Today’s interconnected wireless world has led to congested airwaves, making Radio Frequency (RF) management a hot topic. For warfighters overseas, efficiently managing the congested RF spectrum is critical to ensure effective communications and intelligence gathering.
DARPA’s Advanced RF Mapping (RadioMap) program seeks to provide real-time awareness of radio spectrum use across frequency, geography and time. The goal is to provide a map that gives an accurate picture of spectrum use in complex environments. With this information, spectrum managers and automatic spectrum allocation systems can operate much more efficiently, reducing the problems caused by spectrum congestion and enabling better mitigation of interference problems. The program plans to provide this information in part by using radios deployed for other purposes, like data and voice communications systems. The program aims to develop ways to use the capabilities of modern radios to sense the spectrum when they are not communicating.
The map can be likened to traffic cams in busy cities that show the flow of traffic at different times of the day, giving real-time awareness of whether a section of road is jammed with traffic or clear, helping drivers plan their commute. Such systems aren’t designed to show specific licenses plates or vehicle types, but rather are designed to help see and avoid congestion, resulting in smoother traffic flow. RadioMap isn’t designed to deal with specifics of transmissions, rather its purpose is to identify frequency usage—where and when the radio frequency “highway” is jammed or clear—allowing better planning and allocation of the spectrum to warfighters overseas operating in RF congested environments.
Another goal of the RadioMap program is to assist small tactical units such as platoons or companies that rarely carry equipment for monitoring radio emissions. With RadioMap, the radios already carried by these units would do double duty to inform the troops about nearby threats and opportunities that are visible in the RF spectrum.
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