CSIR developing synthetic aperture radar


The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is developing synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology for aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and satellites.

The Council noted that synthetic aperture radars provide detailed radio frequency imagery of objects (manmade or natural) on the surface of the earth in all weather, day and night. Depending on the mode, these sensors can extract such information as detail topography, millimetric changes of the surface over time, or accurate locations estimates of moving objects in an area of interest.

“The CSIR has a deep technology base in airborne radar development in general, and also in SAR sensors specifically. With support from the Department of Science and Technology, the CSIR developed a facility to serve as a less costly, SAR research and development platform for the South African and regional remote sensing market. It provides the first building block for several product prototypes including UAV and spaceborne SAR. At present, UAV SAR sensors are being developed for medium-altitude, long-endurance type UAVs as the need for UAV-based systems continues to grow around the world.”

On strength of the CSIR’s technology base in C-band phased array, a family of SAR sensors is envisaged as a first product range.

The CSIR said its technology has several benefits compared to competitors, including low cost and lack of ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) restrictions. Its SAR systems are being designed to be carried together with optical payloads (not instead of) allowing the benefits of SAR and optics to be enjoyed simultaneously.

In September 2014 the CSIR said it had partnered with Space Commercial Services Holdings (SCS) on a synthetic aperture radar for us in small satellites. The two entities agreed to design and develop a wide-area maritime synthetic aperture radar for customers of the small satellite market.

The CSIR has been active in radar systems since its earliest use in South Africa as part of World War II campaigns. Research domains include space-borne, airborne and surface-based radar sensor technology development for strategic and persistent wide-area surveillance, radar cross section (RCS) determination, threat warning and target identification.

The radar and electronic warfare group has international partnerships and contracts for the development and supply of specialised radar and electronic warfare measurement, testing and evaluation as well as modelling and simulation facilities.