DLR/NASA – 3D radar measurements of forest areas

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The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is developing radar technology that, for the first time, will enable a three-dimensional visual representation of forest areas from the roots to the crowns. The radar experts at DLR partnered with the US aerospace agency NASA in a measurement campaign, which has now confirmed the capability of the F-SAR system. The cooperation was aimed at validating the suitability of the radar data to infer a variety of parameters, including a forest’s height or vertical structure. A tangle of treetops and branches, through which just the occasional clear area provides glimpses of the trunks and roots growing below. Whether it is woodland with German spruces or a tropical rainforest, very few sensors are able to see through this green carpet and clearly visualise the underlying structures.

“The collaboration with NASA allowed us to really test both the sensor technology and the algorithms. We could not have hoped for better results,” said Andreas Reigber, project coordinator at the DLR Microwaves and Radar Institute.

The DLR Microwaves and Radar Institute is currently preparing for Biomass, a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite-based mission that will conduct radar observations of Earth’s surface. The main focus of the mission is to determine the volume of biomass in the tropical rain forests. In addition, the Institute is at the forefront ofTandem-L, a highly innovative satellite mission tasked with using radar to record the dynamic processes unfolding on Earth’s surface. Together, these projects promise a level of scientific insight one would not necessarily expect from flying over an area of woodland.

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