There is no way (yet) to wirelessly network multiple aircraft traveling at Mach speeds over vast areas, but University of Kansas researchers are developing technologies to address this challenging situation.
In recognition of KU’s efforts to improve the science of telemetering — measuring at a distance — the International Foundation for Telemetering has donated $60,000 to KU and named it a partner university.
A nonprofit organization, IFT promotes the professional and technical interests of the telemetering community by sponsoring conferences, educational activities and technical publications.
“This partnership will help KU strengthen opportunities for some of the best young minds out there,” said Stuart R.Bell, dean of KU’s School of Engineering. “I’m pleased that IFT sees the value and promise of the work being conducted here.”
KU’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science will use the initial donation to award three IFT Fellowships to graduate students, purchase equipment for labs and senior design projects and support students traveling to conferences to present their research. As one of only six partner universities of IFT, KU can present additional gift requests and proposals at the annual meeting of the IFT Board of Directors, which KU will host next year.
“We are extremely honored to form this partnership with the IFT,” said Erik Perrins, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, who detailed KU’s telemetry-related programs at the IFT board meeting last month. “We have been involved with the IFT and the larger telemetry community for the past five years and we look forward to having a synergistic relationship with them for many years to come. We are excited to host the IFT board next spring and let the board members see our engineering programs up close.”
During the IFT board meeting last month at New Mexico State University, Perrins highlighted a trio of telemetry-related projects at KU’s Information and Telecommunication Technology Center. The first is a NASA deep-space communication system that Perrins is helping build that must transmit large amounts of data but is subject to severe size, weight and power constraints. The second project, led by EECS Associate Professor James P.G. Sterbenz with Perrins as a co-investigator, is a wireless networking system that is specially designed for highly dynamic aircraft. This system will give test ranges new capabilities to conduct multiple tests simultaneously, instead of staggered over time.
In the third project, Perrins and Andy Gill, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, are developing hardware prototypes of a system that will locate and correct errors that naturally occur in a noisy transmission. This system uses a technology known as forward error correction, and in this project can correct errors even in weak signals that approach the theoretical limit, known as the Shannon capacity. Forward error correction technology has numerous other applications, including digital storage media and wireless cellular systems. The hardware prototypes are being implemented using efficient hardware description languages that Gill developed at KU, which greatly reduce the amount of engineering effort needed to produce the final design.
For more than four decades, IFT has sponsored the International Telemetry Conference, with a large portion of its proceeds going to partner universities. Electrical engineering and computer sciences students at KU have won best paper awards the past three years at the conference. In 2009, Gino Rea won first place in the graduate student paper contest. The previous year, doctoral student Justin Rohrer was the first student to win the overall best conference paper award. Prashanth Chandran won second place in the graduate student paper contest in 2007.