Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) was originally designed as an airborne ground-imaging radar technology. But it has long been desired to also be able to use SAR imaging systems to detect, locate, and track moving ground targets, a process called Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI). Unfortunately, due to the nature of how SAR works, it is inherently poorly suited to the task of GMTI. SAR only focuses targets and image features that remain stationary during the data collection. A moving ground target therefore does not focus in a conventional SAR image, which complicates the process of performing GMTI with SAR systems. This thesis investigates the feasibility of performing GMTI with single-channel, unsquinted, broadside stripmap SAR despite this inherent limitation. This study focuses solely on the idealized case of direct energy returns from point targets on flat ground, where they and the airborne radar platform all move rectilinearly with constant speed. First, the various aspects of how SAR works, the signal processing used to collect the SAR data, and the backprojection image formation algorithm are explained. The effects of target motion are described and illustrated in actual and simulated SAR images. It is shown how the backprojection (BPJ) algorithm, typically used to image a stationary landscape scene, can also focus on moving targets when the target motion is known a priori. A SAR BPJ ambiguity function is also derived and presented. Next, the time-changing geometry between the airborne radar and a ground target is mathematically analyzed, and it is shown that the slant range between the radar and any ground target, moving or stationary, is a hyperbolic function of time. It is then shown that this hyperbolic range history causes the single-channel SAR GMTI problem to be underdetermined. Finally, a method is then presented for resolving the underdetermined nature of the problem. This is done by constraining a target's GMTI solution using contextual information in the SAR image. Using constraining information, a theoretical way is presented to perform limited GMTI with a single-channel SAR system by using a modified form of the BPJ imaging algorithm, and practical considerations are addressed that complicate the process. Instead of focusing on stationary pixels, this GMTI method uses the BPJ ambiguity function to search for moving targets on a straight path, such as a road, by performing matched filtering on a collection of moving pixels in a position-velocity image space. Nevertheless, it is concluded that for moving point targets, general GMTI with no path constraints is infeasible in practice with a single-channel SAR.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Electrical and Computer Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





SAR, GMTI, hyperbola, backprojection, ambiguity function, matched filter