In less than ten years, microwave remote sensing techniques have provided unexpected insights in the Earth surface structure and processes, and triggered the development of entirely new research fields. Using space-borne Synthetic Aperture Radar, SAR, theoretically three characteristics of the Earth surface can be observed : the slope (topography), the surface roughness (vegetation, geology, ocean surface), and the dielectric properties (nature of soils, moisture content). Low frequency SAR (L and P-bands) represents a promising future for remote sensing, since it allows to investigate the sub-surface down to several meters and penetrates the vegetation cover. In particular, P-band radar can achieve penetration capabilities which could be used for accurate mapping of sub-surface characteristics such as moisture content or geological structures. The region near Bordeaux in France was chosen as a suitable laboratory site for fieldwork validation of the new P-band RAMSES airborne SAR, the so-called PYLA’01 experiment (Paillou et al. 2001). Several flights were performed over the region during April and May 2001. This experiment was planned within the “low frequency radar working group” set up by the French space agency CNES in order to explore potentials of low frequency radar for sub-surface moisture detection, biomass evaluation, mapping of the ocean bathymetry, mapping of ocean salinity and for archaeological prospecting. The results will be used to promote a future P-band RAMSES flight foreseen in Egypt for the end of 2003, which will validate potentials of low frequency SAR in an arid context. The data quality of the PYLA’01 experiment is high, with no UHF interferences. Moreover calibrated data are available. The aim of this article is to present the first results of this airborne radar campaign over an archaeological site.


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