• Our Italian team is leading the 12-month MIDAS project that will use innovative radar processing methodologies to measure mechanical vibrations in critical infrastructures to reveal potential failures.
  • Funded by the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Centre for Earth Observation (ESRIN), the MIDAS project will verify novel algorithms through a set of use cases and develop a roadmap towards a commercial service.

Based on our expertise in complex system engineering and Earth observation (EO) data processing, we are leading the MIDAS (Micro-Doppler Infrastructure Stability Assessment using SAR) project, funded by ESA, ESRIN. The project aims to develop pioneering data processing methodologies for synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to measure mechanical vibrations that could reveal system failures in critical infrastructures such as roads, railway bridges, gas pipelines or high voltage powerlines.

The satellite radar signal returned from a stationary structure on Earth will show a frequency shift due to the Doppler effect caused by the movement of the satellite. Any mechanical vibrations or rotations within that structure can induce a further modulation in the signal, generating what are known as micro-Doppler effects. While some infrastructures might naturally vibrate, in others, those mechanical vibrations might indicate one or more inherent failures, which could be revealed by undertaking in-depth analyses of their micro-Doppler signatures.

The MIDAS project will demonstrate how innovative micro-Doppler techniques can be developed and validated, and what activities need to be carried out to develop an operational service using these techniques. In the project, RHEA is in charge of verifying the results of the micro-Doppler algorithms that are being developed, which includes defining a suitable methodology and setting up the verification environment. If needed, the algorithms will be refined through a set of use cases. Finally, RHEA will produce a roadmap detailing a path to operational maturity and eventual commercialization.

Stefano Tatoni, Vice-President Italy and ESS Service Manager for RHEA, said: “Historically, the use of micro-Doppler algorithms has been limited by their complexity, and weather conditions have always restricted optical EO satellite observations. SAR instruments, however, can be used at any time, even through thick clouds, and newer SAR missions have high resolution and frequent revisit times. This has prompted ESA to investigate advanced SAR techniques, and in particular micro-Doppler processing, which shows great promise for monitoring critical infrastructures from space and identifying potential faults before they cause serious problems.”

Potential SAR data sources include the ICEYE satellite constellation and the COSMO-SkyMed First and Second Generation satellites, both of which are Copernicus Contributing Missions.

As prime contractor, RHEA is responsible for the overall management of the 12-month project, which kicked off in October 2023, and for the coordination with the two European partners: University Politechnica of Bucharest (UPB) and Differential Interferometric Analysis S.r.l (DIAN).