Institute for electromagnetic sensing of the environment (IREA)

Research activities

The Institute for Electromagnetic Sensing of the Environment (IREA) carries out research in the fields of remote sensing and electromagnetic monitoring of the environment aimed at territory surveillance and management, security and risk assessment, including the one resulting from exposure to electromagnetic fields. The research activities focus on the study of methodologies and technologies for acquisition, processing, fusion and interpretation of images and data obtained by electromagnetic sensors operating on satellites, aircraft and in situ, and for dissemination of the extracted information. In addition, methodologies and technologies are developed for the construction of infrastructures for geospatial data and biomedical applications of electromagnetic fields. Finally, activities of investigation, research and experimentation on the public communication of science are carried out, as well as activities on science education.
Irea research activities focus on 5 main topics:
o Microwave Remote Sensing
o Optical Remote Sensing
o Electromagnetic Diagnostics
o Bioelectromagnetics
o Geographic Information Systems

IREA is also involved in projects of public communication of science and science education.

The main elements of these sectors are reported hereafter

1. Active microwave remote sensing

The active microwave remote sensing activities are focused on processing of SAR data acquired on multiple orbits and are essentially split into two main branches:
- advanced interferometry techniques;
- tomographic processing techniques.
For what concerns the first topic, it deals with Differential SAR Interferometry (DInSAR) techniques and, in particular, on the development of innovative algorithms aimed at the generation of deformation maps and corresponding time series.
In this framework, the main research activities are:
- quantitative assessment of the SBAS-DInSAR technique for the generation of deformation time series starting from SAR image sequences;
- testing of the SBAS-DInSAR technique in areas characterized by different kind of deformative phenomena (volcanic or seismic activity, subsidence, landslides);
- extension of the SBAS-DInSAR technique for the joint analysis of multi-sensor SAR data, with particular attention to data acquired by the ERS and ENVISAT satellites of the European Space Agency (ESA);
- extension of the DInSAR algorithms for the analysis of SAR data acquired by new generation SAR sensors (COSMO-Skymed, ALOS, RADARSAT-2, TerraSAR-X);
- extension of the SBAS-DInSAR technique for the interferometric processing of image sequences aquired by the RADARSAT-1 system;
- development of innovative algorithms for the Phase Unwrapping of SAR interferograms generated at different spatial resolution scales;
- development of DInSAR techniques for the analysis of deformation phenomena occurring in very extended areas;
- development of DInSAR techniques for the analysis of areas where large and/or rapid deformation phenomena occur, based also on the exploitation of SAR image data pairs amplitude;
- development and implementation of WebGIS and GRID computing systems softwares aimed at the generation and remote query of deformation maps and time series computed via DInSAR techniques;
- development of algorithms for numerical and analytical modeling of the stress sources responsible of the surface deformation retrieved through satellite and classic geodetic (GPS, EDM and levelling) data.

Moreover, an activity relevant to the development of algorithms for processing data acquired by ground-based SAR systems has recently started.
Finally, the IREA institute, that is competence center of the Italian Civil Protection Department (DPC) for the development of SAR data processing methodologies aimed at the detection and evalutation of earth surface deformation, carried out a supporting activity to DPC immediately after the L'Aquila earthquake, occurred on 6 April 2009. These activities allowed to map the extension of the areas affected by the co-seismic surface deformation, measuring the corresponding displacement amount and distribution. The achieved results were obtained only a few hours after receiving SAR data acquired by the ENVISAT, Cosmo-Skymed and TerraSAR-X satellites, and were straight off provided to DPC. These results have also aroused a notable interest by both national and international mass media (press and television).