Beaconless search and rescue using airborne synthetic aperture radar

TitleBeaconless search and rescue using airborne synthetic aperture radar
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication1991
AuthorsRais H, Jr. SWMcCandl, Mitchell PM, Dreibelbis RR

This document summarizes work done during the last 36 months to determine the feasibility, methods and value of the use of special radar remote sensing techniques to detect and locate small downed aircraft hidden by forest environments. This subject will be referred to as beaconless search and rescue because it applies to distress situations where beacons either are not present or do not work. Although the methods described in the report apply airborne radar detection of a aircraft in forest environments, they would be even more successful when applied to aircraft downed in more open land areas, or vehicles, ships and aircraft in marine distress conditions. Also, satellite versions of the technique are possible and will be investigated after completion of the airborne radar investigation. The special radar referred to in this report is a synthetic aperture radar (SAR). This unique radar system has the unusual ability to produce images of great clarity from long distances and is also capable of remarkable target-to-clutter performance. Proper choice of radar wavelength also permits the penetration of vegetation canopies, including forests, which makes it an ideal candidate for the subject at hand. This report traces the efforts of the Goddard Space Flight Center Search and Rescue Office from the early recognition of SAR as a valuable tool through defining proof-of-concept field tests that firmly establish not only the efficacy of this technique, but the methods that yield its full value in realistic field conditions.