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GROUND PENETRATING RADAR
D
 AVID
J. D
 ANIELS
ERA TechnologySurrey, United Kingdom
1. INTRODUCTION
Ground penetrating radar (GPR) is a nondestructive mea-surement technique, which uses electromagnetic waves tolocate targets or interfaces buried within a visually opa-que substance or Earth material.GPR is also termed
ground probing
,
surface penetrat-ing
(SPR), or subsurface radar. A GPR transmits a regularsequence of low-power packets of electromagnetic energyinto the material or ground, and receives and detects theweak reflected signal from the buried target. The energy isin the form of either a very short-duration impulse, asweep over a range offrequencies, radiation of noise over adefined band, or a pseudorandom coded sequence of puls-es. Most GPR systems, which all need to comply with therelevant national and international regulations regardingradio transmitters, operate within the range of frequen-cies from 10MHz to 10GHz and can have a bandwidth of several GHz. GPR systems are a special class of ultra-wideband (UWB) radar systems. The typical average ra-diated power is in the order of a thousandth of a watt. Thereceiver is highly sensitive and can detect reflected signalsof less than one millionth, of one millionth, of a watt. Thetopic of radar system design is covered in many texts, anduseful information relating to GPR will be found in severaltexts [1–7].The buried target can be a conductor, a dielectric, orcombinations of both. The surrounding host material canbe soil, Earth materials, wood, rocks, ice, fresh water, ormanmade (synthetic) materials such as concrete or brick. A typical GPR achieves a range of up to a few meters, butsome special systems can penetrate up to hundreds of me-ters or even kilometers. A few GPR systems have beenoperated from aircraft and from satellites to image geo-logic features buried beneath the Sahara Desert as well asmeasuring the depth of the (Earth’s) Moon and features onMars or comets.The range of the GPR in the ground is limited becauseof the absorption that the signal undergoes, while it trav-els, on its two-way path, through the ground material.GPR works well through materials such as granite, drysand, snow, ice, and freshwater, but will not penetratecertain clays that are high in salt content or saltwaterbecause of the high absorption of electromagnetic energyof such materials. In air, the GPR signal travels at thespeed of light, but is slowed down in ground materials bytheir dielectric constant; hence true range needs calibrat-ing for each material. GPR will not penetrate metalbecause of the latter’s conductivity.There are now a number of commercially availableequipments, and the technique is gradually developingin scope and capability. GPR has also been used success-fully to provide forensic information in the course of crim-inal investigations, detect buried mines, survey roads,detect utilities, measure geophysical strata, and in otherapplications. Many GPR systems are handheld, but sys-tems can be used on vehicles for rapid survey, by means of an array of antennas. Other GPR systems are designed tobe inserted into boreholes to provide images of the inter-vening rock. Typical GPR system attributes are given inTable 1.Most GPR systems use separate, human-portable,transmit and receive antennas, which are placed on thesurface of the ground and moved in a known pattern overthe surface of the ground or material under investigation,and an image can be generated, in real time, on a displayeither in gray scale or in color. By systematically survey-ing the area in a regular grid pattern, a radar image of theground can be built up. GPR images are displayed eitheras two-dimensional representations, using horizontal (
 x
or
y
)and depth (
 z
) axes or a horizontal plane representation (
 x
,
 y
) at a given depth (
 z
) or as a three-dimensional recon-struction. GPR data may be classified as
A
scan,
B
scan, or
C
scan depending on the plane of image.
A
scan is a mea-surement at a single fixed point in space and is displayedin amplitude (
 y
) and range (
 x
).
B
scan is a representationusually in grayscale or color-coded image intensity of aplane (
 x
,
z
or
y
,
z
) of scan, while
C
scan represents a hor-izontal plane (
 x
,
y
) at a given depth (
 z
). Alternatively, theGPR may be designed to provide an audible warning of target presence.The radar image is very different from an optical imagebecause the wavelengths of the illuminating radiation aresimilar in dimension to those of the target. This results ina much lower definition in the GPR image and one that ishighly dependent on the propagation characteristics of theground. The beam pattern of the antenna is widely spreadin the dielectric, and this degrades the spatial resolutionof the image, unless corrected. Refraction and anisotropiccharacteristics of the ground may also distort the image.For some longer-range systems, synthetic aperture tech-niques processing techniques are used to optimise the res-olution of the image.Unprocessed GPR images often show ‘‘bright spots’’caused by multiple internal reflections as well as a distor-tion of the aspect ratio of the image of the target caused byvariations in the velocity of propagation. Symmetric tar-gets, such as spheres or pipes, cause migration of the re-flected energy to a hyperbolic pattern. GPR images can beprocessed to compensate for these effects, and this is usu-ally carried out offline. A GPR can be designed to detectspecific targets such as interfaces in roads, pipes, and
Table 1. Characteristics of GPR System
PulseDuration(ns)CenterFrequency(mHz)TargetDepth(m)DepthResolution(m)0.5 2000
o
0.25 0.0251.0 1000
o
0.5 0.052.0 500
o
1.0 0.14.0 250
o
2.0 0.28.0 125
o
4.0 0.416.0 63
o
8.0 0.832.0 31
o
16.0 1.6
GROUND PENETRATING RADAR 1833
 
cables and localized objects such as cubes, spheres, andcylinders. GPR is capable of detecting features many hun-dreds of years old; hence a prospective site should remainunexcavated, prior to survey, so as to preserve its infor-mation and aid interpretation of the GPR image.
