Army researchers develop IED-detecting radar

Published 27 September 2007

Researchers at the Army Research Lab develop new low-frequency, ultra-wideband radar which detects IEDs, senses through walls, and supports robotic ground vehicles

A group of researchers at the Adelphi, Maryland-based U.S. Army Research Lab (ARL) have developed a new low-frequency, ultra-wideband radar which address three compelling needs: Detecting improvised devices, sensing through walls, and supporting the Army’s vision of an autonomous navigation system for robotic ground vehicles. The ability of “penetrating” radar to see through many concealing materials such as walls and thick foliage is crucial to identifying technological solutions to current needs. In addition, the potential of ultra-wideband technology to detect concealed objects is important for autonomous navigation systems. These improvements enhance operational tempo by improving combat speeds and maneuverability, in the process contributing to he survivability of U.S. forces and battlefield systems.

Iraq and Afghanistan show the effectiveness of an adversary’s use of camouflage and concealment of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Similarly, buildings and other structures in urban settings — the main theater of war against terrorism —have provided cover to the enemy and left U.S. forces with few reliable detection technologies. The ARL’s Michael Fluharty writes that

the design team developed a system which uses synchronous impulse reconstruction to “sample” objects, and recreate a high fidelity representation of the object, using low-cost analog-to-digital converter technology.

* IED detection: The researchers’ original design surveys the road ahead to detect IEDs, mines, and other obstacles. It uses a forward-looking array of 16 identical antennas with individual synchronous reconstruction receiving data from the 16 channels in a computer-based beam-forming network. This provides a high-resolution view of clutter and targets in front of the vehicle. Radar data is continuously collected as the vehicle rolls forward, allowing a high degree of image integration and creating crisp data to be used in an automatic exploitation system under development.

* Sensinge through walls: To do that, the radar’s antenna system is turned sideways and uses elements of conventional SAR processing, which reconstructs images from many viewing angles of each individual target. The radar’s multi-apertures also provides data to detect objects, helping to distinguish enemy combatants.

The researchers have mounted the radar and its electronics onto a modified Ford Expedition and say they have achieved impressive results from extensive tests at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. In addition to the radar hardware, the ARL researchers also developed a suite of signal processing and image formation algorithms which provide high-quality radar data and imagery.