Grant: Direction Finding from Aerial Platforms with Amateur Radio Digital Arrays

Date: November 2023
Amount: $51,945

The California Polytechnic State Univeristy (Cal Poly) Electrical Engineering Department has a “Learn by Doing” mission to both educate students in the field of electrical engieneering and to teach them how to apply that knowledge toward solving practical problems. Cal Poly accomplishes this goal through various means both in and out of the classroom: one such method is the Senior Project that all students must carry out as part of their graduation requirement. The Project is meant to be a demonstration of the knowledge and skills students gained during their time at Cal Poly. One such project, through members of the Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club (CPARC), involves studying direction finding and evaluating target localization equipment. While drones and satellites are currently used for these purposes, they can be complicated to operate and have a high cost associated with them. Therefore, simpler, less expensive alternatives are sought.

This grant will provide funding to establish a long-term Senior Project program that will include research to determine aforementioned alternatives to aid in direction finding. Specifically, the Engineering students at Cal Poly are looking to use high-altitude tools such as kites or balloons that are equipped with an amateur radio, offering distributed digital array direction finding capabilities. One of the drawbacks to this approach, however, is calculating a precise location due to a sparse array of elements that hinder accurately identifying the aerial platforms’ relative locations to one another. The Cal Poly team plans to resolve this calibration issue by creating a 3D-distributed array that can function even when arrays are sparse.

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