Development and Improvement of Airborne Remote Sensing Radar Platforms
Arnold, Emily J.
University of Kansas
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With the recent record ice melt in the Arctic as well as the dramatic changes occurring in the Antarctic, the need and urgency to characterize ice sheets in these regions has become a research thrust of both the NSF and NASA. Airborne remote sensing is the most effective way to collect the necessary data on a large scale with fine resolution. Current models for determining the relationship between the world's great ice sheets and global sea-level are limited by the availability of data on bed topography, glacier volume, internal layers, and basal conditions. This need could be satisfied by equipping long range aircraft with an appropriately sensitive suite of sensors. The goal of this work is to enable two new airborne radar installations for use in cryospheric surveying, and improve these systems as well as future systems by addressing aircraft integration effects on antenna-array performance. An aerodynamic fairing is developed to enable a NASA DC-8 to support a 5-element array for CReSIS's MCoRDS radar, and several structures are also developed to enable a NASA P-3 to support a 15-element MCoRDS array, as well as three other radar antenna-arrays used for cryospheric surveying. Together, these aircraft have flown almost 200 missions and collected 550 TB of unique science data. In addition, a compensation method is developed to improve beamforming and clutter suppression on wing-mounted arrays by mitigating phase center errors due to wing-flexure. This compensation method is applied to the MVDR beamforming algorithm to improve clutter suppression by using element displacement information to apply appropriate phase shifts. The compensation demonstrated an average SINR increase of 5-10 dB. The hardware contributions of this work have substantially contributed to the state-of-the-art for polar remotes sensing, as evidenced by new data sets made available to the science community and widespread use and citation of the data. The investigations of aircraft integration effects on antenna-arrays will improve future data sets by characterizing the performance degradation. The wing-flexure compensation will greatly improve beam formation and clutter suppression. Increased clutter suppression in airborne radars is crucial to improving next generation ice sheet models and sea-level rise predictions.
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