ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sandia National Laboratories researcher Armin Doerry has been named a SPIE fellow for his technical achievements in imaging microwave radar technology development, design and analysis.
Doerry is one of 32 new fellows honored this year by SPIE, an international society for optics and photonics established in 1955 as the Society for Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.
Doerry’s work — conducted with many teams over his 29 years at Sandia and with industry and academic partners — has produced radar systems that today are finding military targets, gathering intelligence, helping with maritime search and rescue and protecting borders.
“I’m very gratified for the recognition that the larger radar community has given me,” Doerry said.
Doerry’s Sandia career coincides with radar projects that cover much of the growth of synthetic aperture radar. SAR was first developed in the 1950s. Sandia has been at the leading edge of the technology since the 1980s, undertaking research and development projects that decreased weight and costs while increasing SAR’s effectiveness.
Synthetic Aperture Radar improvements grow out of early research
An early project called Foliage Penetrating Synthetic Aperture Radar (FOPEN SAR) was the first airborne ultra-wideband, low-frequency radar of its type to perform with nearly three octaves of bandwidth that could see through trees with unprecedented resolution.
Though Sandia’s FOPEN radar was never operationally fielded, the research and development on the performance of wideband systems enabled Sandia to more quickly address similar problems and improve performance in subsequent radar systems, Doerry said.
Doerry also brought his math and systems analysis skills to Sandia teams that developed the first real-time, 10-centimeter resolution MiniSAR and the high-performance Lynx SAR system.
“If you need a radar math problem solved, that’s the part I like to work,” he said.
From 2000-2006, the Sandia team combined several technologies together for MiniSAR to reduce the size, weight and volume of high-performance radar systems.
The team’s MiniSAR research was instrumental in a variety of future radar applications, like Copperhead, a highly modified MiniSAR used in Afghanistan since 2009 and now used by the U.S. Army.
Sandia’s efforts decreased the size and cost of the systems, allowed them to fly on unmanned aerial systems and allowed engineers to add features, such as two radar receiver channels in the same system, Doerry said.
“With two channels, I can now detect and track individual people rather than just fast-moving cars,” he said. “Every time we add a dimension to the data, it’s like giving the viewer a second eye. The user can discriminate and tell things apart that formerly they were not able to see. Before, radar echoes of people might have blended in with the surroundings. Now, we have an ability to separate them by this additional measurement.”
Doerry was on the original development team for the Lynx SAR system and has watched and assisted over the years as Lynx has added tools so it can be applied to more missions. Working with industrial and military partners, Sandia researchers improved Lynx’s performance for moving targets and added new modes. An example is a maritime mode used in search and rescue missions over the Mediterranean Sea.
Doerry holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico (UNM), a bachelor’s from the University of Kansas and a master’s from Stanford University in the same field. He has 20 patents, 19 of them in radar, and has authored 56 publications in SPIE journals and proceedings.
In addition to working at Sandia, Doerry taught as an adjunct professor at the UNM for five years and volunteers with universities and small businesses to advise on technical issues. Since 2008, he has been chairman of SPIE’s Radar Sensor Technology Conference and a committee member and session chairman for this and other SPIE conferences for 10 years.
Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.