Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry (InSAR) is an accurate Earth Observation method to monitor an asset’s stability at a much lower cost and without the need to have physical access to the assets. This technique uses SAR satellite datasets e.g., Sentinel-1 which is freely available from the European Space Agency (ESA).
Persistent Scatterer InSAR (PSI) is a novel technique to select strong, stable scatterers that remain coherent for the entire time series of radar acquisitions (Ferretti et al. 2001). In this study, we first applied conventional PSI analysis using SARPROZ software (Perissin et al.,2011) across three NGET areas of interest which each included 80 km of overhead lines (OHLs) and some underground cables and overground substations. To monitor an asset’s stability using the PSI technique, it must be possible to identify at least one data point that can be accurately and definitively assigned to the asset itself. Some assets, depending on their characteristics (e.g. size, orientation, roughness and material) and their scattering behavior are ‘natural reflectors’ providing a strong and coherent back scattered signal that can be used for PSI asset motion analyses, but not all.
One of the results of this study was an insight into the high % of towers that are not ‘natural reflectors’ and a study of how this issue could be solved by the installation of corner reflectors. Corner reflectors (CRs) can be used to enhance the backscattered signal from the target where the signal is not strong and coherent enough to be selected as a Persistent Scatterer (PS) point (Cigna et al., 206 and Kelevitz et al., 2022).
Therefore, in the next phase, we focused on designing and installing a number of CRs both on National Grid pylons, and a test site at Cranfield University, to assess their ability to make NGET assets, in particular tower monitorable when using PSI derived from free and open-source Sentinel-1 imagery. This project also set out to determine what the minimum distance between two installed CRs would need to be to still get two separate signals and therefore two distinct asset motion measurements from one single asset. We designed the CRs for these experiments to be clearly visible in images for a typical UK rural landscape away from woodland. Assuming a low vegetated background and a signal to noise ratio (SNR) equals to 10, five trihedral CRs with an inner side length of 70 cm were manufactured. In the installation phase, the CRs were fixed rigidly to a support and pointed towards the Sentinel-1 selected tracks using the local incidence angle and azimuth angle.