ARL researchers develop new technology
September 25, 2007
ADELPHI, Md. - A group of U.S. Army Research Lab researchers have developed a new low-frequency, ultra-wideband radar to address three compelling needs - improvised device detection, sensing through walls and support for the Army's vision of an autonomous navigation system for robotic ground vehicles, a key component of the Army's Future Combat System.
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 crucial to autonomous navigation systems. These improvements enhance operational tempo, like moving at combat speeds and maneuverability, thus increasing the survivability of U.S. forces and battlefield systems.
The enemy's use of camouflage and concealing of improvised explosive devices and other devices has proven difficult to reliably detect. Similarly, buildings and other structures in urban settings have provided cover to the enemy and left U.S. commanders with few reliable detection technologies.
The ARL researchers say their technology - one that penetrates many materials with high-resolution and uses advanced image processing techniques - provides important capabilities to address these challenges. In addition, their solution is affordable, reasonably sized and capable of collecting and processing data at a combat pace.
The design team developed an innovative system that uses synchronous impulse reconstruction to "sample" objects, and recreate a high fidelity representation of the object, using low-cost analog-to-digital converter technology.
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. This allows a high degree of image integration, creating crisp data to be used in an automatic exploitation system under development.
To sense through walls, 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 packaged the radar and its electronics onto a modified Ford Expedition, and 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 that provide high-quality radar data and imagery.