Polarimetric calibration of spaceborne and airborne multifrequency SAR data for scattering-based characterization of manmade and natural features

Shashi Kumar*, Arun Babu, Shefali Agrawal, Udit Asopa, Shashwat Shukla, Abhisek Maiti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The Polarimetric Synthetic Aperture Radar (PolSAR) systems use electromagnetic radiations of different polarizations in the microwave frequency to collect the scattering information from targets on the Earth. Nevertheless, as with any other electronic device, the PolSAR systems are also not ideal and subjected to distortions. The most important of these distortions are the polarimetric distortions caused due to the channel imbalance, phase bias, and crosstalk between the different polarization channels. For the spaceborne PolSAR systems, the Earth's ionosphere also contributes to an additional polarimetric distortion known as the Faraday rotation. An effort was made in this study to perform the polarimetric calibration of the Quad-pol and Compact-pol PolSAR datasets acquired using different airborne and spaceborne PolSAR systems to estimate and minimize these polarimetric distortions. The investigation was also done to analyze the impact of these polarimetric distortions on the scattering mechanisms from ground targets and on its dependency on the radar wavelength. The study was done using the UAVSAR L-band Quad-pol dataset, RADARSAT-2 Quad-pol dataset, ALOS-2 PALSAR-2, ISRO's L&S- Band Airborne SAR (LS-ASAR) Quad-pol and Compact-pol datasets, and the RISAT-1 Compact-pol dataset. Calibration of the airborne PolSAR data was carried to understand the level of polarimetric distortions in the LS-ASAR product that is a precursor mission to the spaceborne Dual-Frequency L&S Band NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission. It is understood that the crosstalk is the dominant polarimetric distortion, which severely affects the PolSAR datasets compared to the other polarimetric distortions, and it is more for the higher wavelength PolSAR systems. The Quegan, Improved Quegan, and Ainsworth algorithms for crosstalk estimation and minimization was performed for the different Quad-pol datasets and it was found that the Improved Quegan algorithm is suitable for removing crosstalk from datasets having high crosstalk and the Ainsworth algorithm is suitable for removing crosstalk from datasets having low crosstalk. The Freeman method of the polarimetric calibration was implemented for the compact-pol datasets and it was able to considerably minimize the polarimetric distortions. The coherency matrix, scattering matrix, model-based decomposition, polarimetric signatures, and roll invariant parameter-based analysis revealed that all the datasets after polarimetric calibration were showing the correct scattering responses expected from the ground targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1684-1714
Number of pages31
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

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  • Ainsworth algorithm
  • Channel imbalance
  • Crosstalk
  • CTLR
  • Faraday rotation
  • Freeman algorithm
  • Improved Quegan algorithm
  • NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR)
  • Phase bias
  • Polarimetric decomposition
  • Quegan algorithm
  • Spaceborne PolSAR


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