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More Bandwidth for Software Developers Means Better Apps for SIGINT/ISR/Comms « Breaking Defense

Software defined radio stations (SDR) will help transform the speed of military awareness of the situation, allowing for faster decisions and actions. SDRs do this by digitally converging the means by which the military communicates — data, voice, and video through various spectral assets — into a single communication device, ideally making the modes accessible to both command and combat in combat. However, designing devices and applications that make this feature possible in an easy and cost-effective way is a challenge that Motorola Solutions (MSI) has recently taken on.

Applications that the military craves for software-defined radio stations (SDRs) include more efficient SIGINT, ISR (intelligence, surveillance, intelligence) and communication techniques. But the introduction of advanced capabilities in these areas, as well as others such as radar and satellite communications, require software developers to have access to frequencies above 6 GHz and up to 30 GHz without the need for external hardware.

Without such an opportunity, the ability of software developers to write new SDR applications is limited. And while software can be written for the processor quite easily, the ability to modify the programmable firmware of an array of gates (FPGA) so that it can be adapted to develop complex applications is often limited to third-party developers.

These shortcomings have now been eliminated with the development of the NS-1 transceiver Motorola Solutions. The properties of the NS-1 transceiver are based on a new chipset with radio frequency integrated circuit (RFIC), developed by Applied Technology, which is an engineering group at Motorola Solutions. The internally designed, custom Microwave RFIC has a frequency range from 2 MHz (or lower) to 30 GHz and a programmable instantaneous bandwidth of up to 1 GHz. These specifications provide a tool for developing applications in a software environment only, even when processing 1 GHz spectrum.

Soldier inventory radio equipment used to assist system signal specialists during training. Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Crawford. The appearance of visual information about DoD in the United States does not imply or constitute DoD approval.

The new, fully integrated SDK for military use is expected to inevitably follow the NS-1. Innovations based on the NS-1 platform will lead to: improved broadband interception; low probability of interception / low probability of detection (LPI / LPD) communications; advanced, portable, machine-based signal training tools for SIGINT field applications and battlefield electromagnetic control; and new gateway applications that can connect standard waveforms to newly available, high-frequency connections.

The state of the SDR today

The term “transceiver” is simply a combination of transmitter and receiver and in the modern context usually refers to a chip or chipset. In terms of SDR, this is one of the three main components: a general-purpose processor for running software, an FPGA or similar device for processing time-sensitive tasks and hardware acceleration, and a transceiver for converting RF to digital data.

This is common for software developers who research concepts in SDR technology – including academics, engineers in government laboratories, federation-funded research and development centers () and university-related research centers (UARCs), as well as other third-party radio software developers – we are talking about two key parameters for RF chipsets. They are: 1) center frequency tuning range; and 2) the current bandwidth.

The tuning range is analogous to turning the knob on an old AM / FM radio, indicating the minimum and maximum frequencies that the transceiver can operate. The instantaneous bandwidth determines how wide the space around this center frequency can be seen by the receiver or transmitter at a particular point in time. For example, if you have a receiver that is set to 900 MHz with an instantaneous bandwidth of 100 MHz, you can measure a response from 850 MHz to 950 MHz.

Today, SDRs are mainly based on only a few chipsets. Increasingly, however, we are seeing more SDRs with a single-channel frequency range up to 6 GHz with a bandwidth, usually around 50 MHz. Several newer devices are based on newer chipsets capable of a bandwidth of up to 200 MHz for reception and 450 MHz for transmission. These chipsets also have a lower frequency limit of 70 MHz, which excludes the critical HF spectrum, especially for DoD applications.

A recent market research report by the Department of Homeland Security for radio frequency detection and spectrum analysis identified the development of SDR platforms that can receive 1 GHz bandwidth with a frequency range of 2 MHz to 18 GHz, which is a step forward in the ability of commercially available SDRs.

With the NS-1, Motorola Solutions provides up to 1 GHz instantaneous bandwidth at center frequencies from 2 MHz to 30 GHz. The company also has technological roadmaps that at least double both parameters with chipset revisions.

Development of applications in a software-only environment

“NS-1 addresses the Joint Forces’ need for better communications by providing a platform to explore new communication methods and concepts that benefit from the increased tuning range and bandwidth of the RFIC microwave,” explained Dr. Robert Crosswell. a respected member of Motorola Solutions Technical Staff and a senior scientist on the early detection team. “Imagine direct-spectrum extended-spectrum (DSSS) waveforms that propagate to hundreds of megahertz or high-frequency jump waves that can jump hundreds of thousands of times per second within one GHz of the selected spectrum, up to 30 GHz,” he said. he relying on a modulation technique to reduce signal interference.

“Put multiple transceivers together and you could have waveforms that break up the information into multiple gigahertz on a continuous spectrum, by jumping or transmitting simultaneously, while providing access to additional frequencies that were not previously available for SDR platforms. . “

Dr. Robert Croswell, a respected member of the technical staff at Motorola Solutions and Chief Scientist of the Applied Technology Team.

The NS-1 is designed to address the FPGA programming problem, which is exacerbated by the increased amount of data generated by a 1 GHz transceiver – in particular the need for hardware acceleration to move data so that the processor does not jam transfer. data.

The transceiver provides a means to develop applications in a software environment only, even when processing 1 GHz spectrum. The NS-1 has a single transceiver card combined with commercial FPGA hardware. It interacts with standard computer hardware such as a desktop or laptop computer via the Thunderbolt 3 interface, which writes sample blocks directly to the computer’s memory, so there is no transfer limit due to CPU usage. The user can then develop software for the computer, whether it is a general-purpose processor or a graphics processor, and the computer’s hardware can be scaled according to the needs of developing applications in software only.

The ability of the NS-1 to monitor more bandwidth translates into more capabilities for a given transceiver. Software developers can break and decode multiple standard single-receiver communication channels. They can stop at full GHz bandwidth and not miss an interrupt signal if they accidentally scan a different block of the spectrum at the time that signal was present.

“With the NS-1, I can jump frequencies within its instantaneous bandwidth without having to readjust the center frequency,” Crosswell said. “In our system, the jump time within this 1 GHz band is on the order of several exemplary time periods, usually tens of nanoseconds. The wider bandwidth allows both the receiver and the transmitter to jump quickly, and with this bandwidth I can extend techniques such as DSSS to spread information in wider bandwidths than in previous radio stations.

“Broadband is transformed into additional coding gain, allowing better LPI / LPD waveform properties by smoothing waveform-related peaks on additional spectrum or allowing reduced transmitter power to complete the connection.”

The taking

The NS-1 is targeted at the R&D community and is designed to give software engineers access to the new broadband broadband transceiver chipset in a development environment they are familiar with. With one radio channel available in the NS-1, samples of as much as 1 GHz can be sampled at once. The receiver can be stopped continuously on the full frequency band so that no interrupt signal is lost. The transceiver can also output or receive information anywhere in the 1 GHz band without having to readjust the center frequency, so that continuous-band narrowband operations can be accelerated, as in the case of broadband protocols.

Quite simply, the wider bandwidth allows a transceiver to watch a larger spectrum at a time. It allows for a wider bandwidth to receive or transmit, allowing the user to eject more data (consider the “Shannon limit” noise-coding theorem) or to use additional coding gain to reduce observability. Extending the center frequency range to the K-band allows SDR applications for those that are traditionally implemented in specialized hardware.

A wide base of developers must give new innovations that are suitable for the battlefield. While the NS-1 platform is unlikely to become standard military equipment, applications designed for it can be ported to embedded versions of SDRs based on Microwave RFIC.

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