There have been many developments of mine or metal detectors based on ground penetrating radar techniques, usually in handheld or rover-mounted devices. In most mine or metal detector applications, conditions are in a stationary mode and detection speed is not an important factor.

A novel, forward-looking, stepped-frequency ground penetrating radar (GPR) has been developed with a capability to detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at vehicular speeds of 15 to 20 mi/h (24 to 32 km/h), 10 to 20 m ahead of the vehicle, to ensure adequate time for response. The GPR system employs two horn antennas (1.7 to 2.6 GHz, 20 dBi) as transmit and receive. The detector system features a user-friendly instantaneous display on a laptop PC and is a low-power-consumption (3 W) compact system with minimal impact on vehicle operations. In practice, the whole GPR system and a laptop PC can be powered by plugging into a cigarette lighter of a vehicle.

The stepped-frequency continuous-wave (CW) radar scans frequency from 1.7 to 2.6 GHz in 1,000 steps of 0.9 MHz, with the full frequency scan in 60 ms. The GPR uses a bi-static configuration with one horn antenna used as a transmitter and the other used as a receiver so that isolation between transmitter and receiver is improved. Since the horn antennas (20 dBi) are mounted on the roof of a vehicle at a shallow inclination angle (15 to 25° with respect to horizontal), there is a firstorder reduction in ground reflection so that a significant amount of the total reflected power received by the GPR comes from the scattering of RF energy off of buried objects.

The stepped-frequency technique works by transmitting a tone at a particular frequency, while the received signal is mixed with the transmitted tone. As a result, the output of the mixer produces a signal that indicates the strength of the received signal and the extent to which it is in phase or out of phase with the transmitted tone. By taking measurements of the phase relationship between the transmitted and received signals over a wide frequency range, an interference pattern is produced showing all target reflections. When a Fourier transform is performed on this pattern, the result is a timedomain representation of targets. Among the advantages of this technique over impulse radar is the ability to transmit and receive much more total energy, and to use non-damped, highly focused horn antennas.

The novelty of the IED detector GPR has been achieved by miniaturization of GPR electronics (single electronics board, 10×5×2 cm), low power consumption (3 W), faster signal processing capability, and minimal impact on vehicle operations.

This work was done by Soon Sam Kim and Steven R. Carnes of Caltech, and Christopher T. Ulmer of Ulmer Systems, Inc. for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-47028