The U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) has signed a Co-operative Research & Development Agreement (CRADA) with Locata Corporation to build and demonstrate new Locata technology for use in GPS receivers. This cooperation is expected to leverage many years of proprietary Locata ground-based positioning technology development to bring completely new capabilities to satellite-based GPS receivers.
The CRADA is specifically directed to evaluate Locata’s VRAY switching antenna and new correlator technologies for multipath mitigation in position receivers that run at GPS frequencies.
Locata engineers are transferring to AFIT the knowledge and experience they have gained with existing commercial VRAY systems. This will allow AFIT researchers and engineers to 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.
AFIT will first design and build a GPS-frequency multi-element switching antenna prototype that is based on Locata’s VRAY patents. When built, AFIT intends to use their GPS receiver and this prototype VRAY to physically demonstrate the feasibility of using Locata technology to improve GPS receiver performance.
After these initial prototypes are built, AFIT plans to design and test several other GPS-based versions of Locata’s flexible switching antenna array to assess how Locata’s VRAY antennas can be adapted to use cases that are of specific interest to the military. Designs already discussed with Locata include stand-alone antennas, a version built into helmets, and arrays conformal to a vehicle’s frame (e.g. flattened for a Humvee’s roof, curved for aircraft fuselages, etc).
As a first step in this collaboration, AFIT personnel visited Locata’s head office for a week of detailed, wide-ranging engineering briefings on the design fundamentals underpinning this new type of antenna. Locata hosted AFIT’s Director, Dr. John Raquet, and engineers Dr. Peter Collins and Mr. Jason Barhorst (see picture) in multiple engineering meetings where Locata’s current production VRAY Orb-80 antenna was revealed for the first time, and then closely analysed. AFIT and Locata engineers then workshopped the modifications and design choices required to integrate the Locata designs into a GPS form-factor.
Dr. John Raquet, Director, Advanced Navigation Technology Center, AFIT, stated: “If this CRADA is successful, the technology could enable significantly improved technical performance and a reduction in the cost of multiple-element GPS antennas. AFIT is excited to investigate this technology for the benefits it will potentially bring to American warfighters.”
Nunzio Gambale, CEO and Co-Founder, Locata Corporation, said: “We are incredibly proud to be involved with the US Air Force Institute of Technology in another CRADA, developing the absolute cutting-edge of positioning technology. Our previous LocataNet partnership with Dr. Raquet and his world-class AFIT researchers quickly taught us why this team is renowned throughout the industry. AFIT brings exceptional skills to this important integration of Locata technology, directed to the creation of a new class of antennas for GPS. I’m certain our collaboration, along with access to the USAF’s unrivaled prototyping and test facilities, will deliver ground-breaking improvements for future GPS devices.”
After the introductory technical meetings AFIT immediately started working on the milestones laid out in the CRADA project plan. When the project is completed, AFIT will produce a CRADA Final Report which will:
- include results and the measured performance of AFIT’s Locata-enhanced GPS receiver; and
- describe design considerations gleaned from AFIT’s experience with the new Locata VRAY antennas and correlators, as applied to GPS.
A short video that explains VRAY’s fundamental advance in antennas can be seen here.