DARPA’s RadioMap detects RF spectrum congestion

DARPA’s RadioMap detects RF spectrum congestion

Today’s interconnected wireless world has created ever-more congested airwaves, making radio frequency (RF) management critical for the military’s communications and intelligence gathering.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s RadioMap program, therefore, aims to give the military a real-time map of radio spectrum use across frequency, geography and time. Now in its third and final phase of development by Lockheed Martin, the technology visually overlays spectrum information on a map to maximize the use of available frequencies, DARPA said.

RadioMap provides this information in part by using radios deployed for other purposes, like data and voice communications systems, by using the capabilities of modern radios to sense the spectrum when they are not communicating. The program identifies frequency usage -- where and when the radio frequency “highway” is jammed or clear -- allowing better planning and allocation of the spectrum in RF-congested environments.

“RadioMap adds value to existing radios, jammers and other RF electronic equipment used by our military forces in the field,” said John Chapin, DARPA program manager. “This program doesn’t require purchasing new spectrum-sensing devices. Rather, it uses existing radios and jammers that do double-duty. In the ‘down’ time when they aren’t performing their primary function, the devices sense the spectrum around them and, through RadioMap technology, provide an accurate picture of what frequencies are currently in use and where.”

RadioMap can also help small units by identifying nearby RF spectrum emitters that could indicate tactical threats or opportunities. 

Phase 3 will run through the summer of 2016 and could transition to the Marine Corps after operational tests in early 2017.

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