A method for modeling the signal from cables and powerlines in Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery is presented. Powerline detection using radar is an active area of research. Accurately identifing the location of powerlines in a scene can be used to aid pilots of low flying aircraft in collision avoidance, or map the electrical infrastructure of an area. The focus of this research was on the forward modeling problem of generating the powerline SAR signal from first principles. Previous work on simulating SAR imagery involved methods that ranged from efficient but insufficiently accurate, depending on the application, to more exact but computationally complex. A brief survey of the numerous ways to model the scattering of electromagnetic radiation is provided. A popular tool that uses the geometric optics approximation for modeling imagery for remote sensing applications across a wide range of modalities is the Digitial Imaging and Remote Sensing Image Generation (DIRSIG) tool. This research shows the way in which DIRSIG generates the SAR phase history is unique compared to other methods used. In particular, DIRSIG uses the geometric optics approximation for the scattering of electromagnetic radiation and builds the phase history in the time domain on a pulse-by-pulse basis. This enables an efficient generation of the phase history of complex scenes. The drawback to this method is the inability to account for diffraction. Since the characteristic diameter of many communication cables and powerlines is on the order of the wavelength of the incident radiation, diffraction is the dominant mechanism by which the radiation gets scattered for these targets. Comparison of DIRSIG imagery to field data shows good scene-wide qualitative agreement as well as Rayleigh distributed noise in the amplitude data, as expected for coherent imaging with speckle. A closer inspection of the Radar Cross Sections of canonical targets such as trihedrals and dihedrals, however, shows DIRSIG consistently underestimated the scattered return, especially away from specular observation angles. This underestimation was particularly pronounced for the dihedral targets which have a low acceptance angle in elevation, probably caused by the lack of a physical optics capability in DIRSIG. Powerlines were not apparent in the simulated data.

For modeling powerlines outside of DIRSIG using a standalone approach, an Incremental Length Diffraction Coefficient (ILDC) method was used. Traditionally, this method is used to model the scattered radiation from the edge of a wedge, for example the edges on the wings of a stealth aircraft. The Physical Theory of Diffraction provides the 2D diffraction coefficient and the ILDC method performs an integral along the edge to extend this solution to three dimensions. This research takes the ILDC approach but instead of using the wedge diffraction coefficient, the exact far-field diffraction coefficient for scattering from a finite length cylinder is used. Wavenumber-diameter products are limited to less than or about 10. For typical powerline diameters, this translates to X-band frequencies and lower. The advantage of this method is it allows exact 2D solutions to be extended to powerline geometries where sag is present and it is shown to be more accurate than a pure physical optics approach for frequencies lower than millimeter wave. The Radar Cross Sections produced by this method were accurate to within the experimental uncertainty of measured RF anechoic chamber data for both X and C-band frequencies across an 80 degree arc for 5 different target types and diameters. For the X-band data, the mean error was 6.0% for data with 9.5% measurement uncertainty. For the C-band data, the mean error was 11.8% for data with 14.3% measurement uncertainty. The best results were obtained for X-band data in the HH polarization channel within a 20 degree arc about normal incidence. For this configuration, a mean error of 3.0% for data with a measurement uncertainty of 5.2% was obtained. The least accurate results were obtained for X-band data in the VV polarization channel within a 20 degree arc about normal incidence. For this configuration, a mean error of 8.9% for data with a measurement uncertainty of 5.9% was obtained. This error likely arose from making the smooth cylinder assumption, which neglects the semi-open waveguide TE contribution from the grooves in the helically wound powerline. For field data in an actual X-band circular SAR collection, a mean error of 3.3% for data with a measurement uncertainty of 3.3% was obtained in the HH channel. For the VV channel, a mean error of 9.9% was obtained for data with a measurement uncertainty of 3.4%. Future work for improving this method would likely entail adding a far-field semi-open waveguide contribution to the 2D diffraction coefficient for TE polarized radiation. Accounting for second order diffractions between closely spaced powerlines would also lead to improved accuracy for simulated field data.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Electric lines--Remote sensing--Computer simulation; Synthetic aperture radar

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Imaging Science (Ph.D.)

Department, Program, or Center

Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (COS)


Michael Gartley

Advisor/Committee Member

Raluca Felea

Advisor/Committee Member

John Kerekes


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at TK3231 .M33 2016


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