Synchronising coherent networked radar using low-cost GPS-disciplined oscillators

Doctoral Thesis


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This text evaluates the feasibility of synchronising coherent, pulsed-Doppler, networked, radars with carrier frequencies of a few gigahertz and moderate bandwidths of tens of megahertz across short baselines of a few kilometres using low-cost quartz GPSDOs based on one-way GPS time transfer. It further assesses the use of line-of-sight (LOS) phase compensation, where the direct sidelobe breakthrough is used as the phase reference, to improve the GPS-disciplined oscillator (GPSDO) synchronised bistatic Doppler performance. Coherent bistatic, multistatic, and networked radars require accurate time, frequency, and phase synchronisation. Global positioning system (GPS) synchronisation is precise, low-cost, passive and covert, and appears well-suited to synchronise networked radar. However, very few published examples exist. An imperfectly synchronised bistatic transmitter-receiver is modelled. Measures and plots are developed enabling the rapid selection of appropriate synchronisation technologies. Three low-cost, open, versatile, and extensible, quartz-based GPSDOs are designed and calibrated at zero-baselines. These GPSDOs are uniquely capable of acquiring phase-lock four times faster than conventional phase-locked loops (PLLs) and a new time synchronisation mechanism enables low-jitter sub-10 ns oneway GPS time synchronisation. In collaboration with University College London, UK, the 2.4 GHz coherent pulsed-Doppler networked radar, called NetRAD, is synchronised using the University of Cape Town developed GPSDOs. This resulted in the first published example of pulsed-Doppler phase synchronisation using GPS. A tri-static experiment is set up in Simon’s Bay, South Africa, with a maximum baseline of 2.3 km. The Roman Rock lighthouse was used as a static target to simultaneously assess the range, frequency, phase, and Doppler performance of the monostatic, bistatic, and LOS phase corrected bistatic returns. The real-world results compare well to that predicted by the earlier developed bistatic model and zero-baseline calibrations. GPS timing limits the radar bandwidth to less than 37.5 MHz when it is required to synchronise to within the range resolution. Low-cost quartz GPSDOs offer adequate frequency synchronisation to ensure a target radial velocity accuracy of better than 1 km/h and frequency drift of less than the Doppler resolution over integration periods of one second or less. LOS phase compensation, when used in combination with low-cost GPSDOs, results in near monostatic pulsed-Doppler performance with a subclutter visibility improvement of about 30 dB.