UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering University of California San Diego
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Wireless Battlefield Communications

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army

James Zeidler is leading a multi-university effort to enable troops to set up mobile battlefield communications networks with lightweight wireless equipment. The Multidisciplinary Research Initiative (MURI) project was recently awarded $3 million over three years from the U.S. Department of Defense, which can extend funding to $5.25 million over five years.

Results could also be used in civilian emergency response, said Zeidler, a research scientist and senior lecturer in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Ad-hoc networks form when communications peers find each other without centralized network control systems. Deployment is vastly more complicated in tactical settings where peers must stay in touch while moving around, maintaining stealth and avoiding enemy countermeasures, and when networks must survive when communications partners are damaged or destroyed.

One target of innovation for the project is the network protocol suite, a reference to the many programs used to manage communications. These typically are grouped into discrete steps or layers, an arrangement that robs a network of an ability to adapt to changing conditions. The team will also explore the use of new antenna technology, coding and error-correction systems, including multiple-input/multiple-output MIMO) devices that use multiple antennas.

UC's Irvine, Riverside, and Santa Cruz campuses are involved in the project, as well as Brigham Young University. Additional research at McMaster University in Ontario will be funded by the Canadian government. Joining in the project are Jacobs School ECE professors Rene Cruz, Larry Milstein, John Proakis, and Bhaskar Rao. Michele Zorzi of the University of Padua in Italy will participate as a visiting professor at UCSD.