Ground Penetrating Radar For The Masses

Radar is a useful tool with familiar uses such as detecting aircraft and observing weather. It also has some less known applications, such as a technology known as ground-penetrating radar (GPR). Despite the difficulty of sending and receiving radio waves through solid objects, with the right equipment it’s possible to build a radar that works underground as well.

GPR is used often for detecting underground utilities, but also has applications in other fields such as archaeology and geology. For those people in these fields, a less expensive GPR was the priority of a group presenting at a 2017 National Institute of Telecommunications of Poland conference (pdf warning). The presentation goes into specific detail on how to build a GPR for around €600, much less than commercial offerings.

The presentation begins by highlighting the basics of GPR, then details the hardware bill of materials for the transmitting circuit, receiving circuit, and the DC power supplies. It also details the theory behind the software needed to get the circuit running properly, and has code as well. The processing is done on a 32-bit Mbed platform, and the rest of the GPR is built with easy-to-source components as well.

It’s always good to see useful hardware projects that bring costs of traditionally expensive equipment down to the grasp of average people. Even traditional radar systems are now available for hundreds of dollars, and we’ve even seen attempts at other GPR systems before as well.

Thanks to [Stefan] for the tip!

22 thoughts on “Ground Penetrating Radar For The Masses

  1. It’s 1.3-2.6GHz… expensive Minicircuits plumbing modules screwed together, it’s basically identical to Greg Charvat’s MIT radar.

    I’ve never heard of somebody making PCBs with AZ1518 photoresist and a mask aligner before… that sounds super expensive to make a chip mask in the yellow room just to make a PCB.

  2. The true challenge of a ground penetrating radar is not the transmitter/receiver- it is the processing- the focusing algorithms that allow you to figure out the size, shape, depth, and composition of things without having to interpret hyperbolas or simple time domain stripcharts. I was building/testing/field testing with virtually the same technology(*) (**) in the early 90’s and the vast majority of the interpretation methods are the same 25 years later. Collecting the data is maybe 2% of the effort, and the methods have long been solved.

    (*) Keith Sturgess, Matthew Bennett, Marc Ressler, Ted Grosch, Army Research Laboratory Ultra-Wideband Boom-SAR: System Overview and Minefield Detection and Recognition Results, presented at the Symposium for the Application of Geophysics to Engineering and Environmental Problems (SAGEEP ‘95) April 24 – 27, 1995 in Orlando, Florida.

    (**) Lynn Happ, Marc A. Ressler, Keith Sturgess, Matthew Bennett, Lawrence Carin, and S. Vitebskiey, Army Research Laboratory ultrawide-band testbed radar and comparisons of target data with models, Proc. SPIE Int. Soc. Opt. Eng. 2496, 42 (1995)

  3. Depending on your country and regulations, 1.3-2.6 GHz seems like a big wide chunk of spectrum that you can’t legally use.

    You’re stepping on GPS, aircraft navigation radar, radio astronomy and a host of other things.

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