Basal units – visibly distinct englacial structures near the ice-bed interface – warrant investigation for a number of reasons. Many are of unknown composition and origin, characteristics that could provide substantial insight into subglacial processes and ice-sheet history. Their significance, moreover, is not limited to near-bed depths; these units appear to dramatically influence the flow of surrounding ice. In order to enable improved characterization of these features, we develop and apply an algorithm that allows for the automatic detection of basal units. We use a tunable layer-optimized SAR processor to distinguish these structures from the bed, isochronous englacial layers and the ice-sheet surface, presenting a conceptual framework for the use of radio-echo character in the identification of ice-sheet features. We also outline a method by which our processor could be used to place observational constraints on basal units’ configuration, composition and provenance.