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AI & RF Sensing: Next-Gen Direction Finding Solutions

Anastasia Hamel

10/03/23

In an increasingly sophisticated wireless landscape, the need for situational awareness calls for new techniques to detect and locate signals of interest—solutions that combine high performance with low SwaP (size, weight, and power). Let's examine one example of such a solution.

Our partner, DeepSig, is pioneering the use of advanced machine learning techniques to combine AI & RF sensing for next-gen direction finding (DF) technology. The result? Their groundbreaking approach to direction finding (DF) delivers new capability, even in ultra-compact systems. 

ML-Powered DF Systems: the Power of Collaboration

Every hero needs a Sidekick. When DeepSig began a project to create a brand-new ML-enabled DF platform, now known as OmniSIG DF®, they chose Sidekiq™ X4 as their foundation. Why? Our reputation for mission-tested hardware, unmatched RF capabilities, and reliable customer support played a role. Epiq's low SwaP SDRs provided the perfect foundations for applications in places traditional DF couldn't accommodate—think handheld or as a payload of a miniature drone.

During a demo, a DeepSig RF engineer exercised a DF system with merely two antennas—a capability conventionally achieved with 6 or more antennas. This is where the true magic of ML and state-of-the-art hardware converges.

Images from the US Special Operations Command Test and Evaluation event. The larger image shows a DeepSig RF engineer wearing RF vision goggles, while the smaller image in the top right corner shows his field of vision with the goggles on.

However, innovation seldom comes without hurdles. Precise emitter locating, accurate signal identification, and real-time debugging only scratch the surface of the challenges DeepSig and Epiq faced. Interested to dive deeper into the results of this collaboration? Read our full case study.

The Technological Backbone

x4-render-upright-trans-2-EditSidekiq™ X4 offers a 4x4 MIMO interface, providing up to 900 MHz of total instantaneous bandwidth. The platform covers from 1 MHz to 6 GHz, covering a broad spectrum of frequencies, and is one of the attributes that makes Sidekiq™ X4 an empowering product for DeepSig.

The four receivers and transmitters in the Sidekiq™ X4 can be configured in a number of ways: as phase coherent, two-phase coherent pairs, or dual independently tunable receivers with 200MHz bandwidth per channel. The bandwidth of each channel can be configured up to 450 MHz for a total IBW of 900 MHz, and the Sidekiq™ can be ordered with MMCX, SSMC, or SMP RF connectors—lending itself to seamless integration with other hardware. Its size makes it ideal as a small UAS payload.

Beyond the Hardware

But it wasn't solely about the hardware specifications. Along with all the advanced capabilities necessary to fulfill the DeepSigs project, Epiq's software APIs enable seamless integration of DeepSig applications across various Epiq radios. To simplify your development process, we offer an X4 Platform Development Kit that gives you access to an easy software API and the FPGA reference design’s source code. The Sidekiq™ X4 is designed to give you all the tools you need for swift and smooth development.

The consistent support, commitment to quality, and performance that Epiq provided became invaluable assets to the project. Through this synergy, DeepSig crafted a solution, which, as they describe, harnesses "generative AI to enable the most efficient and accurate RF signal detection." With the Sidekiq™ X4 at its core, the OmniSIG DF® is geared to offer optimized signal detection and classification, making it indispensable in high-stakes environments like naval operations.

Accelerating RF Solutions for an Evolving World

Customers with evolving demands for spectrum awareness are always seeking smaller form factors in which to collect signals at the tactical edge. Now, with the release of Epiq’s 2-channel, phase-coherent Sidekiq™ NV100, DeepSig can offer these customers a small form factor, AI-powered signal collection/DF system. Our foresight in creating SDRs that can be adapted to M2 slots in computers, followed by a 2-channel phase-coherent SDR in this small form factor, paved the way for this exciting development.

Already, DeepSig has been able to pair the Sidekiq™ NV100 with Nvidia’s Jetson small form factor Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) enabled processing module. While initial testing is ongoing, the results have been very promising. The combination of Epiq’s Sidekiq™ NV100 and the Jetson platform that hosts DeepSig’s new OmniSIG DF® will produce a true small form factor, edge-processing capable, 180-degree DF platform that fits in your hand.

In other words, our partnership not only helped DeepSig create a solid solution for today’s DF challenges—it opened the doorway to a whole new world of possibilities. 

Explore how our SDR solutions can empower your technologies, heightening the success of your missions and opening new doors for your customers.

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