Narrow Band Impulse Radio – NBIR – Will Transform Underground Wireless
Arlington, VA January 18, 2018 — Today at DARPA’s Subterranean Challenge Proposers Day, Dr. Hans G. Schantz, CTO of Q-Track Corporation, unveiled a revolutionary breakthrough in wireless technology that enables unprecedented performance in underground communications, location, and detection: Narrow Band Impulse Radio, or NBIR, for short. Q-Track’s approach merges traditional narrow band radio with impulse radio – a combination previously thought to be impossible. Q-Track’s novel impulse radio scheme employs the narrow band, low-frequency, highly penetrating signals needed for underground applications and makes possible a host of novel subterranean autonomy, perception, networking, and mobility applications.
A fundamental trade-off limits conventional radio technology. Short duration impulse or ultrawideband (UWB) radios yield high peak-to-average power ratio signals with significant technical advantages in a wide range of applications, from electronic warfare, to communications, to positioning and location. However, UWB inherently occupies large swaths of spectrum and requires complicated and expensive radio frequency (RF) hardware to implement. In addition, UWB antennas are inefficient if electrically-small, so UWB systems are not practical at the low-frequencies suitable for such applications as underwater or through-earth communications or location systems. Narrow band radios are spectrum-efficient and relatively easy to implement. Narrow band electrically-small antennas have adequate efficiency to yield practical low-frequency radio systems. However, narrow band systems are believed to be incapable of delivering the high peak-to-average power characteristic of UWB radios.
Q-Track researchers have discovered how to merge narrow-band low-frequency, long-wavelength wireless with ultra-wideband impulse wireless technology. Their concept, Narrow Band Impulse Radio (NBIR) delivers impulse-like waveforms from narrowband harmonic signals. Harmonically combining related narrowband carriers, creates a quasi-baseband impulse signal. “N” signals combine to yield N-squared the energy over 1/N-th the time for an N-cubed increase in power, raising signal power much farther above the noise floor than ever before dreamed possible.
NBIR combines the best characteristics of narrow band wireless with impulse radio to revolutionize how wireless is done at Very Low Frequencies (VLF) and Extremely Low Frequencies (ELF) – the underutilized radio bands that work best for underground applications.
By hosting the Subterranean Challenge, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, aims to solicit “new approaches to rapidly map, navigate, and search underground environments.” Schantz sees underground wireless applications as ideal places for early adoption of the NBIR technique. “The narrow band harmonic approach of NBIR systems is ideal for the lowest frequencies that work best underground, because reasonable low-frequency antennas need to have narrow bandwidths.”
Q-Track’s approach sidesteps the many problems that have dogged ultrawideband radio. Instead of distributing energy continuously across many frequencies NBIR concentrates energy in harmonically-related signals that more easily co-exist with other users of the spectrum. “The applications extend far beyond subterranean wireless,” according to Schantz, one of the inventors of the technique. NBIR lets you implement impulse radio systems anywhere the spectrum can accommodate a handful of harmonically related signals around other users of the spectrum.
“By adding harmonically-related narrowband carriers to create an impulse-like signal, NBIR brings a form of ultrawideband to the VLF and ELF bands,” says consulting engineer Steve Crowley. “It also carries the potential for deployment in other bands where appropriate narrowband frequencies are available, perhaps making use of otherwise fallow spectrum. I look forward to following the progress of NBIR.”
Additional Comments from the Technical Community:
“I congratulate Dr. Hans Schantz, CTO of Q-Track Corporation, and his team on the invention and implementation of Q-Track’s novel Narrow Band Impulse Radio technology. The NBIR method is elegantly simple, but incredible powerful. It combines in the time and spectral domains ideas similar to those of phased array antennas, both real and synthetic.”
Randall Jean, Ph.D., P.E.
CTO of Texzon Technologies
Texzon is employing novel wireless power transfer technology to Power the Planet and Bring Light to the World.™
“I love when smart folks figure out how to make a better mousetrap. Q-Track has merged some of the benefits of ultrawideband RF with the ease of use and simplicity of narrow band radios. Working in these low frequencies opens up a wide swath of new markets and new solutions.”
Keith R. Parsons, Managing Director
Wireless LAN Professionals, Inc.
“It’s the first time I see a truly power-proportional approach to build an impulse radio, in terms of quality-complexity tradeoffs. Just tune the value of N.”
Professor Alex Yakovlev, FREng, FIEEE
Head of MicroSystems Research Group
“Dr. Hans Schantz of Q-Track Corporation has brilliantly merged techniques from his UWB impulse radio experience with his narrow band and low frequency NFER® technology. The combination, NBIR, is a unique system that combines the best of the UWB and NFER worlds. In my opinion, it revolutionizes subterranean communications.”
Kazimierz “Kai” Siwiak, P.E., Ph.D.
CEO of TimeDomain, Inc.
Q-Track Corporation (www.Q-Track.com) offers solutions that provide “Knowing Where, Anywhere” for a growing range of industrial real-time location applications. The company’s patented Near-Field Electromagnetic Ranging (NFER®) systems employ a unique low-frequency, long-wavelength radio signal to achieve highly accurate (40 cm rms) indoor location results even in complicated non-line-of-sight environments. NFER® Real Time Location Systems enable “Dosimulation™,” a radiation worker training system deployed in a third of U.S. nuclear plants. Q-Track also offers proximity detection and collision avoidance systems that protect people from cranes, robotic material handling equipment, and forklifts at a variety of manufacturing plants nationwide, as well as location systems that enhance military training by precisely locating soldiers in training ranges extending through multiple buildings and across tens of thousands of square meters (hundreds of thousands of square feet).
Q-Track is a privately-held company located in Huntsville, AL. The company’s research and development was supported by private investors and funding from the Department of Homeland Security, the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Institutes for Health.
“NBIR™” is a trademark of Q-Track Corporation
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