can be scanned in azimuth and
elevation over a wide FOV. In the bottom of Fig. 5
and in the right side of Fig. 6, we show the three
antenna aperture front end that has been assembled, a
center antenna for transmit and two outer antennas
for receive. The two receive arrays feed a dualchannel receiver. A special digital dual-channel
FPGA board has been developed and is used to

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The complete system underwent final lab checkout


and additional van testing in September 2010. Initial
flight testing was performed in February 2011 with
excellent results. This dual-channel Ka-band data
will compliment existing X and Ku-band data bases
and expand the frequency coverage to the higher
MMW region.

The initial flight test was performed in a 4-passenger


Cessna 172 aircraft, enabling the collection of data
that is independent of the ground station. This
aircraft is illustrated in the left side of Fig. 6. The
airborne DCR is installed in the luggage
compartment. A view of the DCR in the luggage
compartment is also shown in Fig. 6.
The
components in this initial flite test configuration
weigh approximately 11-lbs including the radar,
MMS and gimbal, and have a total power draw of
less than 100-Watts.

Fig. 6. Goleta Star Aircraft for DCR Data Collections, and


showing the Radar inside the Cargo Door

In Fig. 7, we show an ultra high res 10-cm image of a


moving dismount signature near a passenger vehicle.
Also in Fig. 7, we show a strip SAR image of the
Whiteman Airport area. Both 0.5 and 1-m resolution
dual-channel strip SAR data collections were made of
this area.
10-cm SAR

Moving
Dismount

Fig. 7. 10-cm Resolution Image of a Stationary Vehicle and Moving


Dismount, and a 0.5-m Resolution Sum Channel Strip Map Image

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VI.

DCR DPCA Resuults

February 2011.
The DCR had its maiden flight on 13 F
This data has been processed and good imagery
generated. Data was collected on eightt runs, seven of
the Whiteman Airport area and one, thee 6th run, of the
nearby I5 area. This Run 6 data was processed via
DPCA, and the MTI detections were then added to
the sum channel map. Here we show the advantage
moving targets
of the dual-channels for extracting m
embedded in the SAR imagery.
In the top of Fig. 8 we show the Sum bbeam image of
a Freeway Area in Pacoima CA, whichh is formed by
combining the SAR images from thhe two phase
centers. In the bottom of Fig. 8, is shown the
difference channel image that wa s formed by
CA processing.
subtracting the two images via DPC
Here the stationary clutter is canceelled, but the
moving targets are not and show up aas bright spots.
Finally, in Fig. 9 we show the SAR GM
MTI image that
was formed by adding the differrence channel
detections on to the SAR sum beam image. These
detections are shown as small red dots.
VII.

Results
WAS SAR / GMTI R

wide angle scan


Small UAV radars can also have a w
wide angle scan
WAS SAR GMTI capability. This w
can be provided either by way off mechanically
rotating the radar antenna or by employing an
electronic scan capability. Examples oof recent small
UAV radar WAS imagery are illustratted in Fig. 10.
On the left in this figure we show a reaal beam ground
map (RBGM) with a cross rangge beamwidth
resolution of approx 4-degrees. Below
w that we show
a Doppler Beam Sharpened (DBS) oor WAS SAR
image with a nominally 20 to 1 D
Doppler beam
sharpened resolution of approximatelly 0.2-degrees.
Both images feature the same range resolution and
are from the same phase history dataa set. On the
right in Fig. 10 is a PPI display off WAS GMTI
detections of a scene featuring traffic of opportunity
on a freeway. And, below that is a diisplay of these
detections on a Google Earth map. Thhis is the same
I5 freeway area in Pacoima CA that waas also imaged
with the Strip SAR mode and was show
wn in Fig. 9.

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Fig. 8. DCR Sum-Channel Image (top), and DCR Delta-Channel


Image Showing Canceled Clu
utter (bottom)

Fig. 9. Final DCR SAR GMTI Image Showing


S
Movers as Red
Dots

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WAS MTI

WAS Images
MTI
PPI
PPI

[7]
[8]

RBGM

[9]
[10]
[11]
DBS

Google View

[12]
[13]
[15]
[16]

Fig. 10. Wide Area Search (WAS) Mode Examples

[17]

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
[18]

The early FWCS work was funded by the USN Naval


Air Systems Command, out of Jefferson Plaza at that
time and now Pax River, and supported by the NRL
and NADC. The Small UAV radar work was
initially funded by the US Army I2WD beginning in
2002 under the leadership of Dan Kuderna and
Lorraine Kohler, and later by Mark Govoni, Craig
Emigh and Joe Deroba. Support was also received
from DARPA, namely Gerard Titi and Mark
McClure. Recent support for the dual-channel radar
work was provided by the AFRL under the guidance
of our coauthors, Uttam Majumder and Steve
Scarborough. Our initial small UAV radar hardware
was built by MMCOMM, under the guidance of
Long Q Bui. (MMCOMM was later purchased by
Honeywell.) The recent DCR hardware was built by
Quinstar Technology Incorporated located in
Torrance CA, and individually by Kai Lin and C K
Pao. Our pilot was Matt Espenau. We thank all our
contributors through the years for their support.
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[2]
[3]
[4]
[5]
[6]

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"The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and
do not reflect official policy of the United States Air Force,
Department of Defense or the U.S. Government."

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