The value of polarimetric information in Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) applications has been recognised and accepted by the scientific community since the first airborne quad-polarimetric data sets become available in the late 80ties. However the limited availability of widely accessible quad-pol data sets and the consequential restricted ability to set-up and perform dedicated validation experiments constrained the development of application examples that point out the important role polarimetric information plays in qualitative and quantitative SAR remote sensing applications.
This rather unsatisfactory situation changed in the last decade with the launch of a number of SAR satellites operating with polarimetric capability at different frequencies. The Japanese ALOS/PalSAR operating at L-band, the Canadian Radarsat-2 operating at C-band and the German TerraSAR-X operating at X-band made the access to individual polarimetric data sets rather easy. As a consequence, the wider distribution of polarimetric data sets across the remote sensing community boosted activity and development in polarimetric SAR applications, also in view of future planned missions (e.g. ALOS-2) and mission proposals under study (e.g. Tandem-L). This is manifested also in the increased number of scientific publications related to SAR polarimetry in the last years.
With this background, the PolSAR-Ap project is aimed at evaluating and demonstrating the importance and the unique benefits of fully polarimetric SAR data for a wide range of remote sensing applications with respect to single/dual polarization data. The project is supported by the European Space Agency and coordinated by DLR-HR. The project team combines the leading expertise and experience and gathers all the necessary skills and experience to successfully accomplish the proposed study. In addition to DLR-HR, seven different European establishments are involved in the project activities: University of Alicante and Polytechnic University of Barcelona in Spain, ETH Zurich in Switzerland, AEL Consultants in United Kingdom, University of Rennes and ONERA in France, and University of Naples “Parthenope” in Italy.
In order to cover the whole range of remote sensing applications, the project is organised into five thematic domains: Forest, Agriculture, Cryosphere, Urban and Ocean. Hazard applications are treated as well. More in detail, for each thematic domain two main objectives are followed:
The evaluated applications and the generated showcases will be completed with a review of their theoretical background, and all the material will be collected in the book “Principles and Applications of Pol-InSAR”. The individual chapters will be supplemented by application examples contributed by experts external to the project team. An additional important component of the project is the integration of the implemented applications in the software PolSARpro distributed by ESA. Since its first developments, PolSARpro is conceived to offer a tool for self-education in the field of polarimetric SAR data analysis at university level and a comprehensive suite of functions for the scientific exploitation of fully and partially polarimetric data sets.
Figure 1: The five thematic domains (Forest, Agriculture, Cryosphere, Urban and Ocean) in which applications of fully polarimetric SAR remote sensing are reviewed, collected in a book (training manual) and implemented in PolSARpro.