Tech Briefs

Range resolution is reduced by a selectable factor to reduce the volume of data.

A field-programmable gate array (FPGA) on a single lightweight, low power integrated-circuit chip has been developed to implement an azimuth pre-filter (AzPF) for a synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) system. The AzPF is needed to enable more efficient use of data-transmission and data-processing resources: In broad terms, the AzPF reduces the volume of SAR data by effectively reducing the azimuth resolution, without loss of range resolution, during times when end users are willing to accept lower azimuth resolution as the price of rapid access to SAR imagery. The data-reduction factor is selectable at a decimation factor, M, of 2, 4, 8, 16, or 32 so that users can trade resolution against processing and transmission delays.

In principle, azimuth filtering could be performed in the frequency domain by use of fast-Fourier-transform processors. However, in the AzPF, azimuth filtering is performed in the time domain by use of finite-impulse-response filters. The reason for choosing the time-domain approach over the frequency-domain approach is that the time-domain approach demands less memory and a lower memory-access rate.

ImageThe AzPF operates on the raw digitized SAR data. The AzPF includes a digital in-phase/quadrature (I/Q) demodulator. In general, an I/Q demodulator effects a complex down-conversion of its input signal followed by low-pass filtering, which eliminates undesired sidebands. In the AzPF case, the I/Q demodulator takes offset video range echo data to the complex baseband domain, ensuring preservation of signal phase through the azimuth pre-filtering process. In general, in an SAR I/Q demodulator, the intermediate frequency (fI) is chosen to be a quarter of the range-sampling frequency and the pulse repetition frequency (fPR) is chosen to be a multiple of fI.

The AzPF also includes a polyphase spatial-domain pre-filter comprising four weighted integrate-and-dump filters with programmable decimation factors and overlapping phases. To prevent aliasing of signals, the bandwidth of the AzPF is made 80 percent of fPR/M. The choice of four as the number of overlapping phases is justified by prior research in which it was shown that a filter of length 4M can effect an acceptable transfer function. The figure depicts prototype hardware comprising the AzPF and ancillary electronic circuits. The hardware was found to satisfy performance requirements in real-time tests at a sampling rate of 100 MHz.

This work was done by Mimi Gudim, Tsan-Huei Cheng, Soren Madsen, Robert Johnson, Charles T-C Le, Mahta Moghaddam, and Miguel Marina of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at under the Semiconductors & ICs category.


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Single-Chip FPGA Azimuth Pre-Filter for SAR (reference NPO-30741) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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