Nasa’s effort to track drones in the National Airspace continues with a new $1.33 million grant to researchers at North Carolina State University. The NC State project aims to develop high-performance communications, networking, and air traffic management systems.
The project has several elements. The researchers plan to use good ol’ fashioned radar to detect and categorize consumer-grade drones. This is no easy task given the comparably small size of off-the-shelf UAVs to manned aircraft, so some computational signal parsing will probably be necessary. On the simpler side of things, the team plans to track common video and remote control signals that drones generate to follow them. Lastly, the team is taking on the task of tracking jamming signals that don’t travel in straight lines. Overcoming the masking created by this intentional obfuscating signal will be a challenge that researchers are up for.
Part of the effort will be to educate other institutions about communications bands like 5G which rests in the millimeter wave zone of the spectrum.