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Michigan Tech Research Institute Receives Radar Defense Contract

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MTU radar
(credit: istock) Technology Report
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By Jennifer Donovan

The Michigan Tech Research Institute in Ann Arbor has signed a six-month, $1 million contract with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to conduct research in adaptive radar countermeasures. 

The contract could be extended to five years and be worth $9 million if all options are exercised.

MTRI will be developing a new approach to the challenging problem of separating and analyzing radar signals by the function they are intended to perform. Radar — originally an acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging — is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the range, direction and speed of objects.

MTRI’s expertise in radar, signal processing and the radio frequency spectrum makes it ideally suited for this kind of effort.

“This work helps position Michigan Tech and MTRI in the quickly evolving world of radio frequency spectrum usage,” said Nikola Subotic, co-director of MTRI and a principal investigator on the new project. “In the old days, radars had their allocated spectra (the radio frequencies they use), communications had theirs, and so on. The cell phone industry has had to deal with the problem of multiple users within their allocated spectra. However, all cell phones’ function is the same: cooperative data passing and communications.”

MTRI is looking at a much more complicated challenge: the simultaneous coexistence of a variety of uses of the same spectrum.

“In the future, all of these spectra will be mixed together, so it will not be clear which function is intended or if in fact there are multiple functions, such as sensing, communications, navigation and control,” Subotic said. “That’s why technologies must be developed that can isolate and understand the intent of signals that mutually coexist.”

MTRI is no stranger to defense and homeland security research. The institute is involved in a number of national security projects whose goal is research, development and practical application of sensors and information technology to help solve critical national security issues.  MTRI is a recognized leader in the use of portable radar and ground penetrating radar systems.

Although based 500 miles from Michigan Tech’s western Upper Peninsula campus in Houghton, MTRI is an integral part of the university. Its scientists and technicians are Tech faculty members and staff, and MTRI offers undergraduate and graduate research internships each summer. In addition to national security work, the institute applies information technology solutions to problems in infrastructure and the natural environment. It also gives Michigan Tech a presence in southeastern Michigan.

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