Bernhard Rabus

Bernhard Rabus

Engineering Science, School of
Simon Fraser University

Chair title

NSERC Executive Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in Advanced Satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar Technologies, Techniques and Applications

Chair program

Industrial Research Chairs program


Executive Chairholder since 2016


Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) is a form of radar that can create finely detailed images of surfaces and the objects on them. Canada is a pioneer in launching satellites equipped with SAR sensors for large-scale high-resolution mapping of the Earth’s surface from space. Since SAR can “see” through clouds, and work even in total darkness, SAR imagery is proving invaluable for monitoring environmental resources and disasters as well as for maritime security and safety. However, the international space sector is becoming increasingly competitive. Canada needs new impetus and direction in the field of SAR to maintain its leadership in this area of national economic importance. Chair partners MDA Systems Ltd., a world leader in SAR technologies, and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are launching a new SAR satellite mission, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), in 2018. The Chair’s goal is to meet the pressing need for innovative research and training in SAR theory, technology and techniques to boost Canada’s space industry and Earth-observation community. Ultimately, establishing the Chair is expected to lead to a world-class Centre of Excellence in SAR at Simon Fraser University (SFU).

The key activities of the Chair’s research program are grouped into two major themes:

I. Developing novel and enhanced methods for maritime SAR applications.

The research will investigate new techniques for accurately detecting and classifying ships found in SAR images, as well as working out the ships’ velocity. The program will focus on the particular challenges of applying these methods to images of the Arctic, where sea ice and icebergs create a complex and dynamic environment. Modelling and data-mining techniques will be explored.

II. Developing novel advanced techniques for land applications of interferometric SAR (InSAR).

Interferometric SAR uses multiple SAR images to create time-stamped multi-dimensional maps of the Earth’s surface. These maps can be used to measure millimetre-scale changes over time due to, for example, earthquakes, landslides and subsidence. New techniques and technology will be developed to reach unprecedented levels of accuracy. Working in collaboration with geologists, these new techniques will be integrated with geophysical modelling to significantly improve measurements in challenging environments.

Dr. Rabus’ research program is deeply involved with its industry partners, MDA Systems Ltd and the CSA. MDA has been a leader in SAR technologies for several decades, with comprehensive expertise ranging across the mission and system design, development of space and ground segments, operations, SAR processing, calibration and applications. The CSA co-funds the Chair and is also providing access to its research network as in-kind support. The goals of the IRC research program align strongly with the objectives and strategic priorities of the CSA; this partnership fosters the continuing development of space researchers and trainees in Canada and increases the emphasis on space in research and training at SFU.

The SAR Chair program will have a pronounced impact on MDA and related industries by creating relevant intellectual property, public promotion of research achievements (through conferences, publications, etc.) and by training job-ready high qualified personnel. The CSA will benefit from the Chair’s advice on collaborative research with the space-industry sector and on parameters for future space missions.

The SAR Chair’s objectives and anticipated research results will improve prediction and monitoring of hazards for land and maritime environments and the security of Canadians. The SAR Chair program also aims to promote women in science by connecting engineering science with other disciplines such as Earth sciences, which have a more equal gender ratio among students; drawing Earth sciences students to engineering topics will improve gender equality in engineering.


  • MDA Systems Ltd.
  • Canadian Space Agency

Contact information

Engineering Science, School of
Simon Fraser University



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