IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society 2012 Award: SAR Optronic Processor

Context

Award winner

INO and European Space Agency (ESA) were recently selected as winners of an IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society 2012 Award for their work on Reconfigurable Real-time Optronic Processor for Altitude and Look Angle Adaptability for Envisat/ASAR Scene Observation. This award was jointly received at the recent IGARSS 2012 conference in the name of the 13 members of the team, A. Bergeron, L. Marchese, B. Harnisch, M. Suess, M. Doucet, P. Bourqui, M. Legros, N. Desnoyers, L. Guillot, L. Mercier, M. Savard, A. Martel, F. Châteauneuf by representatives of ESA (M. Suess, Head of the On-Board Payload Data Processing Section) and INO (L. Marchese, Research Scientist and A. Bergeron, Program Manager).

Award photo courtesy of Dr.-Ing. Marwan Younis, German Aerospace Center, (DLR)

  • M. Suess, Head of the On-Board Payload Data Processing, ESA, L. Marchese and A. Bergeron from INO, awarded by Dr. Jón Atli Benediktsson, IEEE GRSS and Prof. Martti Hallikainen, Aalto University
  • ENVISAT satellite PHOTO : European Space Agency (ESA)
  • Mosaic of 8 x 3 data blocks from ASAR on ENVISAT over the Netherlands, reconstructed with the optronic SAR processor prototype
  • Processed block demonstrating the finer sampling distance with the optronic processor on the right that allows some finer features of the conventional SAR image on to be resolved on the left

Solution

In the context of a project for the ESA, INO has worked closely with the ESA team to develop a prototype of a real-time optronic processor for the generation of SAR real-time optronic images from SAR raw data. The real-time SAR optronic processor architecture provides inherent parallel computing capabilities that can be used advantageously for SAR data processing.

Full story

Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) is a powerful remote sensing tool that provides enhanced day and night imaging capabilities. It consists of the acquisition of multiple radar echoes to emulate a larger antenna aperture (hence the name synthetic aperture), thus producing high resolution images useful for various applications such as Earth monitoring, reconnaissance, and target tracking. SAR systems typically generate large amounts of information, most of it in the form of complex data that are long to process and difficult to compress.

Real-time onboard SAR image generation could provide local access to processed information, reducing the data throughput requirements and the related transmission bandwidth. Furthermore, for observation missions or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), onboard analysis of images could provide important feature identification clues, help select the appropriate images to be transmitted to command center, and consequently assist with image and bandwidth management.

This makes the optronic processor an attractive choice for interplanetary spaceborne and UAV/persistent platforms. Not only can the design be made lightweight and compact, it also has fast processing speeds and a large dynamic range.

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