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DARPA's Advanced RF Mapping (RadioMap) Program

DARPA's Advanced RF Mapping (RadioMap) Program - RF CafeA project is underway by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to provide a real-time map (RadioMap) of where over-the-air broadcasts are occurring. The idea is to create a Google Maps type graphical interface where a network of 'sensors' that includes special purpose and otherwise deployed devices will report to a central data collection point to provide situational awareness for where and when (and by whom in some cases) specific frequencies are being occupied. Proposals are being accepted for companies wanting to contribute to the program, so this might be a great opportunity for makers of software defined radios (SDR) to build functionality into systems for accommodating such detection and reporting. If you are a strategic planning outfit, this would be a good ground floor entry point for participation in what will almost certainly be part of the (like it or not) unstoppable rapid expansion of government surveillance.

The Advanced RF Mapping (RadioMap) Program (DARPA-BAA-12-26), states thus regarding objectives. The entire document and amendments can be read at the page linked above.

From the RadioMap website:

DARPA is soliciting innovative research proposals in the area of Radio Frequency (RF) situational awareness employing a heterogeneous sensor network, whose constituent devices include RF receiver/transmitters deployed for other purposes such as tactical radios, using an approach that facilitates extension of the network to incorporate additional device types and to support additional Electronic Warfare/Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (EW/ISR) applications. Proposed research should investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in science, devices, or systems. Specifically excluded is research that primarily results in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.

1.1 PROGRAM OVERVIEW

Three problems facing different user communities motivate research in this area:
  • Spectrum managers, and Dynamic Spectrum Access systems that perform automatic spectrum management functions, lack real-time awareness of spectrum usage variations across frequency, geography, and time. This reduces the efficiency of spectrum allocation and sharing, and thus reduces the total achieved mission benefit from the RF spectrum.
  • Small tactical units such as platoons or companies rarely have EW/ISR capability. A system that provides RF situational awareness and the ability to control the immediate RF environment as needed will offer significant benefits for mission effectiveness and force protection.
  • EW and ISR coverage is limited in some operational contexts by the high cost of current EW/ISR systems and platforms. An affordable system that provides broad coverage to cue and support the more focused high-capability EW/ISR systems would offer significant value.
The vision of the Advanced RF Mapping program (RadioMap) is that these problems can be solved if deployed RF devices support RF situational awareness and other EW/ISR functions in addition to and without harm to their primary mission. In particular, flexible and tunable devices such as software-defined tactical radios can offer high benefits through their ability to perform a range of scanning, monitoring, and transmission functions. Employing existing RF devices will reduce the cost and delay of deploying new networked EW/ISR functions while making EW/ISR functions more widely available on the battlefield.

The vision of the Advanced RF Mapping program (RadioMap) is that these problems can be solved if deployed RF devices support RF situational awareness and other EW/ISR functions in addition to and without harm to their primary mission. In particular, flexible and tunable devices such as software-defined tactical radios can offer high benefits through their ability to perform a range of scanning, monitoring, and transmission functions. Employing existing RF devices will reduce the cost and delay of deploying new networked EW/ISR functions while making EW/ISR functions more widely available on the battlefield.
 
The primary goal of the present funding opportunity is research on RF situational awareness oriented towards addressing the problems of the three user communities described above. However, it is desirable for the approach used to also facilitate deployment of additional EW/ISR functions in the future. Therefore, DARPA seeks solutions structured in a way that segregates the implementation of RF situational awareness techniques from an underlying system that leverages and coordinates the reception and transmission capability of available RF devices.
 
DARPA seeks innovative technical proposals in the following areas of interest:
 
Technical Area One: RF Situational Awareness
 
For convenience, the term “mapping” is used to refer to the desired RF situational awareness capability. The goal of mapping is to determine how the RF spectrum is being used. More specifically, mapping incorporates the following functions:
  • Observe transmissions
  • Determine the type and characteristics of active devices and networks
  • Estimate spectrum occupancy and usage throughout the area of interest
A key challenge is to maximize the completeness, accuracy and mission utility of the outputs given available mapping resources, and/or to minimize resources needed to achieve specified goals. Techniques are sought that combine user-specified collection priorities and other information with current mapping results to improve analysis and optimize further collection. Information of interest for use in this way includes models of emitters and networks, maps of the urban environment and terrain, propagation models and spectrum license databases.
 
To support spectrum managers, the map should be output in a format that supports automatic comparison to management databases, and that enables incorporation of the data into an existing spectrum management system or Geographic Information System (GIS). Analysis of usage changes over time should be supported. Techniques are of interest that deliver a stream of updates while the mapping system operates. Approaches are also sought that support Dynamic Spectrum Access communication systems.
 
For the other two user communities, different outputs and control mechanisms will be necessary. Research on those topics is anticipated to be supported in a subsequent phase.
 
Technical Area Two: WALDO system
 
The underlying software system that leverages and coordinates the reception and transmission capability of available RF devices, in support of applications like RF mapping, is referred to as a WALDO system (Wireless And Large-scale Distributed Operations). A WALDO system contains at least the following components:
  • A component executing on each participating RF device that performs reception, transmission and local processing tasks on behalf of the applications. This component operates in a way that does not require attention by the device’s user. The unit commander controlling the device should be able to limit the impact on the primary mission of the device and the resources used for WALDO tasks, and change the limits remotely during a mission.
  • A software component or system that sends tasks to RF devices and collects their results on behalf of applications. It automatically selects the devices and tasks used to carry out each job requested by an application in a way that maximizes the probability of job success while minimizing overall resource consumption.
Additional system characteristics of interest are the following:
  • Any RF device should be able to perform tasks for any application for which it has the necessary hardware capabilities, (1) without specializing the device software for the application, (2) without specializing the application implementation for the device, and (3) without specializing any part of the WALDO system for either the device or the application, except for porting the on-board software component onto the RF device.
  • The WALDO system should provide robust, secure and efficient operation, supporting multiple simultaneous applications, scalable to 1000 or more RF devices, including in situations where network quality of service is low and information about the RF devices and the environment is uncertain.
  • The WALDO system should minimize application response latency and its growth with increasing system size and utilization. Application response latency is the delay from reception of a signal on one device to the start of follow-on tasks potentially on different devices, when application logic not running on the receiving device requests the follow-on work based on information from the received signal.
Technical Area Three: Other Capabilities
 
Another goal of this program is for the WALDO system to facilitate deployment of other capabilities in addition to RF situational awareness. While the above text has described these as EW/ISR applications, the capabilities of interest are not restricted to EW and ISR.
 
Proposers are encouraged to consider the available RF receivers and transmitters as a resource to be exploited, and develop concepts for innovative capabilities of high military utility, either exploiting this resource standalone or in combination with other existing or emerging resources. Capabilities are sought that offer high utility justifying the cost per square kilometer covered, with the appropriate utility and cost metrics to be defined for the capability by the proposer. Cost metrics of potential interest include device acquisition cost if dedicated devices are deployed, resources consumed if shared devices are leveraged, operational cost if aerial assets are employed, and communications resources consumed if the capability is network-intensive.



Access the RadioMap website here.





Posted  November 5, 2013
 
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