2. PHYSICS OF PROPAGATION2.1. Introduction
Maxwell’s equations are the foundation for the consider-ation of the propagation of electromagnetic waves. In freespace the magnetic susceptibility and electric permittivityare constants; that is, they are independent of frequencyand the medium is not dispersive. In a dielectric with zeroloss tangent, no losses due to attenuation are encounteredand hence there is no consideration of the attenuation,which occurs in real dielectric media.If an alternating electric field is applied to a material,the individual molecules will be induced to rotate in anoscillatory manner about an axis through their centers,the inertia of the molecules preventing them from re-sponding instantaneously. Similar translational effectscan occur. The polarization produced by an applied field(such as a propagating radar wave)is closely related to thethermal mobility of the molecules and is, therefore,strongly temperature-dependent. In general, the relax-ation time (which may be expressed as a relaxation fre-quency) depends on activation energy, the naturalfrequency of oscillation of the polarized particles, and tem-perature. Relaxation frequencies vary widely between dif-ferent materials.For example, maximum absorption occurs at very lowfrequencies in ice (10
3
Hz), whereas it takes place in themicrowave region in water (10
6
 –10
10
Hz); thus the effectsof this phenomenon can have a direct bearing on the di-electric properties of materials at the frequencies em-ployed by surface penetrating radars, especially if moisture is present within a material. There are a num-ber of other mechanisms that cause a separation of posi-tively and negatively charged ions resulting in electricpolarization. These mechanisms can be associated withionic atmospheres surrounding colloidal particles (partic-ularly clay minerals), absorbed water and pore effects, aswell as interfacial phenomenon between particles. Thegeneral form of the model that describes the frequencydependence of such systems is the Debye [8] relaxationequation
e
0
À
i
e
00
¼
e
1
þ
e
s
À
e
1
1
þ
i
ot
where
e
0
¼
real part of the dielectric permittivity
e
00
¼
imaginary part of the dielectric permittivity
e
N
¼
high-frequency limiting value of the permittivity
e
s
¼
low-frequency limiting value of the permittivity
o
¼
radian frequency (
¼
2
p
 f 
)
t
¼
relaxation time constantThe frequency of maximum movement and loss occursat
o
¼
1/ 
t
.In general, single relaxations are rarely observed innatural systems. Instead, there are distributions of relax-ations corresponding to distributions of size scales thatinfluence movement of charge. There are several equa-tions describing such distributed systems, with the mostcommon experimental observations in agreement with themodel from Cole and Cole [9]
e
0
À
i
e
00
¼
e
1
þ
e
s
À
e
1
1
þð
i
ot
Þ
a
where
a
describes the breadth of the time constant distri-bution, from a single relaxation,
a
¼
1, to an infinitelybroad distribution,
a
¼
0, with a common process. Differentpolarization processes may be described by a series of Cole–Cole equations with different values of 
a
and otherparameters.The electromagnetic properties of a buried target mustbe different from those of the surrounding soil or material,and this means that to a first order its relative dielectricconstant should be significantly lesser or greater than thehost soil. Typically, most soils exhibit a relative dielectricconstant, which ranges between 2 and 25. Freshwater hasa relative dielectric constant of approximately 80. Itshould be noted that the ground and surface are quitelikely to be inhomogeneous and contain inclusions of otherrocks of various size as well as manmade debris. This sug-gests that the signal to clutter performance of the sensor islikely to be an important performance factor. Clutter maybe regarded as any radar return that is not associatedwith the intended target and needs to be carefully defined.
