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Remote Sens. 2017, 9(12), 1252; doi:10.3390/rs9121252

An Analysis of Ku-Band Profiling Radar Observations of Boreal Forest

Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation (GEO), Technische Universität Wien, 1040 Vienna, Austria
Department of Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry, Finnish Geospatial Research Institute, 02431 Kirkkonummi, Finland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 20 September 2017 / Revised: 21 November 2017 / Accepted: 30 November 2017 / Published: 2 December 2017
(This article belongs to the Section Forest Remote Sensing)
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Radar sensors have the potential to retrieve vertical forest structure measurements thanks to their capability to penetrate into the foliage. However, studies are needed in order to understand better the interaction of radar beams with the canopy. The most commonly used radar technique for estimating forest parameters operates from spacecraft at different wavelength (X-, C-, and L-band). In order to assist in the interpretation of satellite data for forest applications, and as a possible complementary technique to Lidar (Light detection and ranging), the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute has developed the first helicopter-borne profiling radar system operating in Ku-band, called Tomoradar, which is able to provide a vertical canopy profile. The study focuses on the analyses of Ku-band profiling radar waveforms and the backscatter signal of boreal forest, supported by simultaneously acquired Lidar measurements, in order to detect ground and canopy profiles and quantify the ground echo ratio under different canopy coverage and the backscatter signal variation through the vegetation. The Tomoradar data was acquired simultaneously with a lightweight Velodyne VLP-16 Lidar system in October 2016 over a boreal forest located in Evo in southern Finland. Additionally, highly accurate Riegl VQ-480 Lidar data, acquired in 2014, was used as a ground reference for both lightweight systems. We analysed the co- and cross-polarized (HH and HV) Tomoradar backscatter signals of a 600 m long profile. It is found that the Ku-band Tomoradar penetrates the canopy to a similar extent as the Velodyne Lidar, i.e., the distribution of backscatter signals through the vegetation follows the vegetation density. Moreover, the ground backscatter signal strength and ground echo ratio depend strongly on the presence of gaps in the canopy. By comparing the elevation of the corresponding canopy and ground Tomoradar signal peaks with the Velodyne Lidar data, the Tomoradar ground elevation accuracy is on average −0.03 m and −0.20 m for the cross- and co-polarization, respectively, whereas the bias of the canopy elevation is, on average, −0.58 m and 1.35 m for the cross- and co-polarization, respectively. With respect to the ground height data derived from the Lidar measurements of 2014, the Tomoradar ground profile reveals, on average, higher accuracy (i.e., 0.00 m (σ = 0.41 m) and 0.04 m (σ = 0.37 m) for the co-and cross-polarizations, respectively) than the Velodyne system (−0.37 m with σ = 0.25 m). View Full-Text
Keywords: Ku-band; backscatter; boreal forest; profiling radar; Lidar Ku-band; backscatter; boreal forest; profiling radar; Lidar

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Piermattei, L.; Hollaus, M.; Milenković, M.; Pfeifer, N.; Quast, R.; Chen, Y.; Hakala, T.; Karjalainen, M.; Hyyppä, J.; Wagner, W. An Analysis of Ku-Band Profiling Radar Observations of Boreal Forest. Remote Sens. 2017, 9, 1252.

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