High-precision positioning of radar scatterers

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Remote sensing radar satellites cover wide areas and provide spatially dense measurements, with millions of scatterers. Knowledge of the precise position of each radar scatterer is essential to identify the corresponding object and interpret the estimated deformation. The absolute position accuracy of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) scatterers in a 2D radar coordinate system, after compensating for atmosphere and tidal effects, is in the order of centimeters for TerraSAR-X (TSX) spotlight images. However, the absolute positioning in 3D and its quality description are not well known. Here, we exploit time-series interferometric SAR to enhance the positioning capability in three dimensions. The 3D positioning precision is parameterized by a variance–covariance matrix and visualized as an error ellipsoid centered at the estimated position. The intersection of the error ellipsoid with objects in the field is exploited to link radar scatterers to real-world objects. We demonstrate the estimation of scatterer position and its quality using 20 months of TSX stripmap acquisitions over Delft, the Netherlands. Using trihedral corner reflectors (CR) for validation, the accuracy of absolute positioning in 2D is about 7 cm. In 3D, an absolute accuracy of up to ?66 cm is realized, with a cigar-shaped error ellipsoid having centimeter precision in azimuth and range dimensions, and elongated in cross-range dimension with a precision in the order of meters (the ratio of the ellipsoid axis lengths is 1/3/213, respectively). The CR absolute 3D position, along with the associated error ellipsoid, is found to be accurate and agree with the ground truth position at a 99% confidence level. For other non-CR coherent scatterers, the error ellipsoid concept is validated using 3D building models. In both cases, the error ellipsoid not only serves as a quality descriptor, but can also help to associate radar scatterers to real-world objects.