1. High-resolution X-band rail SAR developed for $240

  2. Built in my garage and basement

  3. Built from surplus microwave components

  4. Point-to-point wiring and other construction techniques

  5. Utilizes a Geni garage door opener screw-drive for a linear rail

  6. Surplus cordless drill planetary gear set transmission coupling

  7. Developed as part of a SAR imaging self-study

  8. Capable of high resolution SAR imaging

  9. Model aircraft

  10. Pushpins (thumbtacks)

  11. 4.4 mm diameter spheres (BB’s)

  12. Bike

  13. Car

  14. The following information is provided:

  15. Abstract

  16. Pictures of the hardware

  17. Pictures of the garage door opener rail assembly

  18. Data from each radar system is shown

  19. Publications

  20. Misc. ppt slide shows

  21. Engineering notes and schematics


Using a discarded garage door opener, an old cordless drill, and a collection of surplus microwave parts, a high resolution X-band linear rail synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging system was developed for approximately $240 material cost.  Entry into the field of radar cross section measurements or SAR algorithm development is often difficult due to the cost of high-end precision pulsed IF or other precision radar test instruments.  The low cost system that will be presented is a frequency modulated continuous wave radar utilizing a homodyne radar architecture.  Transmit chirp covers 8 GHz to 12.4 GHz with 15 dBm of transmit power.  Due to the fairly wide transmit bandwidth of 4.4 GHz, this radar is capable of approximately 1.4 inches of range resolution.  The dynamic range of this system was measured to be 60 dB thus providing high sensitivity.  The radar system traverses a 96 inch automated linear rail, acquiring range profiles at any user defined spacing.  SAR imaging algorithms developed for this system include the Polar Format Algorithm (PFA), a range stacking algorithm, and the Range Migration Algorithm (RMA).  Downrange and cross range motion compensation (MOCOMP) algorithms have been developed.  An autofocus algorithm has also been developed.  SAR imaging results prove that this system could easily image objects as small as pushpins and 4.37 mm diameter steel spheres.  This machine is the latest in a series of small radar systems developed in an effort to understand SAR imaging and apply that technology to the eventual application of through lossy dielectric imaging.

News & Blogs

M. Szczys, ‘More continuous wave radar fun,’ November 20, 2012,


  1. Make Magazine Blog, ‘How-to: Build a synthetic aperture radar from $240 of junk.’

  2. Hack a Day, ‘X-Band linear rail SAR imaging.’

  3. Slashdot, ‘DIY Synthetic Aperture Radar.’

  4. Popular Science Blog, ‘A DIY Synthetic Aperture Radar system for $250.’


T. S. Ralston, G. L. Charvat, S. G. Adie, B. J. Davis, S. Carney, S. A. Boppart.  "Interferometric synthetic aperture microscopy, microscopic laser radar."  Optics and Photonics News, June 2010, Vol. 21, No. 6, pp. 32-38.

G. L. Charvat.  “Build a high resolution synthetic aperture radar imaging system in your backyard,”  MIT Haystack Observatory, May 12, 2010.

G. L. Charvat.  "Low-Cost, High Resolution X-Band Laboratory Radar System for Synthetic Aperture Radar Applications."  Austin Texas:  Antennas Measurement Techniques Association conference, October 2006.

    PPT slides from AMTA ’06 in Austin Texas

G. L. Charvat, L. C. Kempel.  “Low-Cost, High Resolution X-Band Laboratory Radar System for Synthetic Aperture Radar Applications.”  East Lansing, MI:  IEEE Electro/Information Technology Conference, May 2006.

    (draft of this article)

    PPT slides from IEEE EIT Conference at MSU, May 2006

G. L. Charvat, “Low-cost, high-resolution, X-band laboratory radar system for synthetic aperture radar applications,” Michigan State University Chapter of the IEEE, January 31, 2007

Seminar for PhD Interview Process, Fall ’06

Engineering Notes

$240 Rail SAR Engineering Notes and Schematics

Rev. 2 of video amplifier

X-band Sweep Module Performance Data .  (right-click to download open-office file)

Data from this SAR:  SAR Data


The $240 High Resolution X-Band Linear Rail SAR Imaging System



January-May 2006

Range Profile Data, acquired at MSU

February 2006

SAR Imagery, acquired at MSU

May - October 2006


acquired at MSU summer ‘06