A comparative study of corner reflectors, compact active transponders and I2GPS for monitoring deformation in areas with low spatial density of persistent scatterers: the Delft field experiment

Pooja Mahapatra, Ramon Hanssen, Hans van der Marel, Ling Chang, Prabu Dheenathayalan, J.M. Delgado Blasco, Joana E. Martins, More Authors

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Persistent Scatterer Interferometry (PSI) has emerged over the last decade as a technique capable of very accurate (millimetric) measurements of ground deformation occurring at radar scatterers (persistent scatterers or PS) that are phase coherent over a period of time. PSI studies using C-band SAR data have shown that the PS spatial density in urban areas is usually very high (100-300 PS/km2). However, many ground deformation phenomena (e.g. tectonic motion, volcanoes, landslides, mining, gas extraction, CO2 sequestration) occur in uninhabited or rural areas with few man-made structures, leading to much lower PS density because of significant phase decorrelation between subsequent SAR acquisitions. In order for PSI to be effective in monitoring these areas, it has been found that a PS density greater than about 10 PS/km2 is required. Artificial amplitude- and phase-stable radar scatterers may thus have to be introduced in non-urbanised geodynamic areas that have too low a density of PS points. Conceptually the simplest of these artificial PS points are corner reflectors. Several experiments have been performed in the past using these reflectors, with conclusive results about their amplitude and phase stability. They suffer, however, from the disadvantage of large size (in the order of a metre in case of C-band SAR). To make these artificial PS points easy to deploy and maintain, especially in poorly accessible areas, Compact Active Transponders (CATs) have been designed to be used in lieu of corner reflectors. These CATs are small (in the order of a few tens of centimetres), lightweight (<3 kg), less obtrusive, and have the added advantage of a better link budget due to signal amplification by the transponder. They are sealed, function autonomously with internal power and over a wide temperature range, and can operate unattended for more than a year. Additionally, since a CAT is transmitter-specific and is only turned on at the time of the satellite overpass, it offers little interference to other radar or radio targets. However, it is of paramount importance in geodetic applications to ensure that the phase of the CAT remains stable in all operating and environmental conditions. Towards this goal, an experiment to validate the phase stability of CATs has been set up in a farmland in Delft (The Netherlands). The setup comprises three CATs and three corner reflectors, which are installed at distances of a couple of hundred metres from each other. SAR data from the ERS-2 Ice-Phase Mission are being acquired every three days between March and June 2011. Since the area does not exhibit steady ground deformation, some of the units are displaced vertically by a controlled amount. Levelling is performed between the CATs and the corner reflectors as close as possible to each SAR acquisition, in order to validate the height differences obtained from the radar phase information. As a second means of validation, campaign-style GPS is performed on each of the devices to accurately position them in WGS-84 coordinates. One of the CATs in the Delft field experiment has an integrated GPS antenna, to ensure millimetric coregistration and a coherent cross-reference. This novel unit called I2GPS (Integrated Interferometry and GNSS for Precision Survey) has been developed with the objective of producing a fully-integrated deformation map. In addition to providing absolute calibration for PSI data, the high temporal sampling rate of GPS data imparts the capability of accurately detecting abrupt ground motion in three dimensions. With adequate GPS/I2GPS units, the vertical components of the local velocity field can be derived from single-track InSAR line-of-sight displacements. The results and conclusions of this experiment consisting of corner reflectors, CATs and I2GPS will be presented and analysed here.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2011


  • Persistent Scatterer Interferometry
  • compact active transponders
  • ground deformation
  • Netherlands


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