Technion SAMPL Lab Students Design Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Simulator Using NI AWR Design Environmen


Company Profile

The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology –  is a public research university in Haifa, Israel.  Founded in 1924, it is the oldest university in Israel and offers degrees in science and engineering, and related fields such as architecture, medicine, industrial management and education. It has 18 academic departments, more than 50 research centers, and 600 faculty members include three Nobel Laureates. Technion’s SAMPL Lab, within the EE Department, is a new laboratory established in 2013 and headed by Prof. Yonina Eldar. It focuses on sampling, modeling and processing of continuous-time and discrete-time signals. 

The Design Challenge

The design challenge for SAMPL Lab students was to build an efficient, easy-to-use synthetic aperture radar (SAR) simulator that connects to MATLAB for signal processing. SAR is a type of radar used to create two and three dimensional representations of an object. SAR uses the motion of the radar antenna over a targeted region to provide finer spatial resolution than is possible with conventional beam-scanning radars. The SAMPL Lab design focuses on sub-Nyquist sampling of the received signal and full reconstruction of the image.

The students, supervised by Kfir Aberman and Prof. Yonina Eldar, wanted to create a SAR simulator that could handle many targets on the surface and then use MATLAB to calculate the object shapes. The SAR simulator had to perform as quickly as possible.

The Solution

The SAMPL Lab students used NI AWR Design Environment™, inclusive of Visual System Simulator™ (VSS) system design software, for this SAR simulator research project because it provides an intuitive, accurate and flexible environment. The software gave the students a simple yet accurate look at the architecture and design phases of the SAR simulator. They were able to examine many related examples that were provided, which helped them in learning the software, its capabilities, and its usefulness for the SAR simulator project.

Why NI AWR Design Environment

It was necessary to include several key capabilities within the SAR simulator to ensure the project’s success. It had to contain a signal generator, an RF transmitter, an antenna, an RF receiver moving target detector (MTD), and links to third-party tools such as MATLAB and LabVIEW.

NI AWR Design Environment provided a solution for including these specifications without being too complex for the students to use successfully. By using the graphical architecture of the software, they were able to build independent blocks that were suitable for specific tasks. In addition, VSS provides many built-in blocks that the students were able to use in this project.

A small influence on latency was noticed when simulating a large number of targets. This was an important discovery because within this project there was a need to perform calculations on many targets in order to build a picture of the object shapes. 

NI AWR software also brings with it an e-learning website as well as comprehensive documentation, and the students were able to leverage the software’s powerful capabilities and different applications and technologies through the related video lectures and documentation. In addition to the training material, the local NI AWR software technical staff were on hand to assist throughout the project, which also ensured the success of this work.