Environmental monitoring, earth-resource mapping, and military systems require broad-area imaging at high resolutions. Many times the imagery must be acquired in inclement weather or during night as well as day. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) provides such a capability. SAR systems take advantage of the long-range propagation characteristics of radar signals and the complex information processing capability of modern digital electronics to provide high resolution imagery. Synthetic aperture radar complements photographic and other optical imaging capabilities because of the minimum constraints on time-of-day and atmospheric conditions and because of the unique responses of terrain and cultural targets to radar frequencies.
Synthetic aperture radar technology has provided terrain structural information to geologists for mineral exploration, oil spill boundaries on water to environmentalists, sea state and ice hazard maps to navigators, and reconnaissance and targeting information to military operations. There are many other applications or potential applications. Some of these, particularly civilian, have not yet been adequately explored because lower cost electronics are just beginning to make SAR technology economical for smaller scale uses.