Random antenna arrays enhance first-responder communication: NIST

Communications breakdowns are one of the constant hazards for first responders. Radio communications are often blocked by rubble or by the steel-reinforced concrete in still standing buildings.

NIST researchers have found that installing up to four additional transmitters in a random pattern as first responders enter a site can greatly improve communications.

Project leader Chris Holloway envisions portable transmitter devices shaped like hockey pucks, incorporating a small antenna that could be thrown on the ground or stuck on a wall. “The idea is that someone, or even a robot, would have a bag of these things and would drop them off as they go through a building,” Holloway said.

According to the NIST study, the signals produced by the radio and portable transmitters need to operate at the same frequency and roughly in phase, such that the radio waves are fairly well synchronized and thus build on each other.

The study is pending publication in IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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