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Researchers Tackle Communicating With Test Flights ­sing Weaker Frequencies

military aircraft, illustration


University of Kansas (KU) researchers have received a $2.5-million contract from the National Spectrum Consortium to develop a new generation of communication technologies for airborne vehicles on U.S. test ranges. The research will help remake test-flight communications following a U.S. Federal Communications Commission auction of frequencies once used by the government.

The KU researchers want to utilize higher frequencies that do not penetrate buildings as well as lower segments of the electromagnetic spectrum. "Different frequencies penetrate differently, and those lower frequencies are a nice sweet spot for cellular," says KU professor Eric Perrins. The researchers will optimize communications at about 5 gigahertz, which is about three or four times farther up the frequency dial than previous communications at U.S. test ranges.

However, the most challenging aspects of the research come from the small bandwidth available at this new level and its vulnerability to signal deterioration. To overcome this hurdle, the researchers want to combine higher efficiency modulation with technology known as forward error control codes. "Error control coding is a way to protect the bits in the signal, so when errors occur they can be detected and corrected automatically," Perrins says.

From University of Kansas
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