2.2. Attenuation
Electromagnetic waves propagating through natural me-dia experience losses, to both the electric (
 E
) and magnetic(
 H 
) fields. This causes attenuation of the original electro-magnetic wave. Plane waves are good approximations toreal waves in many practical situations. More complicatedelectromagnetic wavefronts can be considered as a super-imposition of plane waves, and this method may be used togain an insight into more complex situations. For mostsoils of interest in ground penetrating radar the magneticresponse is weak and need not be considered as a complexquantity, unlike the permittivity and conductivity. Howev-er, in certain soil types such as those derived from volcanicrocks or otherwise high in iron content, full considerationof the magnetic properties is necessary. In the case of lossydielectric materials, both conduction and dielectric effectscause absorption of electromagnetic radiation.The electromagnetic material properties that describesuch a coupled system are in the complex propagationconstant or circular wavenumber
g
¼
ik
¼
a
þ
i
b
where
g
¼
propagation constant
 k
¼
circular wavenumber
a
¼
attenuation constant (Np/m) (nepers per meter)
 k
2
¼
o
(
m
0
À
i
m
00
)(
o
(
e
0
À
i
e
00
)
þ
i
s
)
b
¼
phase constant (rads/m)
1834 GROUND PENETRATING RADAR
 
with
a
¼
o
 ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiÀ
m
0
e
0
À
m
00
e
00
þ
so
À ÁÁ
2
þ
À
m
00
e
0
þ
m
0
e
00
þ
so
À ÁÁ
2
À
À
m
0
e
0
À
m
00
e
00
þ
so
À ÁÁ
2
uut
b
¼
o
 ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiÀ
m
0
e
0
À
m
00
e
00
þ
so
À ÁÁ
2
þ
À
m
00
e
0
þ
m
0
e
00
þ
so
À ÁÁ
2
þ
À
m
0
e
0
À
m
00
e
00
þ
so
À ÁÁ
2
uut
The field at a distance z from the source is given by
 E
ð
 z
;
t
Þ¼
 E
0
 e
À
a
 z
 e
  j
ð
o
t
À
b
 z
Þ
The wavelength
l
in the medium is given in meters, andthe frequency
is expressed in hertz:
l
¼
2
pb
¼
n
 f 
The losses in such systems are described in terms of tan-gents of loss angles
d
between fields and fluxes:tan
d
e
¼
e
00
e
0
þ
soe
0
The electrical loss tangent represents the sum of thecharge transport and polarization relaxation losses, andthe phase angle between electric field and current density.The skin depth or attenuation length is 1/ 
a
(m); the dis-tance electromagnetic energy travels while being attenu-ated by 1/ 
 e
in amplitude. This distance is known as the
 skin depth d
and provides an initial guide to the usefulpenetration depth of a ground penetrating radar system,although in some media the useful range may be greater.In a lossy conducting dielectric the parameters associ-ated with susceptibility can be rearranged to give
a
¼
o
 ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
me
0
2
 ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
1
þ
e
0
e
00
2
À
1
0@1A0@1Auuut
b
¼
o
 ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
me
0
2
 ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
1
þ
e
0
e
00
2
þ
1
0@1A0@1Auuut
and where the losses are low, thentan
d
e
¼
soe
0
This article has not considered the electromagnetic andmagnetic loss tangent, and these may need to be consid-ered in special cases.It can be seen from the expressions above that the at-tenuation constant of a material is, to a first order, linearlyrelated (in dB/m) to frequency. It is not sufficient to con-sideronlythelow-frequencyconductivity when attemptingto determine the loss tangent over the frequency range10
7
 –10
10
Hz. In the case of a material that is dry and rel-atively lossless, it may be reasonable to consider that tan
d
is constant over that frequency range. However, for mate-rials that are wet and lossy such an approximation is in-valid. There are, nevertheless, a number of other factors,that influence the effective penetration depth, notably thestrength of reflection from the target sought, and the de-gree of clutter suppression of which the system is capable. A first-order estimate of the various contributions tosignal loss can be carried out using the standard radarrange equation, although this is only applicable for far-field conditions and thus has restrictions:
 P
r
¼
P
t
 AG
s
 k
ð
4
p
 R
2
Þ
2
e
À
a
2
 R
where
 P
t
¼
transmitted power in watts
 P
r
¼
received power in watts
 A
¼
antenna gain
G
¼
antenna effective aperture
 R
¼
range in meters
s
¼
target radar cross section
 k
¼
calibration coefficientThe cumulative losses include the transmission coeffi-cients into the ground, the spreading losses describe the
 R
À
4
losses for a target of 1m
2
, and the attenuation lossesare for a soil with a
e
r
of 9 and tan
d
of 0.1. Fixed lossesinclude the transmission losses into the soil and the re-flection loss from the target. In Fig. 1 the first meter (1m)has not been plotted, as the radar range equation is not anaccurate model in this range and the purpose of the ex-planation is to provide a basic introduction to first-ordersignal estimation.
2.3. Velocity
Thevelocityofpropagationofelectromagneticwavesinfreespace is approximately 3
Â
10
8
m/s (2.997925
Â
10
8
m/s),
0010R12345768910
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
100ReferenceFixed lossesSpreading lossAttenuationNoise floorClutterRange in metres
   S   i  g  n  a   l   l  e  v  e   l   i  n   d   B
Figure 1.
Graph of the typical losses encountered at 100MHz bya GPR probing into the ground. (This figure is available in fullcolor at http://www.mrw.interscience.wiley.com/erfme.)
GROUND PENETRATING RADAR 1835

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