Ground Penetrating Radar

The first peer-reviewed scientific journal dedicated to GPR

Open access, open science

ISSN 2533-3100

Ground Penetrating Radar 2018, Volume 1, Issue 1, GPR-1-1-1,


Use of Ground Penetrating Radar and standard geophysical methods to explore the subsurface

Raffaele Persico and Sebastiano D'Amico


Full text: PDF [25.2 MB, open access]


Abstract: This paper presents the results of a series of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and passive seismic measurements performed in Malta in 2015, during a Short-Term Scientific Mission (STSM) funded by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) Action TU1208 “Civil engineering applications of Ground Penetrating Radar.” The main purposes of the measurements were: to test the performance of an innovative reconfigurable stepped-frequency GPR prototype, recently upgraded thanks to the results of the research activities carried out in Norway during a previous TU1208 STSM; to investigate the geological conditions of some sites of historical and environmental interest; and to assess the internal status of two monuments. To the best of our knowledge, the GPR measurements carried out during this STSM constitute the first GPR investigations ever performed in Malta.


Keywords: Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR); instrumentation development; stepped frequency; cultural heritage; geology; passive seismic.



A Short-Term Scientific-Mission (STMS) entitled “Use of Ground Penetrating Radar and standard geophysical methods to explore the subsurface” was recently funded by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology), in the framework of the COST Action TU1208 “Civil engineering applications of Ground Penetrating Radar” activities. Raffaele Persico visited Sebastiano D’Amico in Malta, from July 13th to July 24th, 2015, and they jointly performed a series of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and passive seismic measurements in sites of of historical and environmental interest.

The used radar system was an innovative reconfigurable stepped-frequency GPR prototype (Section 2). The original version of this prototype was implemented in Italy, by the Institute for Archaeological and Monumental Heritage of the National Research Council (IBAM-CNR), in cooperation with the University of Florence and the Italian company IDS Ingegneria dei Sistemi, within the research project AITECH funded by Regione Puglia ( [1]. During a previous STSM funded by the COST Action TU1208, carried out in 2014, the prototype was brought to Norway and compared with commercial systems manufactured by 3d-radar [2]. Based on the results collected during that mission, the prototype was improved. The STSM in Malta represented an opportunity to test on real scenarios the improved version of the prototype.

For what concerns the passive seismic acquisitions, single station-location measurements were done.

The geology of Malta is shortly described in Section 3, whereas Section 4 is dedicated to the presentation and interpretation of the obtained results. The main objectives of our measurements were three: to test the performance of the GPR prototype, to study the geological conditions of a series of sites in Malta, and to assess the conditions of some monuments, still in Malta. In particular, we performed measurements in the Golden Bay area, in the vicinity of Għajn Tuffieħa Tower (subsection 4.1); we assessed an area close to La Ferla Cross church (subsection 4.2); we performed measurements inside Madliena tower, in Pembroke (subsection 4.3); and we surveyed the area outside the church of Santa Maria, in Birkikara (subsection 4.4). GPR and passive seismic analyses were performed also in the co-cathedral of St John patrimony of UNESCO, with the aim to test the displacement of some tombs under the floor and investigate the causes of a fracture, which is evident on one of the headstones (subsection 4.5). Measurements performed to test the performance of the improved GPR prototype are presented in subsection 4.6.

To the best of our knowledge, the GPR acquisitions carried out during this STSM constitute the first GPR investigation ever performed in Malta.



[1] R. Persico and G. Prisco, “A Reconfigurative Approach for SF-GPR Prospecting,” IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation, vol. 56, n.8, pp. 2673–2680, 2008.

[2] L. Matera and J. Sala, “Tests, comparison and improvement plans for an innovative reconfigurable stepped-frequency GPR,” book chapter in Short- Term Scientific Missions - Year 2, L. Pajewski and M. Marciniak, Eds.; Publishing House: Aracne; Rome, Italy, May 2015; ISBN 978-88-548-8488-5.

[3] R. Persico, M. Ciminale, and L. Matera, “A new reconfigurable stepped frequency GPR system, possibilities and issues; applications to two different Cultural Heritage Resources,” Near Surface Geophysics, vol. 12, pp. 793–801, 2014.

[4] P. Y. Bard, “Guidelines for the implementation of the H/V spectral ratio technique on ambient vibrations: measurements, processing, and interpretations,” SESAME European Research Project, WP12, deliverable D23.12, 2004, available at

[5] M. Nogoshi and T. Igarashi, “On the amplitude characteristics of microtremor (part 2),” Journal of Seismology of the Society of Japan, vol. 24, pp. 26–40, 1971.

