Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)

MDA - a pioneer in SAR technology


MDA proprietary SAR image quality algorithms applied to an aerial SAR image today illustrates the remarkable advances in image quality improvements.

MDA is a pioneer in synthetic aperture radar (SAR) from the 1950s. Air and space-based SAR is different from typical electro-optical (EO) systems in that SAR actively transmits microwave energy and collects the reflected signals which interact with the ground for imaging, detection, tracking and characterization. Because microwaves can penetrate clouds, they are not impacted by weather, providing all-weather capability, unlike EO imaging systems. Because SAR generates its own transmit energy, it is equally capable of operating day or night. It is this all-weather, day and night collection capability that makes SAR particularly valuable to customers who need continuous or on demand assessment of certain ground locations.  

MDA - the partner of choice for radar developers 

MDA developed and utilizes sophisticated state-of-the-art data processing algorithms to form imagery which can be as literal as EO images, but which can provide additional unique information not inherent in EO imagery. This unique information includes precise geo-location, selective material penetration, polarization (shape) information and more. Advanced processing techniques have been developed for bi-static imaging, using cooperative or non-cooperative illumination sources.

MDA has developed and promulgated special derived products including coherent change detection, color multi-view change detection, super-resolution moving target detection and location and topographic products. MDA’s in-depth knowledge of SAR phenomenology, sensor hardware, processing and information extraction algorithms and products underpins our long proven ability to optimize image quality and system performance. 

SAR imagery for commercial applications

Commercial markets that could benefit from SAR imagery to keep a day/night all-weather “eye” on their investments include:

  • Agriculture
  • Energy
  • Financial commodity markets
  • Shipping and transportation 

Did you know?

 An aerial SAR image (on the left) taken in 1957 of a Volkswagen Beetle compared to an aerial photograph (picture on the right) illustrates the power of SAR applications from the earliest applications.


MDA has been at the forefront of SAR development for more than 60 years. Our capability began as far back as 1946 with the founding of the University of Michigan’s Willow Run Laboratory. In 1972 the name was changed to the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM), which we are still known by in some technical circles.

For more information, contact us.