Ground penetrating radar (GPR) antennas are key elements for the operation of air-coupled, compact, low-cost systems that can be operated at road speeds to map subsurface defects such as corroded rebar, trapped moisture, voids, and pavement layers. This paper presents requirements and tradeoffs for such antennas, as well as a brief methodology for the design process to frame the context and boundary conditions of the antenna problem. Furthermore, the paper discusses a number of planar antennas that have been designed in printed circuit board (PCB) technology using low-cost, glass-reinforced epoxy laminate sheets such as FR4.

The ultra-wide-band operation of antennas, along with other key parameters such as gain and beam width, is very important in the design of a useful GPR antenna for air-coupled operation. The interconnected relationship between antenna parameters limits the designs and constrains the upper bounds of the performance that can be achieved. Regulatory specifications such as FCC compliance create additional burden on the specifications and requirements.

A rounded bowtie antenna, a slotted bowtie antenna and two types of Vivaldi antenna are designed, simulated, fabricated, and characterized. All are intended to operate within the 1.1–3.5 GHz frequency band and benefit from compact size while providing high gain to allow for the detection of pavement layers and rebar in bridge decks to a depth of up to 2 feet. In-field measurements of the antennas, together with the GPR system, are presented for static testing scenarios such as buried rebar in a sand box and concrete slab. The antenna testing over the sandbox and concrete slab demonstrates the great potential of utilizing the proposed antennas in air-coupled GPR systems, especially the compact rounded bowtie and slotted bowtie antennas.

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