Radar software

The following section deals with freely available software for (basic) radar data processing.

To visit the corresponding websites just click on the title (link) of each software.


  1. BEAM
  2. NEST
  3. PolSARpro
  4. BEAT
  5. Basic Radar Altimetry Toolbox


Alaska Satellite Facility software
– Map Ready

The MapReady Remote Sensing Tool Kit accepts level 1 detected SAR data, single look complex SAR data, and optical data from ASF and some other facilities. It can terrain correct, geocode, apply polarimetric decompositions to multi-pol SAR data, and save to several common imagery formats including GeoTIFF. Other software included in the package are an image viewer, metadata viewer, a projection coordinate converter, and a variety of command line tools.
On the website there are also further tools including some training material to familiarize with radar data and the required processing.

Best: The software exists for Windows and Linux operating systems.

      Further information and software download:       



GMTSAR is an open source (GNU General Public License) InSAR processing system designed for users familiar with Generic Mapping Tools (GMT). The code is written in C and will compile on any computer where GMT and NETCDF are installed. The system has three main components:

  1. a preprocessor for each satellite data type (e.g., ERS, Envisat, and ALOS) to convert the native format and orbital information into a generic format
  2. an InSAR processor to focus and align stacks of images, map topography into phase, and form the complex interferogram
  3. a postprocessor, mostly based on GMT, to filter the interferogram and construct interferometric products of phase, coherence, phase gradient, and line-of sight displacement in both radar and geographic coordinates.

GMT is used to display all the products as postscript files and KML images for Google Earth. A set of C-shell scripts has been developed for standard 2-pass processing as well as image alignment for stacking and time series. ScanSAR processing is also possible but requires a knowledgeable user. Users are welcome to contribute to this effort. In particular contributions using other scripting languages such as Perl and Python are desired.”

ESA Tools

The ESA software dealing with radar data processing and displaying are:

1.   BEAM: “… is an open-source toolbox and development platform for viewing, analysing and processing of remote sensing raster data. Originally developed to facilitate the utilisation of image data from Envisat’s optical instruments, BEAM now supports a growing number of other raster data formats such as GeoTIFF and NetCDF as well as data formats of other EO sensors such as MODIS, AVHRR, AVNIR, PRISM and CHRIS/Proba. Various data and algorithms are supported by dedicated extension plug-ins.”

On the website there is sample data, a wiki and much more information.

2.  NEST (Next ESA SAR Toolbox)The Next ESA SAR Toolbox (NEST) is an open source (GNU GPL) toolbox for reading, post-processing, analysing and visualising the large archive of data (from Level 1) from ESA SAR missions including ERS-1 & 2, ENVISAT and in the future Sentinel-1. In addition, NEST supports handling of products from third party missions including JERS-1, ALOS PALSAR, TerraSAR-X, Radarsat-2 and Cosmo-Skymed. NEST has been built using the BEAM Earth Observation Toolbox and Development Platform.
For more details about features and the underlying architecture just visit the website.

3. PolSARpro: “The Polarimetric SAR Data Processing and Educational Tool aims to facilitate the accessibility and exploitation of multi-polarised SAR datasets including those from ESA Third Party Missions (ALOS PALSAR), Envisat ASAR Alternating Polarisation mode products, RADARSAT-2 and TerraSAR-X.
A wide-ranging tutorial and comprehensive documentation provide a grounding in polarimetry and polarimetric interferometry necessary to stimulate research and development of scientific applications that utilize such techniques; the toolbox of processing functions offers users the capability to implement them.”

4. Beat (Basic Envisat Atmospheric Toolbox): “The Basic Envisat Atmospheric Toolbox project (BEAT) aims to provide scientists with tools for ingesting, processing, and analyzing atmospheric remote sensing data.
The project consists of several software packages, with the main packages being BEAT and VISAN. The BEAT package contains a set of libraries, command line tools, and interfaces to IDL, MATLAB, Fortran, and Python that allow you to access data from a range of atmospheric instrument product files. The VISAN package contains an application that can be used to visualize and analyse the data that you retrieve using the BEAT interface.
The primary instruments supported by BEAT are GOMOS, MIPAS, and SCIAMACHY (ENVISAT), GOME (ERS-2), OMI, TES and MLS (Aura), and GOME-2 and IASI (MetOp). BEAT, VISAN, and GeoFit are provided as Open Source Software, enabling user community participation in further development and quality improvement.”
A full overview of the BEAT packages can be found on the website.

5.   Basic Radar Altimetry ToolboxThe Basic Radar Altimetry Toolbox is a tool designed to use radar altimetry data. It is able:

  • to read all altimetry data from official data centres, from ERS-1 and 2, Topex/Poseidon, Geosat Follow-on, Jason-1, Envisat, Jason-2 and Cryosat, from Sensor Geophysical Data Record to gridded merged data
  • to do some processing and computations
  • to visualise the results
  • On the ESA website there are several several software to process or display plenty of ESAs EO data. The usability differs but is definitively worth a look and the software is updated more or less regularly. For more software and details check: https://earth.esa.int 


“RAT (Radar Tools) is a powerful open-source software tool for processing SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) remote sensing data. Our motivation to start the development of RAT is that modern remote sensing software like Erdas Image or ENVI include only some basic SAR functionality. Advanced algorithms in SAR polarimetry (PolSAR), interferometry (InSAR) and polarimetric interferometry (PolInSAR) have to be implemented by oneself. So we descided to start the development of RAT. RAT should bring modern SAR algorithms to a wider user-base by simplifying in particular the data handling and processing of complex SAR data.
RAT is planned as an ongoing community effort, i.e. there will be no final version with a certain functionality. It is our idea to include more and more SAR tools in future and to make them freely available to the scientific community. We of course also hope for external contributions. Because of this, the programming interface of RAT is kept quite simple and adding own functions is quite easy.”

The software can be easily used on Linux, OSX and Windows if you download and install the free IDL Virtual Machine. Details and more information can be fond on their website at: http://radartools.berlios.de/index.php

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  • Repeat Orbit Interferometry PACkage (ROI_PAC) is a software for processing synthetic aperture radar data to produce differential interferograms. Licenses are available at no charge for non-commercial use.

    Further information and software download: http://www.roipac.org/