AFIT, Locata Partner on GPS Technology Development

September 16, 2013 0 Comments
Locata's new VRay Orb 80 switching antenna.

Locata’s new VRay Orb 80 switching antenna.

The Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and Locata Corporation have signed a Co-operative Research & Development Agreement (CRADA) to build and demonstrate new Locata multipath mitigation technology for use in GPS receivers. This cooperation is expected to leverage many years of proprietary Locata ground-based technology development to bring completely new capabilities to satellite-based GPS receivers, AFIT said.

The Air Force Institute of Technology, or AFIT, is the Air Force’s graduate school of engineering and management as well as its institution for technical professional continuing education.

The CRADA is specifically directed to evaluate Locata’s patented correlator and switching antenna technologies for use in positioning receivers running at GPS frequencies. Locata’s engineers will transfer knowledge and experience they have gained with existing Locata commercial systems to help AFIT design and build an initial multi-element GPS-based switching antenna prototype which is based on Locata’s patents. This will ensure AFIT researchers and engineers can familiarize themselves with the new antenna’s characteristics, and provide AFIT with an essential platform to develop GPS-specific versions of Locata’s correlator and switching algorithms. When built, AFIT intends to use its GPS receiver and the prototype switching antenna to physically demonstrate the feasibility of using Locata technology to improve GPS receiver performance.

An animation was created specifically to explain RF problems created by multipath and Locata’s VRay solution. The animation shows the first proof-of-concept 2D, 64-element antenna Locata’s engineers prototyped in 2011.

After initial prototypes are built, AFIT plans to design and test several other GPS-based versions of Locata’s switching antenna array to assess how Locata’s commercial antennas can be adapted to use cases which are of particular interest to the military. Designs already discussed with Locata include stand-alone antennas, arrays conformal to a vehicle’s frame (such as a Humvee’s roof or aircraft fuselage), and a version built into helmets.

As a first step in implementing this CRADA collaboration, AFIT personnel visited Locata’s head office the week of April 29 for a detailed, wide-ranging introduction to the design fundamentals for this new type of antenna. Locata hosted AFIT’s John Raquet, Peter Collins and Jason Barhorst (see picture) in multiple engineering meetings where Locata’s current production version antenna was revealed for the first time, and then closely analyzed. AFIT and Locata engineers then workshopped the modification and design choices required to integrate Locata design into a GPS form-factor.

“If this CRADA is successful, Locata’s technology could enable a significantly improved technical performance and reduction in the cost of multiple-element GPS antennas,” said John Raquet, director, Advanced Navigation Technology Center, AFIT. “This will enable much wider adoption of the technology, resulting in more reliable GPS positioning for more users. We are excited to investigate this technology advance for the benefits it will potentially bring to American warfighters.”

“We are incredibly proud to once again be involved in a CRADA with the Air Force Institute of Technology, developing on the cutting-edge of navigation technology,” said Nunzio Gambale, CEO and co-founder, Locata Corporation. “Our previous LocataNet partnership with Dr. Raquet and his world-class AFIT researchers quickly taught us why this team is renown throughout the industry. The AFIT engineers bring an exceptional skill base to this important integration of Locata technology into GPS receivers. I’m certain that our collaboration, along with access to the USAF’s unmatched prototyping and testing capabilities, will deliver ground-breaking functionality for future GPS devices.”

AFIT expects at least one master’s degree to be awarded for the research tasks involved in the CRADA. Work against the approved CRADA project plan will commence immediately, and involve several other participants providing admin and lab support to AFIT and Locata. The final report produced by this CRADA will include results and measured performance of the Locata-enhanced GPS receiver and other design considerations gleaned from AFIT’s experience with the new Locata antenna and correlators.

 AFIT-Locata Kick-off Meeting. This is the first picture ever released by Locata which shows their radically new switching antenna, a design that AFIT will now modify for use with GPS receivers. Pictured (L-R): Dr. Steve Hewitson & Ian Sainsbery (Locata engineers); Jason Barhorst (AFIT); David Small (Locata technology inventor), Nunzio Gambale (Locata CEO), Dr. John Raquet (Director, Advanced Navigation Technology Center, AFIT), Dr. Peter Collins (AFIT), Dr. Trevor Hobbs (Locata Director of R&D).

AFIT-Locata Kick-off Meeting: This is the first picture ever released by Locata which shows their radically new switching antenna, a design that AFIT will now modify for use with GPS receivers. Pictured (L-R): Dr. Steve Hewitson & Ian Sainsbery (Locata engineers); Jason Barhorst (AFIT); David Small (Locata technology inventor), Nunzio Gambale (Locata CEO), Dr. John Raquet (Director, Advanced Navigation Technology Center, AFIT), Dr. Peter Collins (AFIT), Dr. Trevor Hobbs (Locata Director of R&D).

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