NASA Funds UAV Detection and Tracking Research
University to develop technology designed to keep the airspace safe.
Researchers at North Carolina State University (NC State) are launching a project to find new ways to detect and track unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace. The project seeks to research and develop high-performance communications, networking and air traffic management (ATM) systems, including navigation and surveillance for both manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The work is supported by a three-year, $1.33 million grant from NASA’s University Leadership Initiative.
The initiative has several components. First, the researchers expect to use radar techniques to identify and classify UAVs, which is a challenge given that most civilian UAVs are much smaller than the aircraft that conventional radar technologies are designed to track. Second, the team plans to develop techniques for identifying wireless video or remote control signals used by UAVs and then using those signals to locate and track the vehicles. Third, the researchers intend to develop techniques and technologies that can be used to identify and track UAVs or other devices that are jamming communication signals. For example, they plan to develop software that can trace jamming signals, even if the signals are “non-line-of-sight,” meaning the signals are being bounced around rather than traveling in a straight line.
The NC State group is also working with the University of South Carolina and Boise State University to improve the research community’s understanding of how millimeter wave signals behave in and around airports. Millimeter wave, or “5G” signals, are radio waves with frequencies between 30 and 300 gigahertz (GHz). The signals are expected to play an important role in communications technology, avionics and UAV applications. However, little is known about how these signals are affected by the physical environment in and around airports.
NC State is taking the lead on characterizing millimeter wave signals at 30 GHz, while Boise State investigates signals at 60 GHz and USC investigates signals at 90 GHz.