Mountainous areas in synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images suffer severe geometric distortions caused by different look directions. Consequently, ground control point (GCP) extraction hardly obtains accurate results for aircraft positioning. Based on the digital elevation model (DEM) and polarimetric SAR (PolSAR) data, we propose a method for extracting GCPs in mountainous areas by introducing the polarization orientation angle shift (POAS) to minimize geometric distortions. In this method, DEM data are used as the reference map by providing POASs at arbitrary look directions to make up for the look-direction sensitivity of POASs transformed from PolSAR data.
The geometric distortions between POASs transformed from DEM and PolSAR data are effectively reduced by calculating the POASs from DEM data at the same look direction and look angles of the PolSAR data. In contrast to the SAR data, which have a large dynamic range, the values of POAS are limited to a small interval. Therefore, the illumination distortions induced by visualization can be reduced. Finally, the GCP extraction between the POAS images is conducted by bilateral filter scale-invariant feature transform. Experiments using various data at different look directions demonstrate that the proposed method obtains better-quality GCPs but less invalid keypoints than the method using only intensity images for mountainous areas.