[6] Y. Nakamura, “A method for dynamic characteristics estimation of subsurface using microtremor on the ground surface,” Quarterly Report of Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI), vol. 30(1), pp. 25–33, 1989.

[7] S. Bonnefoy-Claudet, F. Cotton, and P. Y. Bard, “The nature of noise wavefield and its applications for site effects studies: a literature review,” Earth-Sci. Rev., vol. 79(3), pp. 205–227, 2006.

[8] H. M. Pedley, M. R. House, and B. Waugh, “The geology of Malta and Gozo. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association,” vol. 87, pp. 325–341, 1976.

[9] M. Pedley, M. Hughes-Clarke, and P. Galea, P., “Limestone Isles in a Crystal Sea — The Geology of the Maltese Islands,” Publishers Enterprises Group Ltd, San Gwann, Malta, 2002.

[10] P. Galea, S. D’Amico, and D. Farrugia, “Dynamic characteristics of an active coastal spreading area using ambient noise measurements (Anchor Bay, Malta),” Geophysical Journal International, vol. 199, pp. 1166–1175, 2014.

[11] F. Panzera, S. D'Amico, A. Lotteri, P. Galea, and G. Lombardo, “Seismic site responce of unstable steep slope using noise measurements: the case study of Xemxija bay area, Malta,” Natural Hazard and Earth System Science, vol. 12, pp. 3421–3431, 2012.

[12] G. Gigli, W. Frodella, F. Mugnai, D. Tapete, F. Cigna, R. Fanti, and L. Lombardi, “Instability mechanisms affecting cultural heritage sites in the Maltese Archipelago,” Natural Hazards and Earth System Science, vol. 12, pp. 1883–1903, 2012.

[13] F. Panzera, S. D’Amico, P. Galea, G. Lombardo, M.R. Gallipoli, and S. Pace, “Geophysical measurements for site response investigation: preliminary results on the island of Malta,” Bollettino di Geofisica Teorica ed Applicata, vol. 54(2), pp. 111–128, 2013.

[14] A. Vella, P. Galea, and S. D'Amico, “Site frequency response characterisation of the Maltese islands based on ambient noise H/V ratios,” Engineering Geology, vol. 163, pp. 89–100, 2013.

[15] R. Persico, Introduction to Ground Penetrating Radar, Inverse Scattering and Data Processing, Wiley, 2014.

[16] K. J. Sandmeier, Reflexw 3.0 manual - Sandmeier Software, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2003.

[17] F. Soldovieri, G. Prisco, and R. Persico, “Application of Microwave Tomography in Hydrogeophysics: some examples,” Vadose Zone Journal, vol. 7(1), pp. 160–170, 2008.

[18] L. Mertens, R. Persico, L. Matera, and S. Lambot, “Smart automated detection of reflection hyperbolas in complex GPR images with no a-priori knowledge on the medium,” IEEE Transctions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, vol. 54(1), pp. 580–596, 2016.

[19] N. Masini, R. Persico, E. Rizzo, A. Calia, M.T. Giannotta, G. Quarta, and A. Pagliuca, “Integrated Techniques for Analysis and Monitoring of Historical Monuments: the case of S.Giovanni al Sepolcro in Brindisi (Southern Italy),” Near Surface Geophysics, vol. 8(5), pp. 423–432, 2010.

[20] R. Persico, S. D’Amico, E. Rizzo, L. Capozzoli, and A. Micallef, “Ground Penetrating Radar investigations in sites of cultural interest in Malta,” Ground Penetrating Radar, vol. 1(1), pp. 38–62, 2018.

[21] R. Persico, S. D’Amico, E. Rizzo, L. Capozzoli, and A. Micallef, “Electrical resistivity tomography investigations in Mgarr (Malta),” Ground Penetrating Radar, vol. 1(1), pp. 63–74, 2018.


Share & Cite this article

Unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium of this article is permitted, provided the original article is properly cited. Please cite this article as follows: R. Persico and S. D'Amico, Use of Ground Penetrating Radar and standard geophysical methods to explore the subsurface, Ground Penetrating Radar, Volume 1, No. 1, Article ID GPR-1-1-1, pp. 1-37, January 2018, doi: 10.26376/GPR2018001.

For information concerning COST Action TU1208 and TU1208 GPR Association, please take contact with the Chair of the Action and President of the Association, Prof. Lara Pajewski. From 4 April 2013 to 3 October 2017, this website was supported by COST, European Cooperation in Science and Technology - COST is supported by the EU RTD Framework Programme Horizon2020. TU1208 Members are deeply grateful to COST for funding and supporting COST Action TU1208. As of 4 October 2017, this website is supported by TU1208 GPR Association, a non-profit association stemming from COST Action TU1208.