Mobile Phased Array Antenna for Robotic Autonomous Systems (RAS) Using Optical Broadband Communications
Navy SBIR 2019.2 - Topic N192-082
NAVAIR - Ms. Donna Attick -
Opens: May 31, 2019 - Closes: July 1, 2019 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Mobile Phased Array Antenna for Robotic Autonomous Systems (RAS) Using Optical Broadband Communications


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Air Platform, Battlespace, Electronics ACQUISITION PROGRAM: JSF Joint Strike Fighter

OBJECTIVE: Leverage innovative software and broadband optical links among a RAS mission group to form a mobile phased array antenna.


DESCRIPTION: Robotic Autonomous Systems (RAS) are gaining increased roles and acceptance in the battle space. In particular, human/machine cooperation shows promise to create game-changing capabilities in areas such as Navy Integrated Fires-Counter Air (NIF-CA) and Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW). However, in order to capture the full RAS potential, advances in real-time expert system convergence are required. When sensors are mounted on separated moving platforms, data fusion is required to create an accurate 3D map of the relative positions of all mission group elements. Further, computations must capture full situational awareness and then process multiple data streams to develop actionable information and guidance. All of this must be done in real time before the situation changes and renders the information obsolete; results are needed in milliseconds. Multiple antennas are used to create a larger multi-static antenna such as those used for deep space exploration. On the ground these are stationary and arranged in a fixed pattern. Options for airborne multi-static antennas are limited by space available on aircraft. An innovative system will form a dynamic airborne antenna capable of moving independent of the controlling platform.

Standing on the shoulders of high precision relative and absolute positional awareness, a mobile phased array antenna may be formed by perhaps 2 lightweight (less than 20 lbs.) DoD Group 1 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) mobile RAS mission group members, which in turn enables agile covert pinpoint radio frequency (RF) beam formation directed to arbitrary near or far locations to restore RF communications otherwise denied by jamming and dramatically expand the range of achievable mission profiles. Multiple RAS would be transportable and launched from a pod mounted on an aircraft weapons station.


Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by DoD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor and/or subcontractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DSS and NAVAIR in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advanced phases of this contract.


PHASE I: Investigate state-of-the-art capabilities in optical broadband communications, data fusion software, and mobile platform electro-optical acquisition and tracking to identify an expert system architecture that is near-term realizable and capable of forming an RAS mission group into a mobile phased array antenna. Design a concept for a software development roadmap encompassing expert system formation, autonomous determination of all mission group relative and absolute positions, and formation of a mobile phased array antenna. Determine minimal and optimal number of UASs necessary to form a useful phased array. Assess how an RAS mission group phased array antenna can provide operators with the ability to designate RF links among arbitrary points within the battle space. Demonstrate feasibility of the proposed solution. Develop a plan for Phase II prototype build and demonstration that will validate RAS mission group technology readiness to fieldable levels.


PHASE II: Fabricate, test, and demonstrate a phased array antenna residing on a surrogate RAS mission group in a representative environment. Develop an expert system prototype capable of autonomous phased array antenna formation in an environment representative of field conditions such as temperatures of 20 degrees F to 150 degrees F, winds < 40 knots and altitude of 5 – 5,000 feet. Assess potential battle space capabilities and lay out a roadmap for field deployment.


It is probable that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase II (see Description section for details).


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Work with Government personnel using Free Space Optics (FSO) to coordinate use of swarming UAVs to establish a constructed multi-static phased array antenna using multiple antennas to communicate with an isolated ground point in an RF-denied environment. Develop prototype phase array antenna mission groups for field trials. Support testing. Advance awareness and understanding of mission profiles that are enabled by advanced capabilities.


Explore military and commercial spin-off opportunities such as management of commercial RF spectrum to allow multiple users on a given frequency given that their signals are mutually non-interfering; a significant example is time domain multiplexing of multiple communicating transceivers from a single satellite phase array antenna to better balance upload and download speeds for satellite-based data services or a small-sat-based phase array to improve data transfer rates for future Mars missions. Successful technology development would benefit emergency responders, such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and cell phone service providers who are trying to recover service in areas post disaster situations.



1.   Riesing, K., and Cahoy, K. “Development of a Pointing, Acquisition, and Tracking System for a Nanosatellite Laser Communications Module." September 2015 SSL #19-15. RiesingKathleen.pdf


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3.  "Flight Test of ALIAS Sense and Avoid (SAA) Technology Demonstration for Manned and Unmanned Aircraft." UtopiaCompression.


4.   Mickael, Q. "Optical flow estimation using inset vision-based parallel processing.” M.S. Thesis, University of Wollongong, 2001.


5.  Tulino, A. et. al. "Chapter 6: Joint Detection for Multi-antenna Channels." Advances in Multiuser Detection, Wiley, 2009.


6.  Tresch, R., Afano, G. and Guillaud, M. "Interference Alignment in Clustered Ad Hoc Networks: High Reliability Regime and Per-Cluster Aloha." IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing (ICASSP), 2011, pp. 23348-3351.


KEYWORDS: UAS, FSO; Optical Communications; RF-Denied, Secure Communications Link; High Bandwidth; Secure Airborne Network



Marc Blaydoe





Michael Hackert





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