Researchers Developing Flexible Radio Based on Reconfigurable Computing
Department wireless communications and computer engineering researchers have joined forces on a three-year project to design and develop a low-power, high-data-rate, programmable radio based on reconfigurable computing.
The Changeable Advanced Radio for Inter-Operable Telecommunications (CHARIOT) will automatically adapt wireless devices to different military and commercial standards. The $1.8 million project is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as part of its Global Mobile (GloMo) program to develop rapidly deployable and robust information systems for military applications.
"The key to the CHARIOT is its flexibility," said Professor Jeff Reed, project coordinator. "As a software radio, it will program itself to become the appropriate radio so that transmissions can proceed smoothly.
"The U.S. military is wrestling with the problem of communicating with a variety of incompatible radios," he said. "The Army, Navy, and Air Force each have their own types of radios, and military forces overseas have radios that differ and are incompatible with U.S. military radios." The U.S. public is facing a similar problem with incompatible cellular phone systems, he noted, because of deregulation of telecommunications.
The CHARIOT system is based on a processor with a field-programmable-gate-array (FPGA) device, called the Colt, that can be fully or partially reprogrammed on-the-fly. With a configurable computer, not only is the software changed, but also the best hardware for the software is created dynamically on the reconfigurable computing platform.
"Emerging configurable computing devices, including the Virginia Tech Colt/Stallion devices, provide higher computational density and throughput than conventional DSP microprocessors and FPGAs, and offer power consumption advantages," said Professor Peter Athanas, a principal investigator on the project, and the lead researcher developing the computing platform.
Also included in the development effort are a demonstration of hand-held diversity and the use of a "Smart Antenna" that can identify and filter out interference. In addition, a new paradigm in network simulation will be created that exploits radios and software simulation to emulate the performance of a large-scale network.
Other universities involved in various aspects of DARPA's GloMo effort include: Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, MIT, Rutgers University, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, Santa Cruz, University of Southern California, University of Kansas, and the University of Wisconsin.
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