On the Efficacy of Compact Radar Transponders for InSAR Geodesy: Results of Multi-year Field Tests

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Authors

Richard Czikhardt, Hans van der Marel , Juraj Papco, Ramon F. Hanssen 

Abstract

Compact and low-cost radar transponders are an attractive alternative to corner reflectors (CR) for SAR interferometric (InSAR) deformation monitoring, datum connection, and geodetic data integration.
Recently, such transponders have become commercially available for C-band sensors, which poses relevant questions on their characteristics in terms of radiometric, geometric, and phase stability. Especially for extended time series and for high-precision geodetic applications, the impact of secular or seasonal effects, such as variations in temperature and humidity, has yet to be proven.
Here we address these challenges using a multitude of short baseline experiments with four transponders and six corner reflectors deployed at test sites in the Netherlands and Slovakia. Combined together, we analyzed 980 transponder measurements in Sentinel-1 time series to a maximum extent of 21 months.
We find an average Radar Cross Section (RCS) of over 42 dBm2 within a range of up to 15 degrees of elevation misalignment, which is comparable to a triangular trihedral corner reflector with a leg length of 2.0 m. Its RCS shows temporal variations of 0.3--0.7~dBm2 (standard deviation) which is partially correlated with surface temperature changes.
The precision of the InSAR phase double-differences over short baselines between a transponder and a stable reference corner reflectors is found to be 0.5-1.2 mm (one sigma).
We observe a correlation with surface temperature, leading to seasonal variations of up to +/-3 mm, which should be modeled and corrected for in high precision InSAR applications.
For precise SAR positioning, we observe antenna-specific constant internal electronic delays of 1.2-2.1 m in slant-range, i.e., within the range resolution of the Sentinel-1 Interferometric Wide Swath (IW) product, with a temporal variability of less than 20~cm.
Comparing similar transponders from the same series, we observe distinct
differences in performance.
Our main conclusion is that these characteristics are favorable for a wide range of geodetic applications. For particular demanding applications, individual calibration of single devices is strongly recommended.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.31223/X5ZG8Z

Subjects

Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Earth Sciences, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Physical Sciences and Mathematics

Keywords

geodesy, deformation monitoring, compact radar transponder, SAR interferometry (InSAR), corner reflectors, positioning

Dates

Published: 2021-06-25 11:45

Last Updated: 2021-06-25 18:45

License

CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Conflict of interest statement:
None

Data Availability (Reason not available):
Available at IEEE DataPort

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