Early SAR systems required a great deal of payload volume, mass, and power to produce near real-time SAR image products while on board the host aircraft. This early SAR weighed 500 lbs. and could only be loaded onto large and heavy platforms. In addition, a radar operator and image analyst(s) were required on-board.
DOE Twin Otter (radar was also altered for other platforms)
X-Band Radar System
Initially, high-quality X-Band SAR imagery was desired for target characterization and template generation. Later, upgrades expanded the sensor capability to include polarization diversity which was originally of interest for bistatic SAR investigations. Modern, miniaturized (miniSAR variant) Sandia X-Band radar systems are being utilized for detecting visually obscured crevasses in Antarctica in support of the National Science Foundation.
USAF LC-130, DHC-6 Twin Otter
Sandia developed a new prototype representing the archetype of a third generation of SAR systems that first flew in 1998. This new system not only weighed nearly 75% less than the SAR system introduced in 1990, it included valuable mode additions including Coherent Change Detection (CCD).
General Atomics has since enhanced the Lynx radar to an operational, multi-channel, multi-mode, multi-mission, high-performance radar.
General Atomics Predator series UAVs, wide variety of manned and unmanned platforms. Testbed Aircraft: Twin Otter
Rapid Terrain Visualization (RTV)
The Rapid Terrain Visualization Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (RTV-ACTD) was designed to demonstrate the technologies and infrastructure to meet the Army requirement for rapid battlefield visualization. The primary sensor for this mission was an interferometric synthetic aperture radar (IFSAR) designed at Sandia National Laboratories for terrain mapping.
The RTV IFSAR met Digital Terrain Elevation Data (DTED) level III and IV specifications by using a multiple-baseline design and high-accuracy differential and carrier-phase GPS navigation. It included innovative, near real-time digital elevation model (DEM) production on-board the aircraft.
In addition, ortho-rectified SAR imagery (OIM) products greatly enhance the interpretation of the data. Although they are collected at the radar wavelength, they often look like overhead photographs. OIM products increase resolution by capturing more pixels, assisting in analysis and interpretation. Features such as roads, buildings, fence lines, power lines, and lakes are readily visible in the image, when viewed at full resolution.
deHavilland DHC-7 Army aircraft
Ultra-High Resolution (UHR) SAR
The Ultra-High Resolution SAR demonstrated unprecedented resolution capability from an airborne SAR directly benefiting the Advanced Radar Systems. The ARS effort was sponsored by the NNSA Office of Nonproliferation Research and Engineering to explore the limits and applications of SAR for all-weather, day and night intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and weapons guidance.
DHC-6 Twin Otter
miniSAR for Sky Spirit
In 2005, the first flight of Sandia’s new MiniSAR represented the archetype of the fourth generation of SAR systems. The weight, power and size requirements were reduced dramatically, allowing the system to fly on smaller and leaner platforms for longer periods of time.
Flight tested on the LM Sky Spirit UAV system, the Sandia SAR enabled the ability to "see" through smoke, dust, clouds, and heavy rain as well as at night on a class 3 UAV platform.
Lockheed Martin Sky Spirit UAV, DOE DH-6 Twin Otter
SAR System for Small UAV
In 2008, Sandia National Laboratories developed and fielded small tactical multi-mode radar sensor systems for multiple platforms. These radar systems support the detection and defeat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). This radar sensor incorporates near real-time resolution capabilities in both the range and azimuth dimensions for all spotlight and contiguous stripmap modalities, and provides near real-time, on-board data exploitation processing for all generated imagery products. The "miniSAR" suite of sensors have demonstrated that high-quality, fine-resolution imagery and exploitation products can be achieved in a SWAP compatible with operation of a small UAS platform in near real-time, tactical environments.
MiniSAR-based radar systems operate on both manned and unmanned platforms.
Miniaturized Tactical Multi Mission Radar (TMMR)
Highly integrated, further miniaturized and fully mission-capable, Sandia’s current work is impacting the future of SAR and offers innovative new potential. Reducing SWAP beyond MiniSAR while maintaining and enhancing performance, this radar will expand on the possibilities already being explored and introduce new insight into SAR imagery. A fundamental attribute of the radar will be its agility to implement quick reaction capabilities as urgent needs arise. Newly developed modalities significantly enhance achievable performance characteristics of small radar sensors not traditionally accessible.