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Monitoring the Airwaves – Briefing with Ultra Electronics, 3eTI

by Asif Anwar | 2月 26, 2013

Ultra Electronics, 3eTI is a solutions provider supporting the move to net-centricity with the aim of weaving cybersecurity into defense networks. 3eTI builds out wired and wireless networks which provide baseline security and has the flexibility to allow additional sensors to be incorporated. The company has deployed its virtual perimeter monitoring systems (VPMS), based on its VirtualFence solution, and received an approval to operate from the US Navy. By establishing a wireless cloud over a base, 3eTI is also providing solutions such as its EnergyGuard System that can be used to monitor energy usage, allowing even legacy, standalone industrial controls / energy sensors and systems to be layered into the network while maintaining independent operation.

The company is now turning its attention to monitoring the RF spectrum with a new real-time monitoring and intelligent analysis solution that identifies RF interference within broadband wireless spectrum environments and alerts users of in-band and out-of-band emissions that would interfere with customer’s communications within their area of operations. UltraVision Spectrum Manager is designed as an RF monitoring tool that can scan a broad swath of frequencies ranging from 100MHz to 6GHz using a Direction Finding (DF) system with the aim of providing a fixed installation/base with capabilities to monitor potential interference around the site perimeter. Like COMINT, Direction Finding (DF) is an ESM function and simply put, the purpose of DF is to determine from which direction a received signal was transmitted and, when necessary, take tactical offensive or defensive measures to counter the signal. Usually this involves the use of location vans or specialized handheld equipment. Both approaches can be expensive and require a dedicated expert able to operate the equipment and decipher the signals being received to identify sources of interference.

The 3eTI approach builds on the company’s VirtualFence approach and involves the use of fixed units comprising an antenna, coupled with a ruggedized broadband spectrum analyser that interfaces to a Geographic Information System (GIS) type display that alerts the user to interference and provides vector-based angles of arrival on-screen, allowing the source of RF interference to be accurately identified.

The early concept comprised a cylindrical antenna of around 7 to 8 inches in diameter, which was demonstrated to the US Navy in 2012. The final solution comprises a 30-inch dome shaped antenna that provides broader spectrum capability. The passive antenna system connects to a broadband spectrum analyser (the node) comprising a front-end with LNAs and digital receivers offering coverage over 20MHz channel widths. This unit is typically configured to monitor spectrum in the LMR (380MHz), Wi-Fi (2.4GHz) and public safety (4.4GHz, 4.9GHz) frequencies. An Ethernet connection provides the data back to the operator display and there is also an option to connect the nodes wirelessly back to the operator.

A typical UltraVision Spectrum Manager system comprises the DF antenna designed by 3eTI, coupled with three sensor nodes and the C5I interface, which shows a map of the area, node positions and provides the visual alerts when the nodes detect interference. A system cost is envisaged in the range of $150K, compared to the cost of a handheld device which could cost up to $45K plus the services of a dedicated operator. The final solution – in terms of number of systems needed - would be dependent upon the site in question and factors such as the area to be covered, buildings on-site and the specific frequencies that need to be monitored. Availability for the RF monitoring system will be from Q2 2013 onwards.

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