We examine the performance of amplitude-based height-estimation techniques for use with airborne synthetic aperture ladar (SAL) sensors in generating three-dimensional reconstructions of ground targets. Such techniques lend themselves to implementation more readily than phase-based techniques and are also more tolerant to phase instabilities that might be associated with SAL systems. For pairwise amplitude-comparison monopulse processing, we present analyses of the expected height sensitivity and bias of SAL systems in terms of the system parameters. We verify this analysis with simulations, and we also provide an overview of other SAL phenomena that affect height-estimation accuracy. We then propose an array-based joint-processing approach that can be applied instead of pairwise monopulse processing. We show that the joint-processing approach represents the maximum-likelihood estimator for obtaining the target height, and we demonstrate that the proposed approach significantly reduces bias-induced errors.
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