Sandia National Laboratories: Synthetic Apperature Radar (SAR): SAR Hardware

World class hardware expertise for Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)

Sandia is a world leader in the design and development of the hardware components for Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) systems. With experience in the development of antennas, gimbals, radomes, electronics and more, Sandia has been successful in modifying and configuring these hardware components for various payloads and platforms.


Unmanned Systems

Sandia specializes in building Synthetic Aperture Radars (SARs) for a variety of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). These radars are custom designed to maximize power and bandwidth while miniaturizing hardware to fit on smaller platforms. In most unmanned systems the Antenna Gimbal Assembly (AGA) and Radar Electronics Assembly (REA) are co-located to minimize size on board the aircraft. Typically, processing is performed on-board and sent to a common ground station in real time. The ground station then provides imagery analysis and data management.

Manned Systems

Sandia has experience developing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) systems for manned platforms of all sizes. The radars are custom designed with the user's mission in mind. To take advantage of the higher power, processing and space availability, Sandia develops high performance, fine resolution radars with a broad assortment of advanced modes. Typical systems provide analyst displays, data recording, processing and all electronics on board the aircraft. The radars are often outfitted with pilot guidance software, enabling precise movement of the aircraft.

Hardware Components

Radar Electronics Assembly

The Radar Electronics Assembly (REA) essentially generates all Radio Frequency (RF) waveforms, receives and preprocesses Radio Frequency (RF) echo returns, and produces the raw phase history data for the radar. It includes processors which control and service all real-time aspects of the radar. It often also incorporates phase history processing and image exploitation hardware.

  • Radar Control

    Radar control primarily runs radar-related operations. It also must interpret user commands and control the system hardware and software collecting Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data.

  • Motion Measurement

    Motion measurement computes radar movement, points the antenna and provides pilot guidance. The Motion Measurement System's Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) hardware are instrumental in helping to guide and point the gimbal while performing movement tasks. Sandia has made several breakthroughs in motion measurement over the years. Improvements include better characterization of existing instruments, and characterization and evaluation of newer, smaller, less expensive instruments.

  • Image Formation

    Image formation processors are utilized in processing phase histories in Synthetic Aperture Radars (SARs) and have been instrumental in the development of many new modes and capabilities. Sandia develops hardware and custom algorithms for Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) image formation that are well-suited for various architectures.

  • Digital Receiver

    Advancements in state-of-the-art high-speed analog-to-digital conversion and reconfigurable logic arrays have prompted a digital revolution in the area of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) systems development. As system performance upgrades and advancements are made toward digital radars of the future, Sandia continues to innovate in the detailed design and hardware implementation of advanced digital receivers.

  • Radio Frequency (RF) Assembly

    Sandia utilizes high performance electrical components for its Radio Frequency (RF) Assemblies. These assemblies offer broad bandwidth and high reliability. Sandia has developed and successfully tested ultra-miniature analog Radio Frequency (RF) assemblies for its smaller systems.

  • Digital Waveform Synthesizer

    The Digital Waveform Synthesizer generates the transmitted waveform and the associated timing and control for the radar, using high-speed digital-to-analog converters and the latest available field programmable gate array (FPGA) technologies as processing engines. Throughout the years Sandia has developed synergistic advancements for miniaturizing and increasing performance on the hardware, setting the state-of-the-art in high-speed digital-waveform synthesis (DWS).

  • Miniature Components and Boards

    With its in-house Radio Frequency (RF), microwave, and digital development capabilities, Sandia has designed, fabricated, tested, and integrated a multitude of innovative digital and microwave modules and subsystems to support various Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) programs.

Antenna Gimbal Assembly

Sandia has nearly 30 years of antenna and gimbal design experience for both airborne and ground-based applications. Sandia's extensive mixed signal and digital processing expertise has been optimized specifically for Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). Sandia's Antenna Gimbal Assembly (AGA) is well-suited for both small, tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and large manned and unmanned platforms. As a complement to its cutting-edge radar-centric features, Sandia's Antenna Gimbal Assembly (AGA) development may be modified for various payloads and configurations.



Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU)

Radio Frequency (RF) Front End

Navigation, Pointing & Control (NP&C)


Sandia develops large and small radomes for manned and unmanned platforms, adhering to the unique specifications of the platform and the customer's mission. The radome is generally specified to be spherical, with the gimbal rotational axes and the antenna boresight passing through the center of the sphere, in an attempt to minimize the asymmetrical effects of the radome onto the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) signal wavefronts.