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    Imaging Modes

    RADARSAT-2 is the most flexible, highest-capacity commercial SAR sensor, and provides defence and security customers with a range of SAR imagery options for every application. Whether you need broad area maritime coverage, or high-resolution imagery for target detection on land, RADARSAT-2 has an imaging mode that will deliver the results you need.

    Maritime Modes

    RADARSAT-2 was developed to monitor Canada's vast maritime domain. It has two imaging modes that are ideally suited to monitoring large areas of open ocean, and can be used to generate ship detection reports.


    SCNBNOMINAL RESOLUTION: 50 m ScanSAR Narrow, 100 m ScanSAR Wide
    SWATH WIDTH: 300 km ScanSAR Narrow, 500 km ScanSAR Wide
    POLARIZATION: Single or Dual

    The ScanSAR imaging modes provide images of very wide swaths in a single pass of the satellite, and are intended for use in applications requiring large area coverage. The ScanSAR Narrow mode provides coverage of a ground swath approximately double the width of the Wide mode, with coverage over the incidence angle range from 20 to 39, or 30 to 46 degrees. The ScanSAR Wide mode provides coverage of a ground swath approximately triple the width of the Wide mode, with an incidence angle range of 20 to 49 degrees.

    In the ScanSAR modes, two, three or four of the single physical beams covering adjoining swaths are used in combination. The beams are operated sequentially, each for a series of pulse transmissions and receptions, so that data are collected from a wider swath than is possible with a single beam. The beam switching rates are chosen to ensure that the blocks of imagery produced from successive sets of pulse returns from each beam provide unbroken along-track coverage. For the standard RADARSAT-2 ScanSAR modes, the radar beam switching has been chosen to provide two azimuth looks per beam for all points.

    The ScanSAR modes are primarily used for applications that require large area coverage. Applications include ice monitoring and maritime surveillance for ship detection.



    The Extra-Fine Beam mode nominally provides similar swath width and incidence angle coverage as the Wide Fine Beam mode, at even finer resolutions, but with higher data compression ratios and noise levels. The Extra-Fine mode spans a total accessible incidence angle range from 22 to 49 degrees. This beam mode also offers additional optional processing parameter selections that allow for reduced-bandwidth single-look products, 4-look, and 28-look products.

    For maritime applications, Extra-Fine is used for ship detection when smaller vessels need to be identified.

    Ship Detection

    SWATH WIDTH: 450 km


    The Ship Detection Beam mode provides superior ship detection capability for ships 25 metres in length or greater, over areas as large as 450 kilometres x 500 kilometres in a single RADARSAT-2 scene.

    The Ship Detection mode is ideal for applications such as monitoring illegal fishing and sovereignty protection.

    Ocean Surveillance

    SWATH WIDTH: 500 km
    POLARIZATION: Single or Dual

    The Ocean Surveillance mode provides maritime monitoring capabilities for a variety of maritime applications. Ocean Surveillance mode can image areas as large as 530 kilometres x 500 kilometres in a single scene. This mode delivers ship detection capability and supports monitoring of other ocean features such as detecting oil on water, ice and wind analysis and wake detection. 


    Land Modes

    In addition to providing large area coverage, RADARSAT-2 also offers excellent high-resolution modes that are used by defence customers for high-resolution target detection.


    SWATH WIDTH: 18 km

    The Spotlight Beam mode is intended for applications which require the best spatial resolution available from RADARSAT-2. In this imaging mode, the beam is steered electronically in order to dwell on the area of interest over longer aperture times, which allows products to be processed to finer azimuth resolution than in other modes. Unlike in other modes, Spotlight images are of fixed size in the along track direction. The Spotlight mode covers any area within the incidence angle range from 20 to 50 degrees.

    As the highest-resolution mode on RADARSAT-2, Spotlight is used for any application that requires the best resolving power. For defence customers, Spotlight is used for land intelligence target detection and change detection applications.


    SWATH WIDTH: 20 km (50 km for Wide Ultra-Fine)

    The Ultra-Fine Resolution Beam mode is intended for applications which require very high spatial resolution. The Ultra-Fine mode covers any area within the incidence angle range from 20 to 50 degrees.

    The Ultra-Fine imaging mode is also available in a Wide variant that provides the same spatial resolution as the Ultra-Fine mode as well as wider coverage, but at the expense of higher data compression ratios (which leads to higher signal-dependent noise levels).

    The imaging modes identified in this section are a representative sample of the 20 imaging modes available on RADARSAT-2, and have been highlighted for their applicability to defence and security applications. A complete listing of all the RADARSAT-2 beam modes and their specifications, are available in the Satellites section of this site.

    Not sure these modes give you what you need? Speak with one of our Customer Service representatives, and we'll show you how MDA and RADARSAT-2 can address your geospatial requirements.