A ground penetrating radar (GPR) is a system that uses RF pulses between 10 to 2.6 GHz to image up to a few meters below the ground. A typical GPR system consists of a transmitting radio and antenna that generates the radar pulse aimed towards the ground, and a receiving radio that receives the reflected pulse.
GPR is typically used for detecting buried objects, determining transitions in ground material and detecting voids and cracks. For example, in construction it can be used to determine rebar locations in concrete, and in the military it can be used to detect non-metallic landmines and hidden underground areas.
Their system uses a step-frequency continuous waveform (SFCW) signal which scans over multiple frequencies over time, and the software was written in GNU Radio. In their tests they were able to detect a dry block of sand buried 6 cm below the ground, and a wet block 20 cm below.
Over the last few years researchers at Universidad Javeriana Bogotá, a University in Colombia, have been looking into using SDRs for aerial landmine detection. The research uses a USRP B210 software defined radio mounted on a quadcopter, together with two Vivaldi antennas (one for TX and one for RX). The system is then used as a ground penetrating radar (GPR). GPR is a method that uses RF pulses in the range of 10 MHz to 2.6 GHz to create images of the subsurface. When a transmitted RF pulse hits a metallic object like a landmine, energy is reflected back resulting in a detection.
Recently they uploaded a demonstration video to their YouTube channel which we show below, and several photos of the work can be found on their Field Robotics website. We have also found their paper available here as part of a book chapter. The abstract reads:
This chapter presents an approach for explosive-landmine detection on-board an autonomous aerial drone. The chapter describes the design, implementation and integration of a ground penetrating radar (GPR) using a software defined radio (SDR) platform into the aerial drone. The chapter’s goal is first to tackle in detail the development of a custom designed lightweight GPR by approaching interplay between hardware and software radio on an SDR platform. The SDR-based GPR system results on a much lighter sensing device compared against the conventional GPR systems found in the literature and with the capability of re-configuration in real-time for different landmines and terrains, with the capability of detecting landmines under terrains with different dielectric characteristics.
Secondly, the chapter introduce the integration of the SDR-based GPR into an autonomous drone by describing the mechanical integration, communication system, the graphical user interface (GUI) together with the landmine detection and geo-mapping. This chapter approach completely the hardware and software implementation topics of the on-board GPR system given first a comprehensive background of the software-defined radar technology and second presenting the main features of the Tx and Rx modules. Additional details are presented related with the mechanical and functional integration of the GPR into the UAV system.
Aerial landmine detection using SDR-based Ground Penetrating Radar and computing vision
Thanks to Dr. Celalettin Uçar from Turkey for submitting a video of the work done by a PhD student who as part of his research created an RTL-SDR based ground penetrating radar simulation and metal detector. He writes:
This apparatus (YAĞRIN) was created with rtlsdr in a phd work. We achieved detecting a metal gasoline tube from the depth of aproximately 1 meters. Furthermore, we created the time domain signal and ploted the reflaction from the metal with using the matlab (simulink) model.
A video on YouTube is linked which we display at the end of the post. They write that the system consists of a 12V DC supply, step down voltage regulator, ADF 4350 programmable signal generator, 25W power amplifier (470 MHz, 45 dBm signal power), Philips omnidirectional antennas (RX,TX), a 64 dB low noise amplifer and an RTL-SDR and computer to display the output. The software he uses is SDR# which appears to simply listen for a tone and detect any changes that occur when something metal moves near it. The PC also runs a MATLAB Simulink model which we believe helps detect metal signatures by plotting the reflection.
In the past we posted about a similar but simpler metal detector implementation by Ancient Discoveries.
RTL-SDR BASED GPR (Simulation) & METAL DETECTOR (YAĞRIN) - Dr. Celalettin UÇAR