Distributed and Multi-Static Radar

Illuminating the same observation area from radar systems comprising multiple, spatially separated transmit and receive elements is becoming increasingly important.

Such systems can increase information on target characteristics, especially for targets that are difficult to observe in radar otherwise, and even more to improve target visibility obstructions due to local landscape- for example, in urban areas where urban canyoning occurs.

The variability of system concepts relying on distributed radar sensors is immense. Such radar systems can be based on land, air, space, or combinations of them. However, regardless of their manifestation, there are underpinning challenges to be solved. Those include sensor synchronisation to maintain coherence, radar phenomenology to describe the spatio-temportal characteristics of target and background disturbance (“clutter”), and signal processing techniques that leverage sensor spatial diversity to boost radar performance in detecting, locating, tracking, and identifying targets.

In the SENSYS group at MISL we have a track record on these exact topics that traces back to 2003. We conduct foundational theoretical and experimental research, to improve our understanding on the potential and limitations of distributed systems. Those have been supported by DSTL, EPSRC, and Horizon 2020 programmes, and in collaboration with other academic and industrial institutions across the world. We are immensely proud that these works have been very well received internationally - in 2022 we were in the top 3% cited authors in the world on multi-static radar (Scopus Field-Weighted Citation Index).


Lead investigator


Research staff

PhD students

Darren GriffithsDarren Griffiths
(Jointly with Physics)

Xiaofei RenXiaofei Ren

Multi-static radar with spaceborne illuminators

This type of system relies on constellations of satellites as transmitters of opportunity, with the receiving segment being on the ground.

Constellations of navigation satellites, i.e. GPS, GLONASS and Galileo were used simultaneously as the proving platform for this purpose. Two technology demonstrators were built for this purpose, one of which as part of a European H2020 consortium (project SpyGLASS). The demonstrators were capable of synchronising a multitude of different satellites as part of a coherent network, and illustrated the benefits of multi-static space-based radar for marine targets. These were verified through long-term experimental campaigns in Portsmouth (UK), the river Rhine (Germany) and the port of Venice (Italy). 

Multi-static radar target phenomenology as well as novel approaches for marine detection and location using up to 12 satellites simultaneously were developed and successfully tested as part of these campaigns.

We are currently working with colleagues at DSTL to establish the feasibility and performance of broadband internet satellite illuminators of opportunity, such as Starlink and OneWeb.

Ground-based multi-static radar for urban applications

Illustration of multi-static radar for urban operations.
Figure 4. Multi-static radar for urban operations.

Our latest research stream is on ground-based, multi-static radar systems to aid operations in populated areas with increased traffic. Scattering environments such as this are very complex, while strong background echoes (e.g. from buildings) and low intensity target echoes (e.g. from drones) exacerbate the problem of reliable target detection and discrimination.

We postulate that the spatio-temporal diversity introduced by multi-statics could be a promising way of addressing the problems above. This is part of a long-term strategic research direction, which synergises with our drone surveillance activities. To address the challenges faced in this environment, experimental data from realistic conditions are necessary to understand the scale of the problem and test potential solutions. The Advanced Radar Network (ADRAN) facility at Birmingham, funded by the EPSRC Quantum Technologies Hub, is one of few instruments in the world that can help improve our understanding.