Synthetic aperture radar helps detect IEDs in all conditions

June 30, 2014 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Sandia's Copperhead — a highly modified MiniSAR system mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — has been uncovering IEDs in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2009. Now, Sandia is transferring the technology to the U.S. Army to support combat military personnel, said Sandia senior manager Jim Hudgens.

The technology was developed with the Defense Department's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO); the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center/Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL); the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR); Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory; the Naval Research Laboratory; and Florida-based force protection company AIRSCAN.

"JIEDDO tested a number of technologies and ours emerged as one that was viable," Hudgens said. "Today, we're acknowledged as the most successful airborne IED detection capability out there."

Copperhead detects disturbances in the earth, for example, those made when IEDs are buried. It can find them day or night and in many weather conditions, including fog and dust storms. Extremely fine-resolution images are processed onboard UAVs and transmitted real-time to analysts on the ground. Those analysts pass the information to soldiers charged with destroying IEDs.

Sandia National Laboratories' highly modified miniature synthetic aperture radar system is being transferred to the US Army to support combat military personnel by uncovering improvised explosive devices. Photo courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories.