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1
Sparse Signal Methods for 3D Radar Imaging
Christian D. Austin, Emre Ertin, and Randolph L. Moses
The Ohio State University, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
2015 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
Email: {austinc, ertine, randy}@ece.osu.edu
Abstract—Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging is a valu-
able tool in a number of defense surveillance and monitoring
applications. There is increasing interest in three-dimensional
(3D) reconstruction of objects from radar measurements. Tra-
ditional 3D SAR image formation requires data collection over
a densely sampled azimuth-elevation sector. In practice, such
a dense measurement set is difficult or impossible to obtain,
and effective 3D reconstructions using sparse measurements are
sought. This paper presents wide-angle three-dimensional image
reconstruction approaches for object reconstruction that exploit
reconstruction sparsity in the signal domain to ameliorate the
limitations of sparse measurements. Two methods are presented;
first, we use ℓ
p
penalized (for p ≤ 1) least squares inversion, and
second, we utilize tomographic SAR processing to derive wide-
angle 3D reconstruction algorithms that are computationally
attractive but apply to a specific class of sparse aperture sam-
plings. All approaches rely on high-frequency radar backscatter
phenomenology so that sparse signal representations align with
physical radar scattering properties of the objects of interest. We
present full 360

3D SAR visualizations of objects from air-to-
ground X-band radar measurements using different flight paths
to illustrate and compare the two approaches.
I. INTRODUCTION
There is increasing interest in three-dimensional (3D) recon-
struction of objects from radar measurements. This interest is
enabled by new data collection capabilities, in which airborne
synthetic aperture radar (SAR) systems are able to interrogate
a scene, such as a city, persistently and over a large range of
aspect angles [1]. Three-dimensional reconstruction is further
motivated by an increasingly difficult class of surveillance
and security challenges, including object detection and ac-
tivity monitoring in urban scenes. Additional information
provided by wide-aspect 3D reconstructions can be useful in
applications such as automatic target recognition (ATR) and
tomographic mapping.
In SAR imaging, an aircraft emits electromagnetic signal
pulses along a flight path and collects the returned echoes. The
returned echoes can be interpreted as one-dimensional lines of
the 3D Fourier transform of the scene, and the aggregation of
radar returns over the flight path defines a manifold of data in
the scene’s 3D Fourier domain [2]. A number of techniques
have been proposed for narrow angle 3D reconstruction from
This material is based upon work supported by the Air Force Office
of Scientific Research under Award No. FA9550-06-1-0324. Any opinions,
findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication
are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Air
Force. C. Austin was supported in part by a fellowship from the Ohio Space
Grant Consortium. This paper is an extension of work previously presented
in [30]–[32].
this manifold of data. Two different approaches to 3D image
formation are full 3D reconstruction and 2D non-parametric
imaging followed by parametric estimation of the third, height
dimension.
Full 3D reconstruction methods invert an operator to re-
trieve the three-dimensional reflectivity function; specifically,
in SAR imaging, the operator can be modeled as a Fourier
operator, since data is collected over a manifold in 3D Fourier
space of the scene. Generating high-resolution 3D images
using traditional Fourier processing methods requires that
radar data be collected over a densely sampled set of points in
both azimuth and elevation angle, for example, by collecting
data from many closely spaced linear flight passes over a scene
[3], [4]. This method of imaging requires very large collection
times and storage requirements and may be prohibitively costly
in practice. There is thus motivation to consider more sparsely
sampled data collection strategies, where only a small fraction
of the data required to perform traditional high-resolution
imaging is collected. Sparsely sampled data collections with
elevation diversity can be achieved through nonlinear flight
paths [5]–[8]. However, when inverse Fourier imaging is
applied to sparsely sampled apertures, reconstruction quality
can be poor. Reconstruction quality can be quantified by the
point spread function (PSF) of the image, defined by the
Fourier transform of the data aperture indicator function. The
mainlobe of this PSF will typically be wider (indicating re-
duced resolution) and the sidelobes higher than for the PSF of
a reconstruction formed from a densely-sampled measurement
aperture (see e.g. [7], [9]). Methods to mitigate this problem
by deconvolving the PSF from the 3D reflectivity function
using greedy algorithms were investigated in [5], [6]. In this
paper we develop an ℓ
p
regularized least squares approach
to wide-angle 3D radar reconstruction for arbitrary, sparse
apertures, and we demonstrate this approach on the problem
of 3D vehicle reconstruction.
A second approach is based on forming a small set of 2D
SAR images followed by parametric 1D estimation to estimate
the third, or height, dimension in the backscatter profile. We
refer to these as 2D+1D techniques. Interferometric SAR
(IFSAR) is a well-known classical technique for parametric
height estimation from 2D SAR imagery formed at two linear
elevation passes [2], [10]; in this image formation method,
only a sparse data collection in elevation is required to form 3D
images. More recently, multi-baseline extensions, sometimes
referred to as Tomographic SAR or Tomo-SAR, have been
developed for height estimation (see, e.g. [11]–[20]). In Tomo-
SAR imaging, height estimation can be treated as a sinusoids-
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2
in-noise problem and can be solved using spectral estimation
techniques. A number of different techniques exist for esti-
mating the height-dependent reflectivity of a scene, including
the RELAX algorithm [11], uniform and non-uniform Fourier
beamforming [12], [13], [16], Truncated SVD processing
[14], Capon filtering [16], parameter estimation methods [18],
regularized optimization algorithms [19], [20], and the ES-
PRIT algorithm [21]; a survey of different height estimation
methods is given in [17]. Differential techniques also exist
[19], [22], in which passes are collected at different times
and temporal velocity is also estimated. These techniques
can be formulated as 2D+2D approaches. Many of these
approaches have been applied to strip-map SAR processing
of large scenes, and 3D reconstruction is generally aimed at
reconstruction of buildings, forest canopies, or nonuniform
terrain height. Furthermore, the approaches have been applied
to relatively narrow angle collection geometries, in which an
isotropic scattering assumption is well-approximated. In both
2D+1D and full 3D reconstructions, radar scattering is typi-
cally anisotropic over wide angles and violates the isotropic
point scattering assumption of traditional radar imaging. As
a result, reconstructed image resolution will be worse than
indicated by PSF analysis, which is predicated on an isotropic
scattering assumption [23].
In this paper, we develop and compare two techniques,
one a full 3D method, and one 2D+1D based, for achieving
accurate 3D scene reconstructions from sparse, wide-angle
measurement apertures. Both techniques rely on some ba-
sic properties of scattering physics, and both exploit signal
sparsity (in the reconstruction domain) of radar scenes. In
particular, we are interested in imaging man-made structures
under high-frequency radar operation. Under these operating
conditions, scenes are dominated by a sparse number of
dominant isolated scattering centers; dominant returns result
from objects such as corner or plate reflectors made from
electromagnetic conductive material (see e.g. [24]). The first
algorithm, ℓ
p
regularized least-squares (LS) processing, is
a full 3D approach, requires only knowledge of the flight
geometry, and is applicable to “image formation” in arbitrary
collection geometries. In this paper we will use the term
“image formation” to denote both 2D and 3D radar scene
reconstructions. In addition, since collected radar data can
be interpreted as samples in the 3D Fourier transform space
of the scene, matrix-vector multiplications in the regularized
LS algorithm can be replaced by the Fast Fourier Transform
(FFT). The regularized LS approach is also known as Basis
Pursuit Denoising when p = 1 [25], [26]. This approach
has been shown to produce well-resolved, 2D SAR image
reconstructions over approximately linear flight paths [27]–
[29] it was also used for 3D image reconstruction in [30]–
[32]. This ℓ
p
regularized LS approach is also used in Tomo-
SAR to resolve scatterers in the height dimension as an
alternative to spectral estimation [19]. For wide-angle 3D SAR
reconstruction, a direct implementation of ℓ
p
regularized LS
methods yields a prohibitively large optimization problem;
one of the contributions of this paper is the development
of a computationally tractable implementation. The second
reconstruction algorithm we consider is a Tomo-SAR-based
approach adapted to address vehicle-sized 3D reconstruction
over very wide azimuth data collections, including full 360

circular SAR; this approach exploits knowledge of scatter-
ing sparsity to improve height resolution [32], [33] and is
computationally faster than the first algorithm; however, it
applies to a more restrictive class of sparse data collection
schemes. Anisotropic scattering over wide angles is addressed
in both algorithms by using non-coherent subaperture imaging,
where scattering is assumed to be isotropic over narrow-angle
subapertures.
We investigate the two wide-angle 3D SAR image formation
methods on different sparse data collection geometries. The
first collection geometry is a pseudorandom path collection
for three polarizations generated by Visual-D electromagnetic
simulation software, and released as a public dataset by the Air
Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) [34]. The second dataset,
also released by AFRL, is from an actual 2006 multipass
X-band Circular SAR (CSAR) data collection of a ground
scene [35]. This dataset consists of eight fully circular paths in
azimuth, at eight closely-spaced elevation angles with respect
to scene center; this data is polarimetric, in that horizontal-
horizontal (HH), vertical-vertical (VV) and cross-polarization
data is collected. We generate pseudorandom dataset images
using the regularized LS algorithm and multipass CSAR
dataset images using both algorithms; the Tomo-SAR approach
requires multipass data and cannot be applied to the pseu-
dorandom path data. The previously-discussed resolution and
sidelobe issues that result from sparse measurement apertures
are manifest in both of these datasets.
The contributions of this paper can be summarized as
follows. First, we propose a technique to process sparse wide-
angle data, such as circular SAR data, for object recon-
struction; this type of data is becoming increasing important
in persistent surveillance applications. Second we provide
full 3D radar reconstructions using ℓ
p
regularized sparsity
techniques, and provide a tractable algorithm, in terms of
memory and computational requirements, for generating full
3D reconstructions from arbitrary, sparse 3D flight paths.
Third, we demonstrate the first high-fidelity 3D vehicle recon-
structions from an arbitrary curvilinear flight path. Fourth, we
successfully demonstrate multi-baseline tomographic SAR for
3D reconstructions of passenger vehicles from airborne mea-
surements using full 360

azimuth data from an operational
0.3m resolution X-band radar. Finally, we provide an initial
comparison of Tomo-SAR and ℓ
p
regularized LS approaches
on both synthetic and measured X-band radar data of vehicles,
in terms of both reconstruction performance and computational
cost.
An outline of the paper is as follows. First, an overview
of the SAR data model is presented in Section II. Section III
describes the two collection geometries, pseudorandom and
CSAR, and corresponding datasets considered here. These
collection geometries demonstrate some of the challenges
presented by such sparse collections. In Section IV, the ℓ
p
reg-
ularized LS imaging algorithm is presented, and in Section V
the wide-angle Tomo-SAR algorithm is discussed. Section VI
presents reconstructed 3D images of vehicles from both the
pseudorandom and CSAR data collection geometries. Finally,
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3
Section VII concludes, summarizing the main results of the
paper.
II. SAR MODEL
In this section, we briefly review the tomographic SAR
model used for reconstruction. We assume that the radar
transmits a wideband signal with bandwidth BW centered
about a center frequency f
c
. Such a signal could be an FM
chirp signal or a stepped-frequency signal, but other wideband
signals can also be used. We also assume that the transmitter
is sufficiently far away from the scene so that wavefront
curvature is negligible, and we use a plane wave model for
reconstruction; this assumption is valid, for example, when
the extent of the scene being imaged is much smaller than the
standoff distance from the scene to the radar.
For a radar located at azimuth φ and elevation θ with
respect to scene center that transmits an interrogating signal,
the received waveform, in the far-field case, is given by [2]
r(t; φ, θ, pol) =
_
_
B
˜ z
−B
˜ z
_
B
˜ y
−B
˜ y
g
_
˜ x =
ct
2
, ˜ y, ˜ z; φ, θ, pol
_
d˜ y d˜ z
_
⋆ s(t),
(1)
where c is the speed of light, s(t) is a known, bandlimited
signal with center frequency f
c
and bandwidth BW that
represents the transmitted waveform convolved with antenna
responses; pol is the polarization of the transmit/receive signal
pair, and ⋆ denotes convolution. The ˜ x-coordinate is defined
as the radial line from the radar to scene center, and ˜ y, and ˜ z
are orthogonal to ˜ x and to each other. This coordinate system
is a translation in ˜ x from scene center and a rotation by (φ, θ)
of a fixed, ground coordinate system (x, y, z), whose origin
is at scene center. The scene’s reflectivity function is given
by g(˜ x, ˜ y, ˜ z; φ, θ, pol), or equivalently, by g(x, y, z; φ, θ, pol)
in a fixed ground coordinate system. Boundaries of the scene
in each dimension are denoted as B
(·)
. Under the far-field
assumption, these boundaries are assumed to be sufficiently
small so that waveform curvature and range-dependent signal
attenuation can be neglected, which means that these scene
boundaries are on the order of objects but not entire large
scenes. For large scenes, (1) applies locally around setpoints
of interest.
Equation (1) can be interpreted as the Fourier transform of
the scene reflectivity function projected onto the ˜ x-dimension.
By the projection-slice theorem [2], this Fourier transform
is equivalent to a line along the ˜ x-axis in 3D spatial fre-
quency space, or k-space, of the scene reflectivity function.
Specifically, the 3-D Fourier transform G(k
x
, k
y
, k
z
) of the
reflectivity function g(x, y, z; φ, θ, pol), observed from angle
(φ, θ) at polarization pol is given by:
G(k
x
, k
y
, k
z
; φ, θ, pol) =
_
g(x, y, z; φ, θ, pol)
e
−j(k
x
x+k
y
y+k
z
z)
dxdy dz.
(2)
The frequency support of each measurement is a line
segment in (k
x
, k
y
, k
z
) with extent
4πBW
c
rad/m centered at
4πf
c
c
rad/m, and oriented at angle (φ, θ). The flight path defines
which line-segments in k-space are collected, and hence what
subset of k-space is sampled. Typically both the frequency
variable f along each line segment and the flight path are
sampled as f → f
j
, (φ, θ) → (φ
n
, θ
n
), so one obtains a set
of k-space samples indexed on (j, n) as:
k
j,n
x
=
4πf
j
c
cos θ
n
cos φ
n
k
j,n
y
=
4πf
j
c
cos θ
n
sin φ
n
(3)
k
j,n
z
=
4πf
j
c
sin θ
n
.
In order to use tomographic inversion techniques to recover
g from k-space measurements, it is often assumed in (2) that
the scene reflectivity is isotropic; so, g(x, y, z; θ, φ, pol) is
not a function of θ and φ. For narrow-angle measurements,
this assumption is generally valid; however, for wide-angle
measurements, the isotropic scattering assumption is not valid
for most scattering centers in the scene [36], [37]. One
approach for reconstruction from wide-angle measurements,
and the one adopted in this paper, is to subdivide the mea-
surements into a set of possibly overlapping subapertures and
to assume scattering is locally isotropic on each subaperture.
Once subaperture reconstructions are obtained, one can then
form an overall wide-angle reconstruction by combining the
narrow-aperture reconstructions in an appropriate way.
In particular, we argue that a good way to implement the
subaperture combination is using a Generalized Likelihood
Ratio Test (GLRT) approach. We assume scattering at each
point (x, y, z) in the scene can be characterized by a limited-
angle response centered at azimuth φ and elevation θ and with
some persistence width in each angular dimension. We treat
the persistence angle as fixed and known, and we use this to
establish the angular widths of the subapertures used in the
data formation. Since the response center angles (φ, θ) are
unknown, we estimate them using a GLRT formulation: use
a bank of matched filters, each characterized by a center re-
sponse azimuth and a response width and shape, and compute
the response amplitude as
I(x, y, z; pol) = arg max
(φ,θ)
|I(x, y, z; φ, θ, pol)|, (4)
where I denotes the matched filter output. The maximization
in equation (4) over continuous-valued φ and θ is approxi-
mated by discretizing these two variables. Since backprojec-
tion radar image formation can be interpreted as a matched
filter for point scattering responses [38], each matched filter
output I(x, y, z; φ, θ, pol) is well-approximated by the sub-
aperture radar image formed from k-space measurements at
discrete center angles (φ
j
, θ
j
) and with fixed azimuth and
elevation extent. That is, the approach of forming subaperture
radar reconstructions, then combining these reconstructions by
taking the maximum over all subapertures, can be interpreted
as a GLRT approach to reconstruction of limited-persistence
scattering centers. While the approach in (4) assumes that
all scattering centers have identical and known persistence,
generalizations to variable persistence angles can also be
developed [39]. As a side note, each voxel in the image
reconstruction is also characterized by the maximizing (φ, θ)
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4
center angles, providing additional information useful for
image visualization [29] or object recognition [40], [41].
In the algorithms presented below, we will assume that the
available k-space data are partitioned into (possibly overlap-
ping) subapertures, and that reconstructions for each subaper-
ture are obtained using the proposed algorithms. Then, a final
wide-angle reconstruction is obtained using (4).
An advantage of this locally-isotropic approach is that,
for each subaperture, scattering responses are parameterized
by only location and amplitude. An alternate approach, con-
sidered in [24], [42]–[44], is to adopt models that directly
characterize anisotropic scattering. One can then directly
estimate scattering centers from the entire wide-angle data
using these models. This latter approach may be posed as
a classical parametric model order and parameter estimation
problem (see, e.g., [24], [44]). Alternately, one can adopt
a nonparametric approach in which anisotropic scattering is
characterized as a linear combination of dictionary elements
that are limited in persistence, and one estimates the ampli-
tudes of a sparse linear combination of dictionary elements;
such an approach has recently been proposed in [42]. A
related nonparametric approach is to estimate an image at each
aspect angle from a sparse linear combination of dictionary
elements; the images are not independently formed, but linked
through a regularization term that penalizes for large changes
in pixel magnitudes that are close in aspect [43]; regularization
enforcing sparsity in these nonparametric approaches is similar
to the ℓ
p
reconstruction technique presented in Section IV
below. These wide-angle nonparametric approaches result in
a (much) larger set of dictionary elements than used in the
approach followed here; this is because anisotropic scattering
is characterized by additional parameters such as orientation
and persistence angles. In principle, the approaches in [24],
[42]–[44] are based on similar assumptions, but represent dif-
ferent algorithmic approaches to estimate the reconstruction.
A detailed comparison of these approaches in terms of both
computation and reconstruction performance remains a topic
for future study.
III. COLLECTION GEOMETRY AND EXAMPLE DATASETS
Before presenting the proposed reconstruction approaches,
it is useful to examine some example data collection apertures
and the associated 3D reconstruction challenges that result.
We will first present and discuss two sparse radar collection
geometries and their associated reconstruction objectives. The
first dataset considered is synthetically generated data from a
pseudorandom flight path developed by researchers at AFRL
as a 3D image reconstruction challenge problem [34]; the
second dataset is a collection of X-band field measurements
from a CSAR radar at eight closely-spaced elevations [35].
A. Pseudorandom Flight Path Dataset
The pseudorandom flight path dataset [34], [45] is generated
by the Visual-D electromagnetic scattering simulator. The
simulator models scattering returns from a radar with center
frequency f
c
= 10 GHz and bandwidth BW = 6 GHz. The
dataset consists of k-space samples computed along a con-
tinuous, far-field pseudo-random “squiggle” path in azimuth
and elevation from a construction backhoe vehicle. The path
is intended to simulate an airborne platform that interrogates
the object over a wide range of azimuth and elevation angles,
but doing so while flying along a 1D curved path that
sparsely covers the 2D azimuth-elevation angular sector. Three
polarizations are included in the dataset, vertical-vertical (VV),
horizontal-horizontal (HH), and cross-polarization (HV).
The trace in Figure 1 shows the path as a function of
azimuth and elevation angle, defined with respect to a fixed
ground plane coordinate system, and Figure 2(a) displays the
corresponding k-space data that can be collected by the radar,
which is contained between the inner and outer domes that de-
note the minimum and maximum radar frequency, respectively.
The squiggle path is superimposed on the outer dome. The set
of k-space data collected along the squiggle path is very sparse
with respect to the full data dome. The azimuth and elevation
extents of the squiggle path are approximately [66

, 114.1

],
and [18

, 42.1

], respectively. This range of nearly 50

in
azimuth and 25

in elevation indeed represents wide-angle
measurement at X-band; the persistence of many scattering
centers at X-band has been reported to be (significantly) lower
[36], [37]. In contrast, a filled aperture used to form benchmark
images uses samples at every
1
14

in this azimuth/elevation
sector.
70 75 80 85 90 95 100 105 110
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
Azimuth
E
l
e
v
a
t
i
o
n
Fig. 1. Sparse “squiggle”path radar measurements as a function of azimuth
and elevation angle in degrees.
B. Multipass Circular SAR Dataset
The second sparse dataset we consider is the multipass
CSAR data from the AFRL GOTCHA Volumetric SAR Data
Set, Version 1.0 [35], [46]. This dataset consists of sampled,
dechirped radar return values that have been transformed
to the form of G(k
x
, k
y
, k
z
; φ, θ, pol) in (2). The data is
fully polarimetric from 8, 360

CSAR passes. The planned
nominal collection consists of passes at constant equally-
spaced elevation angles with respect to scene center, with
elevation difference, ∆
el
= 0.18

, in the range [43.7

, 45

].
The actual flight path is not perfectly circular, as shown in
Figure 3, and not at perfectly constant and equally-spaced
elevations. The center frequency of the radar is f
c
= 9.6GHz,
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5
(a) Squiggle Path
(b) CSAR Path
Fig. 2. Data domes of all k-space data that can be collected by a radar
for (a) the pseudorandom synthetic “squiggle” path backhoe dataset, and (b)
the GOTCHA dataset; units are in rad/m. Support of the k-space data is
contained between the inner and outer dome. Inner and outer domes show the
minimum and maximum radar interrogating frequencies. The outlines on the
outer domes show the locations of the sparse k-space data collected, which
extends from the outline radially to the inner dome.
and the bandwidth of the radar is 640MHz, significantly lower
than that of the squiggle path collection. Figure 2(b) shows the
k-space data collected by the eight GOTCHA passes. The k-
space radial extent from the outer dome to inner dome of
data collected, dictated by radar bandwidth, is seen to be
significantly smaller than in the squiggle path case. Figure 2(b)
also illustrates that the GOTCHA k-space data is very limited
in elevation extent, in contrast to the squiggle path.
Fig. 3. Actual GOTCHA passes. Scale is in meters.
IV. ℓ
p
REGULARIZED LEAST-SQUARES IMAGING
ALGORITHM
In this section we present the first of two 3D imaging
algorithms; this algorithm applies to general data collection
scenarios, but will be used for sparse collections here. The
proposed approach assumes that the number of 3D locations in
which nonzero backscattering occurs is sparse in the 3D recon-
struction space, and applies sparse reconstruction techniques.
We pose the reconstruction as an ℓ
p
regularized least-squares
(LS) problem, in which a regularizing term encourages sparse
solutions. This ℓ
p
regularized LS imaging algorithm attempts
to fit an image-domain scattering model to the measured k-
space data under a penalty on the number of non-zero voxels.
The algorithm assumes that the complex magnitude response
of each scattering center is approximately constant over narrow
aspect angles and across the radar frequency bandwidth. The
algorithm in this section applies to general apertures; this is
in contrast to the second algorithm presented in Section V,
which applies to apertures with specific structure.
Define a set of N locations in image reconstruction space
as candidate scattering center locations,
C = {(x
n
, y
n
, z
n
)}
N
n=1
. (5)
Typically these locations are chosen on a uniform rectilinear
grid. The M ×N data measurement matrix is given by
A =
_
e
−j(k
x,m
x
n
+k
y,m
y
n
+k
z,m
z
n
)
_
m,n
,
where m indexes the M measured k-space frequencies down
rows, and n indexes the N coordinates in C across columns.
Under the assumption that scattering center amplitude is
constant over the aspect angle extent and radar bandwidth con-
sidered, the measured (subaperture) data from the scattering
center model, (2), can be written in matrix form as
b = Aβ + ν, (6)
where β is the N-dimensional vectorized 3D image that we
wish to reconstruct; it has complex amplitude value β
n
in
row n if a scattering center is located at (x
n
, y
n
, z
n
) and is
zero in row n otherwise; the image vector β maps to the 3D
image, I(x
n
, y
n
, z
n
), by the relation I(x
n
, y
n
, z
n
) = β(i) if
and only if column i of A is from coordinate (x
n
, y
n
, z
n
). The
vector ν is an M dimensional i.i.d. circular complex Gaussian
noise vector with zero mean and variance σ
2
n
, and b is an
M-dimensional vector of noisy k-space radar measurements.
The reconstructed image,
ˆ
β, is the solution to the sparse
optimization problem [27], [28]
ˆ
β = argmin
β
_
b −Aβ
2
2
+ λβ
p
p
_
, (7)
where the p-norm is denoted as ·
p
, 0 < p ≤ 1, and λ is a
sparsity penalty weighting parameter. Note that the solution
to (7) applies for general A matrices, and the radar flight
path locations that index the rows of A can be arbitrary. In
particular, flight paths such as the squiggle path in Figure 2(a)
can be used. Many algorithms exist for solving (7) or the
constrained version of this problem when p = 1 (e.g. [26],
[47]–[50]), or in the more general case, when 0 < p ≤ 1 (e.g.
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6
[28], [51]). We use the iterative majorization-minimization
algorithm in [28] to implement (7). This algorithm is suitable
for the general case when 0 < p ≤ 1. The algorithm
has two loops, an outer loop which iterates on a surrogate
function and an inner loop that solves a matrix inverse using
a conjugate gradient algorithm, in our experience, the inner
loop terminates after very few iterations when using a Fourier
operator, as considered here. Empirical evidence also indicates
that this majorization-minimization algorithm terminates faster
than a split Bregman iteration approach [50]. An outline of the
majorization-minimization algorithm implementation is pro-
vided in the Appendix. For algorithm implementation, define
a uniform rectilinear grid on the x, y, and z spatial axes with
voxel spacings of ∆x, ∆y, and ∆z, respectively. Let the set
of candidate coordinates C in (5) consist of all permutations
of (x, y, z) coordinates from the partitioned axes; then, the set
C defines a uniform 3D grid on the scene. If, in addition,
the k-space samples are on a uniform 3D frequency grid
centered at the origin, the operation Aβ can be implemented
using the computationally efficient 3D Fast Fourier Transform
(FFT) operation. In many scenarios, including the one here,
the measured k-space samples are not on a uniform grid,
and the FFT cannot be used directly. Instead an interpolation
step followed by an FFT is needed. An alternative approach
would be to use Type-2 nonuniform FFTs (NUFFT)s as the
operator A to process data directly on the non-uniform k-
space grid, at added computational cost [52], [53]. Nonuni-
form FFT algorithms require an interpolation step, which is
executed each time the operator A is evaluated; whereas, in
FFT implementation, interpolation occurs only once and the
interpolated data becomes b. When using an iterative algorithm
to solve (7), as used here, having to perform interpolation once
can result in significant computational savings. Our empirical
results on the X-band data sets considered here suggest that
nearest neighbor interpolation results in well-resolved images
at low computational cost, and so it is adopted here.
Implementing the optimization algorithm solving (7) for
large-scale problems can be challenging from a memory and
computational standpoint. In iterative algorithms, like the one
utilized here, typically, the data vector b as well as the current
iterate of β and a gradient with the same dimension as β is
stored. For example, in the simulations below, we reconstruct
a scene with N = 182 × 250 × 252 ≈ 1.1 × 10
7
voxels
to cover a single vehicle. So, at the very least, it would
be necessary to store the data vector in addition to two
vectors of double or single precision in 1.1×10
7
dimensional
complex space. For algorithms that utilize a conjugate gradient
approach to calculate matrix inverses, it is also necessary to
store a conjugate vector of the same dimension N, and in a
Newton-Raphson approach, it is necessary to store a Hessian
of dimension N × N. During each iteration of an algorithm,
it is commonly required to evaluate the operator A and its
adjoint. These operations can become very computationally
expensive when the problem size grows and may result in a
computationally intractable algorithm, unless a fast operator
such as the FFT is employed.
Specifically, since A is an M × N matrix, direct multi-
plication of Aβ requires MN multiplies and additions per
evaluation. In examples using the squiggle path and nine
subapertures chosen, the average value of these nine M values
is 10
5
, so M×N ≈ 10
12
operations. After initial interpolation,
an FFT implementation of Aβ requires O(D
3
log(D
3
)) opera-
tions, where D is the maximum number of samples across the
image dimensions. For the imaging example with dimensions
182 × 250 × 252, D = 252. For concreteness, assuming the
constant multiple on the order of operations in the FFT is
close to unity, FFT implementation of the operator A requires
approximately 252
3
log(252
3
) ≈ 3.8×10
8
operations; so, FFT
implementation results in computational savings greater than
a factor of 2500.
Since the scattering centers in model (2) are anisotropic and
polarization dependent, we apply (7) to form the image for
each narrow-angle subaperture and polarization, and combine
the images using equation (4). Recent approaches for joint
reconstruction of multiple images [54] may also be applied to
simultaneously reconstruct all polarizations for each subaper-
ture.
V. WIDE-ANGLE TOMOGRAPHIC SAR IMAGING
The second approach we consider for 3D reconstruction
is a tomographic SAR approach [11]–[20], in which the
relative phase information from several closely spaced col-
lection paths is used to estimate the height scattering profile
using interferometric techniques. Applying this approach in
combination with angle subapertures, one can divide the 3D
problem problem into a set of 2D subaperture image formation
problems followed by 1D spectral estimation computations.
This approach results in significantly lower computation and
memory requirements as compared with the method presented
in Section IV. On the other hand, the Tomo-SAR-based
approach applies only to multi-baseline images, and thus
applies only to a particular subclass of sparse data collection
geometries. As a result, the algorithm proposed in this section
does not have the generality of the ℓ
p
regularized LS approach,
but does provide reduced computation for those cases in which
the data collection geometry is amenable to this approach.
Tomographic SAR approaches have been considered for forest
canopy and building height estimation using relatively narrow-
angle linear collection geometries [13]–[16], [18]–[20]. Here,
we adapt this approach to full-360

spotlight SAR data col-
lections and demonstrate 3D vehicle reconstructions.
A. Circular SAR as a Sparse Collection Aperture
The CSAR system collects coherent backscatter mea-
surements r(f; φ
i
, θ

, pol) on circular apertures parameter-
ized with azimuth angles {φ
i
} covering [0, 2π] and at
a small set of L (e.g. 2-15) elevation angles {θ

}. The
backscatter measurements, r(f
j
; φ
i
, θ

, pol), are collected at
discrete set of frequency samples {f
j
}. The radar mea-
surements {r(f
j
; φ
i
, θ

, pol)} correspond to the samples of
G(k
x
, k
y
, k
z
; φ
i
, θ

, pol) on a two-dimensional conical man-
ifold at points k
j,n
x
, k
j,n
y
, and k
j,n
z
from (3) (see Figure 2(b)),
where the aspect indices (i, ℓ) map to the single index n
in (4). The reconstruction problem is to estimate the three-
dimensional reflectivity function of the spotlighted scene
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7
g(x, y, z) from the set of radar returns {r(f
j
; φ
n
, θ
n
, pol)}
collected by the radar.
As before, we adopt a subaperture imaging approach, and
for each elevation we divide the azimuth measurements into
M subapertures, each centered at azimuth φ
m
and with fixed,
user-selected azimuth extent (typically 5–20

for X-band data).
The m-th set of subaperture data, for 1 ≤ m ≤ M, is thus a
set of L elevation passes at elevation θ

, centered at azimuth
φ
m
.
Rather than store the k-space data directly, we can provide
compact image products matched to scatterers with limited
persistence, and maintain 1-1 correspondence with the original
k-space data. These image products are 2D ground plane
(z = 0) image sequences {I(x, y, 0; φ
m
, θ

, pol)}
m
where
each image is the output of a filter matched to a limited-
persistence reflector over the azimuth angles in azimuth win-
dow W
m
(φ). Specifically, the m-th subaperture images are
constructed as
I(x, y, 0; φ
m
, θ

, pol) =
F
−1
(x,y)
_
G(k
x
, k
y
,
_
k
2
x
+ k
2
y
tan(θ

); φ
m
, θ

, pol)
W
m
_
tan
−1
k
x
k
y
_
_
, 1 ≤ ℓ ≤ L,
where F
−1
(x,y)
is the 2D inverse Fourier transform, and the
azimuthal window function W(φ
m
) is defined as:
W
m
(φ) =
_
W
_
φ−φ
m

_
, −∆/2 < φ < ∆/2
0, otherwise.
(8)
Here, φ
m
is the center azimuth angle for the m-th window
and ∆ describes the hypothesized azimuth persistence width.
The window function W(·) is an invertible tapered window
used for cross-range sidelobe reduction; typical choices may
be the Hamming or Taylor windows that are commonly used
in SAR images. Each image can be modulated to baseband
and sampled at a lower resolution in (x, y) without causing
aliasing. Each baseband ground image I
B
(x, y, 0; φ
m
, θ

, pol)
is calculated as:
I
B
(x, y, 0;φ
m
, θ

, pol) =
I(x, y, 0; φ
m
, θ

, pol)e
−j(k
0
x,m
x+k
0
y,m
y)
.
(9)
where the center frequency (k
0
x,m
, k
0
y,m
) is determined by
the center aperture φ
m
, mean elevation angle
¯
θ and center
frequency f
c
:
k
0
x,m
=
4πf
c
c
cos
¯
θ cos φ
m
, k
0
y,m
=
4πf
c
c
cos
¯
θ sin φ
m
.
An important property of this subaperture imaging approach
is that Nyquist sampling of (x, y) in subaperture images is
dictated by the baseband downrange and crossrange k-space
extents, and therefore, the image sample spacing is (much)
less fine than if the full SAR image is formed using all k-
space data jointly [21]. For modest azimuth window extent ∆
in radians, the Nyquist sampling in the downrange is dictated
by the inverse of the radar bandwidth,
1
BW
, and the crossrange
sampling is dictated by
1
∆(f
c
+BW/2)
; these sample spacings
are much coarser than the
1
2(f
c
+BW/2)
spacing that would be
needed for the full Circular SAR k-space data. The result is
a significantly smaller storage requirement for CSAR imagery
data.
B. Tomographic SAR
We next present a method for using the set of ground
plane images I
B
(x, y, 0; φ
m
, θ

, pol) to construct three dimen-
sional reflectivity functions for set of subapertures centered at

m
, θ

).
The input to the wide-angle Tomo-SAR algorithm
is a set of baseband modulated ground plane images
{I
B
(x, y, 0; φ
m
, θ

, pol)} at a given subaperture centered at
φ
m
of data collected at elevation cuts θ

. We process each
subaperture separately; for each subaperture denote the image
sequence as {I(x, y; θ

, pol)}
L
ℓ=1
and consider without loss of
generality φ
m
= 0. We consider a finite (and small) number,
p, of scattering centers at each resolution cell (x, y) and
reparameterize the scene reflectivity g(x, y, z) as
g
p
(x, y) ≡ g(x, y, h
p
(x, y)), (10)
where g
p
(x, y) denotes the complex-valued reflectivity of the
scattering center at location (x, y, h
p
(x, y)). In general, the
number of scattering centers per resolution cell varies spatially
and needs to be estimated from the data. The ground plane
image for elevation θ

can can be written as
I(x

, y

; θ

, pol) =
s(x, y) ⋆

p
g
p
(x, y)e
−j tan(θ

)k
0
x
h
p
(x,y)
e
−jxk
0
x
,
(11)
where s(x, y) is the inverse Fourier transform of the 2D
windowing function used in imaging — the 2D point spread
function of the imaging operator — and k
0
x
= (
4πf
c
c
) cos(
¯
θ) is
the center frequency used in baseband modulation. The ground
locations (x, y, h
p
(x, y)) and the image coordinates (x
l
, y
l
))
are related through layover:
x
l
= x + tan(θ

)h
p
(x, y). y
l
= y. (12)
We assume that the difference between the elevation angles
for the different passes is sufficiently small so that for each
elevation pass the scattering center (x, y, h(x, y)), falls in the
same resolution cell (x
l
, y
l
); for practical object or scene
heights radar point spread functions, and elevation diversity,
this assumption is generally satisfied. Then the baseband
images from each pass can be modeled as
I(x
l
, y
l
; θ

, pol) =

p
˜ g
p
(x
l
, y
l
)e
−jk
0
x
tan(θ

)h
p
(x
l
,y
l
)
, (13)
where ˜ g
p
(x
l
, y
l
) ≡ s(x, y) ⋆
_

p
g
p
(x, y)e
−jxk
0
x
_
. This can
be expressed as a sum of complex exponential model
I(x
l
, y
l
; θ

, pol) =

p
˜ g
p
(x
l
, y
l
)e
−jk
p
(x
l
,y
l
) tan(θ

)
, (14)
where the the frequency factor k
p
is given by
k
p
(x
l
, y
l
) =
4πf
c
cos(
¯
θ)
c
h
p
(x
l
, y
l
). (15)
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8
In general, the elevation spacing of the L measurements
in (14) is not equally-spaced. As an example, even though
GOTCHA CSAR passes have a planned (ideal) equally-spaced
separation of ∆θ = 0.18

in elevation. Actual flight paths
differ from the planned paths, with the mean of eight elevation
passes at 44.27, 44.18, 44.1, 44.01, 43.92, 43.53, 43.01, 43.06
degrees. In addition, the elevation varies as the aircraft circles
the scene, as shown in Figure 3, so the elevation spacing
changes as a function of subaperture index. Note that the
only elevation angle dependence in (14) is in the phase term.
We see from (14) that, for each pixel (x
l
, y
l
), the problem
of estimating the number P and heights h
p
of scattering
centers from {I(x, y; θ

, pol)}
L
ℓ=1
is one of estimating a set of
complex exponentials from L measurements; see also [11]–
[20], [55].
In Tomo-SAR, the number of scattering centers in a res-
olution cell must be estimated before spectral estimation
methods can be applied to estimate height parameters. This
is a model order selection problem, and different methods
exist for model order selection [55]–[57]; a discussion of
model order selection in the context of Tomo-SAR has been
treated extensively in the literature (see e.g. [17], [20]). In a
recent study [21] using CSAR X-band data of vehicles, the
estimated model order was 1 in a large majority of cases,
and when the model order was > 1, one dominant (large
amplitude) scattering center was often seen. Thus, the complex
exponential signal in (14) is sparse, with typically only 1
scattering center in the height dimension. This suggests that
the estimation bias resulting from forcing the model order to
be 1 may be small for a large fraction of pixels. Choosing
the model order to be 1 presents a computational advantage,
because for the single-exponential case, a maximum likelihood
estimator of its frequency in white measurement noise is given
by the peak of the Fourier transform of the data, and this
Fourier transform is easy to compute. We thus adopt this model
order approximation, and estimate, for each pixel (x
l
, y
l
) the
single dominant height location k
1
(x
l
, y
l
), as the peak of the
Fourier transform of the L, I(x
l
, y
l
; θ

, pol) values for that
pixel and calculate the height using (15) [12], [13], [16].
The complex amplitude of the Fourier transform at the peak
provides an estimate of the amplitude of the scattering center.
As previously mentioned, in this Tomographic SAR ap-
proach, the 3D reconstruction problem has been realized by
2D followed by 1D processing steps. First, 2D images are
formed for each azimuth subaperture and each elevation angle.
Then, 1D processing is applied to each L×1 vector obtained
by stacking the set of L elevation images and selecting
the L values at a pixel location of interest. The processing
reduction is afforded by the particular structure of the sparse
measurement geometry provided by CSAR collections.
VI. 3D IMAGING RESULTS
We next present 3D SAR image reconstruction results from
both the squiggle path and the CSAR datasets, using the
algorithms described in the previous two sections. We show
both raw voxel reconstructed images, and smoothed surface fit
reconstructions that are useful for visualization.
A. Squiggle Path Reconstructions
The k-space data from the path shown in Figure 1 are first
partitioned into overlapping subapertures, each with azimuth
angle extent of 10

and full elevation extent, and separated
by 5

center azimuth increments. As an example, Figure 4
shows the magnitude of k-space data from the k-space subset
in azimuth range of [66

, 76

).
Fig. 4. Magnitude of k-space data subset from azimuth range [66

, 76

).
Lighter colors and smaller points are used for smaller magnitude samples;
darker colors and larger points are used for larger magnitude samples. Axes
units are in rad/m.
Each subset of data is contained in a bounding box
with bandwidths in each dimension of (X
BW
, Y
BW
, Z
BW
) =
(142.80, 314.2, 285.6) rad/m. At these bandwidths, spatial
samples are critically sampled with sample spacings of
(∆x, ∆y, ∆z) = (0.044, 0.02, 0.022) meters in each respec-
tive dimension. Both the image reconstruction and k-space in-
terpolation are performed on uniformly spaced 182×250×252
grids. With this size grid, the spatial extent of the reconstructed
images is [−4, 4) ×[−2.5, 2.5) ×[−2.77, 2.77) meters in the
x, y, and z dimensions respectively. Each subset of k-space
data is interpolated using nearest neighbor interpolation. In
simulations not presented here, more accurate interpolations
using both the Epanechnikov and Gaussian kernels, were
found to result in nearly identical images, but at much higher
computational cost.
The squiggle path dataset is noiseless. To simulate the effect
of radar measurement noise, we corrupt the k-space data with
i.i.d. circular complex Gaussian noise with zero mean and
variance, σ
2
n
= 0.9. Real and imaginary parts of the k-space
data have a mean of approximately zero and variance, σ
2
s
, of
approximately 9; thus, the noise variance is chosen so that the
signal to noise ratio (SNR) is 10 dB, where SNR in decibels
is defined as 10 log(
σ
2
s
σ
2
n
).
First, we show in Figure 5 a side view of a ’gold standard’
benchmark 3D reconstructed backhoe image corresponding
to the squiggle path dataset [45]. The image was formed
using a windowed 3D inverse Fourier transform of a dense k-
space dataset covering the azimuth and elevation range of the
squiggle path; this dense data is given for every
1
14

in azimuth
and elevation angle along an azimuth range of [65.5

, 114.5

]
and elevation range of [17.5

, 42.5

]. Squiggle path k-space
data is contained within this benchmark dataset and is very
sparse with respect to it; see Fig. 1. The squiggle path dataset
consists of only 1.29% of the benchmark data samples.
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9
(a)
(b)
Fig. 5. Benchmark reconstructed backhoe image using k-space data collected
at every
1
14

in azimuth and elevation angle along an azimuth range of
[65.5

, 114.5

] and elevation range of [17.5

, 42.5

]. Subfigure (a) displays
the reconstructed image superimposed on the backhoe facet model, and (b)
shows the reconstructed image without the facet model. Images from [45].
Second, we present image reconstructions from the squiggle
path using standard Fourier image reconstruction. A recon-
structed squiggle path image viewed from the side and top
is shown in Figure 7. The top 25 dB magnitude voxels are
displayed in the image. One sees that the structure of the
backhoe is highly smoothed and distorted due to the high
image sidelobes, and backhoe features, such as the front scoop
are not well localized. Poor image quality is predicted from
the subaperture point spread functions of the sparse squiggle
path; an example is shown in Figure 6 for one subaperture. The
PSF is not well localized and exhibits significant spreading and
high sidelobes due to the sparseness of the data.
Fig. 6. Magnitude of PSF from the squiggle path over azimuth range
[66

, 76

). Light colors and small points are used for small magnitude voxels;
darker colors and large points are used for large magnitude voxels. Axis units
are in meters.
Figure 8 shows the side and top view of a reconstructed
squiggle path backhoe image using the ℓ
p
regularized LS
reconstruction algorithm in Section IV. The top 30 dB magni-
tude voxels are displayed. The images in Figure 8 were formed
by first reconstructing 27, 3D images from each subaperture
and polarization; images are the solution to the optimization
problem (7). All images are reconstructed using a norm with
p = 1 and sparsity parameter λ = 10, which are selected
manually. Automatic selection of λ is an ongoing area of
research [58]–[60]. Here, p, and λ were chosen empirically
through visual inspection of images. Final images are formed
by combining the subset images over the maximum of polar-
izations in addition to aspect angles according to (4).
In addition to the scattering point plots displayed in the
top of Figure 8, it is possible to accentuate surfaces of 3D
reconstructed images for visualization by smoothing image
voxels; visualizations are shown in Figures 8(e) and 8(f)
1
.
There are a large array of scientific visualization tools for
accomplishing such a task, such as Maya and ParaView. Maya
visualization examples are given in [61]. Here we apply a
Gaussian kernel with diagonal covariance and equal standard
deviation, σ, to smooth the voxels. Smoothed images are
formed on a grid with the same dimensions as the original
grid. To speed up the smoothing, the kernel is given a fixed
support within some radius of the grid voxel being smoothed.
In Figures 8(e) and 8(f), a standard deviation of σ = 0.4 m and
grid radius of 3σ is used. Voxel magnitude is then displayed
using color and transparency coding. Blue, transparent colors
indicate low relative voxel magnitude and red, opaque colors
indicate large relative voxel magnitude.
As can be seen from Figure 8, features in the sparse
reconstructions are well-resolved. For example, the hood, roof,
and front and back scoops are clearly visible, in the correct
location, and do not exhibit the large sidelobe spreading seen
in Figure 7. The side panels of the driver cab are not visible,
and the arm on the back scoop is not as prominent as in
the benchmark in Figure 5, but most backhoe features in the
benchmark backhoe image are also visible in the squiggle path
reconstruction. There are a small number of artifacts in the
image that do not lie close to the backhoe, namely below
the front and back scoop. These artifacts appear to be due to
multiple-bounce effects that are present in the given scattering
data, rather than to an ‘error’ artifact of the reconstruction
process. From the top view of the backhoe, the group of voxels
at the top left also appear to be present in the benchmark image
as viewed from an angle not shown in Figure 5; these voxels
are also likely the result of multibounce from the back scoop
and are not artifacts specific to squiggle path reconstruction.
Simulation results presented above were performed in MAT-
LAB on a system with an Intel 3 GHz Dual Core Xeon
processor and 4 GB of memory. Both the interpolation and
sparse optimization in image reconstruction can be computa-
tionally intensive. The Nearest-neighbor interpolation method
1
A movie of this visualization rotating 360

is included in the multi-
media file bh_squiggle_vis.avi, which is available for download on
http://ieeexplore.ieee.org . During rotation of the backhoe, one
side appears more filled than the other due to limited azimuth data collection
extent.
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10
(a) (b)
(c) (d)
Fig. 7. Reconstructed backhoe from standard Fourier image reconstruction using each subaperture image for an SNR of 10 dB. Lighter colors and smaller
points are used for smaller magnitude voxels; darker colors and larger points are used for larger magnitude voxels. Subfigure (a) and (b) show a side view
of the reconstructed image with and without the backhoe facet model superimposed, respectively; subfigures (c) and (d) show top views of the reconstructed
image with and without the backhoe facet model superimposed, respectively. The top 25 dB magnitude image voxels are displayed.
is fast compared to ℓ
p
regularized LS optimization and took
less than 25 seconds to run on each data subset; sparse
optimization computations took 17−26 minutes to run on each
subaperture. Although not investigated here, it may be possible
to alter stopping criterion tolerances in the algorithm to lower
computation times without adversely affecting reconstructed
images.
B. Mulitpass CSAR Reconstructions
We next consider 3D vehicle reconstructions from measured
X-band CSAR data taken over an urban area. Figure 9 shows
a 2D radar ground image obtained from one pass of the CSAR
scene. This is the scene of a parking lot with several vehicles,
including a calibration tophat and a Toyota Camry. Figure 10
shows photographs of the tophat and Camry.
Radar flight location information for the GOTCHA dataset
contains sensor location errors. These errors are corrected
using prominent-point (PP) autofocus [10] solution provided
with the GOTCHA dataset; in addition, spotlighting is used
to reduce computation and memory requirements; these pro-
cesses are discussed in more detail in [32]. We form 3D re-
constructions of two spotlighted areas of the CSAR GOTCHA
scene centered on the tophat, and on the Toyota Camry. For the

p
regularized LS reconstructions, 5

subapertures from 0

to
360

with no overlap were used, for a total of 72 subaperture
images that are combined by (4). Reconstructed ℓ
p
regularized
LS image voxels are spaced at 0.1 m in all three dimensions.
The dimensions of the reconstructed tophat and Camry images
in (x, y, z) dimensions are [−2, 2) × [−2, 2) × [−2, 2)
and [−5, 5) × [−5, 5) × [−5, 5) meters respectively. These
dimensions define the k-space bandwidth of the bounding box
and grid used for nearest-neighbor interpolation. The bounding
box bandwidth used in both images is 62.8318 rad/m in all
dimensions. The interpolation grid inside the bounding box
consists of 50 samples for the tophat and 100 samples for
the Camry in each dimension. As before, we chose p and λ
manually to generate images that produce qualitatively good
reconstructions.
Fig. 9. 2D SAR image of the GOTCHA scene. Image from [46].
Figure 11 shows 3D reconstructions of the tophat and
Camry formed using traditional Fourier reconstruction tech-
niques on each interpolated subaperture dataset, and then by
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11
(a) (b)
(c) (d)
(e) (f)
Fig. 8. Reconstructed backhoe image using regularized LS for an SNR of 10 dB. The top 30 dB magnitude image voxels are displayed. In (a) through
(d), lighter colors and smaller points are used for smaller magnitude voxels; darker colors and larger points are used for larger magnitude voxels. In (e) and
(f) smoothed visualizations are displayed. The left column of subfigures show a side view of the reconstructed image. In (a) the backhoe facet model is
superimposed; The right column of subfigures show top views of the reconstructed image. In (b), the backhoe facet model is superimposed.
combining the subaperture reconstructions using (4). The VV
polarization channel is used, and only the top 20 dB of voxels
are shown, with lighter colors and smaller points indicating
lower magnitude scattering and larger points with darker
color indicating larger magnitude scattering. These images are
very similar to ones generated using filtered backprojection
processing. The images have poor resolution, especially in
the slant plane height directions, due to the sparse support
of k-space data in elevation angle; the support window of this
collection geometry results in a point spread function with
spreading and high sidelobes [62].
Figure 12 shows three different views of the tophat 3D
reconstruction using the ℓ
p
regularized LS approach. These
reconstructions use the VV polarization data, with parameter
settings of λ = 0.01 and p = 1, and, in contrast to the
Fourier images, the top 40 dB of voxels are shown. The
reconstruction in Figure 12 clearly shows the circular ‘corner’
between the base and cylinder of the tophat (see Figure 10(a)),
and this scattering is well-localized to the correct location.
From the reconstruction, the radius of the tophat is seen to be
approximately 1 m, agreeing with the true radius of the tophat.
Furthermore, there are no visible artifacts in the image.
Figure 13 shows ℓ
p
regularized LS reconstructions of the
Toyota Camry for two polarizations (VV and HH). The
parameters λ = 10, and p = 1 are used in the reconstructions,
and the top 40 dB of scattering centers are shown. To highlight
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12
(a) Tophat
(b) Camry
Fig. 10. Photographs from the GOTCHA scene. Images from [46].
(a) Tophat
(b) Camry
Fig. 11. Traditional Fourier images
vehicle structure, images are displayed using the smoothing
visualization process as described in Section VI-A with a
Gaussian kernel standard deviation of σ = 0.1 m. An example
of a non-smoothed scatter point plot of the Camry is given in
Figure 14. Figures 13(g) through 13(i)
2
show combined HH
and VV polarization images formed by taking the maximum
over polarizations in (4) in addition to aspect angle. In all of
the images, the outline of the Camry is clearly visible. The
upper, curved line is direct scattering from the vehicle itself,
whereas the lower curve at 0 m elevation is scattering from the
2
A movie of the combined VV and HH polarization
visualization rotating 360

is included in the multimedia file
sparse_Camry_HH_VV_vis.avi, which is available for download
on http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.
virtual dihedral made up of the ground and the vertical vehicle
sides, front, and back. The HH images appear to show more
scattering from this virtual dihedral than to the VV images, as
there is a more pronounced line below the car; there is also
some scattering above the windshield in the HH image, which
may be an artifact, and does not appear in the VV image. The
apparent artifacts in the VV polarization below the front of the
car and to the side of the car in the 3D view, are scattering
from an adjacent vehicle that is not completely removed by
the spotlighting process.
In Figure 14, we illustrate the aspect dependence of the
proposed ℓ
p
regularized LS non-coherent imaging process.
Whereas, previous figures were color-coded on voxel mag-
nitude, Figure 14 is color-coded on azimuth angle. The color
of a voxel indicates center azimuth angle of the subaperture
image that it came from. The circle at the base of the Camry
shows azimuth angle of the aircraft with respect the the Camry.
Computations for Figures 12-14 were performed in MAT-
LAB on a system with an Intel 2.8 GHz Pentium D processor
and 2 GB of memory. Interpolation time with nearest-neighbor
interpolation was negligible; sparse optimization computations
took 3 −5 minutes on each subaperture.
(a) 3D view
(b) Side view
(c) Top view
Fig. 12. ℓ
p
regularized LS tophat reconstructions with λ = 0.01 and p = 1.
The top 40 dB magnitude voxels are shown.
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13
(a) 3D view, VV polarization (b) Side view, VV polarization (c) Top view, VV polarization
(d) 3D view, HH polarization (e) Side view, HH polarization (f) Top view, HH polarization
(g) 3D view, VV and HH polarization (h) Side view, VV and HH polarization (i) Top view, VV and HH polarization
Fig. 13. ℓ
p
regularized LS Camry reconstructions with λ = 10 and p = 1. The top 40 dB magnitude voxels are shown.
In the Tomo-SAR approach, reconstructed scattering centers
are not constrained to lay on a grid in the height dimension.
To compare this imaging method with ℓ
p
regularized LS
reconstructed images, data is first interpolated to a grid with
0.1 m voxel spacing in each dimension; this is the same
spacing used in ℓ
p
regularized LS reconstructions. A Gaussian
kernel with standard deviation of σ = 0.1 m is used for
interpolation.
Figure 15 shows the results of the Tomo-SAR approach
applied to the Camry data after interpolation. The top 20 dB
points are shown. The VV and HH polarization images in
Figure 15(g) through 15(i)
3
are formed by combining the
interpolated VV and HH polarization images as performed in

p
regularized LS reconstructions. Scattering is assumed to be
above the ground plane in calculations; so, unlike in the ℓ
p
regularized LS reconstruction, there are no non-zero voxels
below the vehicle. As in the ℓ
p
regularized LS reconstruc-
tion, a set of 72 subaperture image sets were formed, each
3
A movie of the combined VV and HH polarization
visualization rotating 360

is included in the multimedia file
sparse_Camry_HH_VV_vis_Tomo_SAR.avi, which is available
for download on http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.
with 5

azimuth extent, and the image-domain subaperture
reconstructions for all polarizations were combined using (4).
The wide-angle Tomo-SAR algorithm was also implemented
in MATLAB and took less than 1 minute to process each
subaperture.
In comparing the ℓ
p
regularized LS and Tomographic SAR
reconstructions, some qualitative differences are seen. Most
notably, the Tomo-SAR-based reconstructions are more filled
than the regularized LS reconstructions. This is in large part
due to the way in which sparsity is enforced in the two
techniques; the ℓ
p
regularized LS method imposes sparsity
in the full 3D space, while Tomo-SAR-based methods obtain
standard (non-sparse) 2D images and develop sparse recon-
structions only in the 1D height dimension. The 2D image
downrange and crossrange resolutions are approximately 0.3
meters and 0.2 meters, respectively; so, a single bright scat-
tering point will appear as a 0.3m × 0.2m flat disk, tilted at
45

. For 3D visualizations, we find the more filled Tomo-SAR
reconstructions to be more easily interpretable. For automated
post-processing such as automatic target recognition that treats
the reconstructed voxels as features, the smaller number of
’features’ provided by the ℓ
p
regularized LS approach is likely
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14
(a) 3D view, VV polarization (b) Side view, VV polarization (c) Top view, VV polarization
(d) 3D view, HH polarization (e) Side view, HH polarization (f) Top view, HH polarization
(g) 3D view, VV and HH polarization (h) Side view, VV and HH polarization (i) Top view, VV and HH polarization
Fig. 15. 3D Camry reconstruction using the wide-angle Tomo-SAR algorithm. The top 20 dB magnitude scatterers are shown
preferable, since it results in less correlated features than in
the Tomo-SAR technique. In comparing computations, we see
that the ℓ
p
approach requires more computation time for 3D
reconstructions than the Tomo-SAR approach does, in the
present algorithmic implementations. It should be noted that
we have not undertaken a dedicated effort at computation
optimization, and different relative computation times may
be achieved with additional optimization. Finally, we note
that the ℓ
p
regularized LS 3D SAR images do indeed show
significant sparsity, which provides further justification of the
validity of enforcing a model order of 1 in the Tomo-SAR
reconstructions, as discussed in Section V.
VII. CONCLUSIONS
We have examined the use of scattering sparsity to improve
3D SAR reconstruction from sparse data collection geometries.
We have formulated 3D reconstruction algorithms based on
the premise that radar scattering is sparse in the reconstructed
3D spatial domain. The algorithms consider anisotropic scat-
tering behavior of objects over wide aspect angles, but uses
a GRLT-based approach to noncoherently combine indepen-
dently calculated subaperture images to obtain a wide-angle
reconstruction. Two reconstruction approaches were presented.
The first uses a sparsity-constrained regularized least-squares
technique to directly compute 3D reconstructions from arbi-
trary collection geometries. The algorithm is demanding in
both computation and memory usage. A second Tomo-SAR
approach is tailored to a particular sparse data collection: a
multi-elevation Circular SAR collection geometry. This latter
approach takes advantage of the particular data collection
geometry to partition a 3D reconstruction problem into a
set of 2D image formation steps followed by 1D height
estimates, yielding savings in both memory and computation.
Both methods are effective at significantly reducing the large
sidelobe artifacts that are present in traditional Fourier-based
or backprojection reconstruction methods.
We presented 3D image reconstructions using both synthetic
backscatter measurements of a construction backhoe and Cir-
cular SAR X-band radar measurements of an urban ground
scene. In the backhoe case, we presented 3D reconstructions
using a pseudorandom “squiggle” flight path that is sparse
over a wide-angle aperture in both azimuth and elevation; the
sparse flight path includes only 1.29% of the filled-aperture
data in the same azimuth-elevation sector. The resulting re-
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15
(a) 3D view, VV and HH polarization
(b) Top view, VV and HH polarization
Fig. 14. ℓ
p
regularized LS Camry azimuth angle color-coded reconstructions
using combined VV and HH polarizations with λ = 10 and p = 1. The top
40 dB magnitude voxels are shown. Colobar units are in degrees.
construction exhibits better resolution and far lower sidelobes
than a conventionally-formed reconstruction, and it compares
favorably with a reconstruction obtained using filled aperture
data in the same azimuth-elevation sector. In addition, we
presented reconstruction results for two ground objects (a cal-
ibration tophat and a Toyota Camry) from measured Circular
SAR data. Both the regularized least-squares and the Tomo-
SAR reconstruction techniques were applied. Both algorithms
were able to produce 3D reconstructions that clearly show the
shape of the ground objects, with significantly lower sidelobe
artifacts than those obtained in Fourier or backprojection
imagery.
APPENDIX
In this appendix, we review the monotonic iterative algo-
rithm presented in [28] used for to solve the ℓ
p
regularized
LS optimization problem (7). The algorithm utilizes an op-
timization transfer technique, where sequence of functions
that majorize (7) is optimized, and the sequence of optimum
solutions converges to the solution of the original optimization
problem.
Define the sequence of cost functions
¯
J(x, x
n
) = y −Ax
2
2
+ λ
N

i=1
θ(x
i
, x
n
i
), (16)
where superscript n is the sequence index; subscript i is the
component index of the x vector, and
θ(x
i
, x
n
i
) =|x
n
i
|
p
+ Re
_
p (x
n
i
)

|x
n
i
|
p−2
(x
i
−x
n
i
)
_
+
1
2
p|x
n
i
|
p−2
|x
i
−x
n
i
|
2
.
(17)
It was shown in [28] that the sequence of solutions
x
n+1
= argmin
x
¯
J(x, x
n
)
=
_
A
H
A +
λ
2
D(x
n
)
_
−1
A
H
y, (18)
where D(x
n
) = diag
_
p|x
n
i
|
p−2
_
, converges to a solution to
(7) as n → ∞. For the imaging problems considered here,
direct inversion of the matrix in (18) can be computationally
intensive, and we utilize the the conjugate gradient (CG)
method to solve the inverse. The algorithm decomposes into a
nested loop. The outer loop iterates on the solution x
n
, and the
inner loop is the CG loop that solves the inverse in (18). To
arrive at an exact solution to the original optimization problem,
the outer loop must be executed an infinite amount of times.
Here, we terminate the outer loop when the relative change in
the original objective function is small between iterations, and
we terminate the inner CG loop when the relative magnitude of
the residual becomes small. The tolerances used here for algo-
rithm termination were qualitatively chosen. These tolerances
affect image quality, and execution speed, but empirically there
does not appear to be much improvement in image quality by
decreasing tolerance past a certain level.
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Christian D. Austin (S’02) received a B.E. de-
gree in Computer Engineering and a B.S. degree
in Mathematics from the State University of New
York (SUNY) at Stony Brook in 2003. In 2006, he
received his M.S. in Electrical Engineering from The
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. Currently,
he is pursuing a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engi-
neering at the Ohio State University. His research
interests include statistical signal processing, com-
pressive sensing, and synthetic aperture radar.
Emre Ertin is a Research Assistant Professor with
the Department of Electrical and Computer Engi-
neering at the Ohio State University. He received
the B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering and Physics
from Bogazici University, Turkey in 1992, the M.Sc.
degree in Telecommunication and Signal Processing
from Imperial College, U.K. in 1993, and the Ph.D.
degree in Electrical Engineering from the Ohio State
University in 1999. From 1999 to 2002 he was with
the Core Technology Group at Battelle Memorial
Institute. His current research interests are statistical
signal processing, wireless sensor networks, radar signal processing, biomed-
ical sensors, distributed optimization and control.
Randolph L. Moses (S’78-M’85-SM’90) received
the B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engi-
neering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
University in 1979, 1980, and 1984, respectively.
During summer 1983, he was a SCEEE Summer
Faculty Research Fellow with Rome Air Devel-
opment Center, Rome, NY. From 1984 to 1985,
he was with the Eindhoven University of Tech-
nology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, as a NATO
Postdoctoral Fellow. Since 1985, he has been with
the Department of Electrical Engineering, The Ohio
State University, Columbus, and is currently a professor there, and serves as
Director for the Institute for Sensing Systems. From 1994 to 1995, he was on
sabbatical leave as a visiting researcher with the System and Control Group,
Uppsala University, Sweden. His research interests are in time series analysis,
radar signal processing, sensor array processing, and sensor networks. Dr.
Moses is an Associate Editor for the IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON IMAGE
PROCESSING and serves on the Sensor Array and Multichannel (SAM)
Technical Committee of the IEEE Signal Processing Society. He is a member
of Eta Kappa Nu, Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, and Sigma Xi.