Mesh Enhanced Tactical Airborne Link (METAL)

Award Information
Agency: Department of Defense
Branch: Air Force
Contract: FA8750-13-C-0137
Agency Tracking Number: F121-041-1692
Amount: $799,993.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2013
Solicitation Year: 2012
Solicitation Topic Code: AF121-041
Solicitation Number: 2012.1
Small Business Information
15400 Calhoun Drive Suite 400, Rockville, MD, 20855-2737
DUNS: 000000000
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: Y
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Justin Yackoski
 Program Manager
 (301) 294-4251
Business Contact
 Mark James
Title: Director, Contracts&Pro
Phone: (301) 294-5221
Research Institution
ABSTRACT: The effectiveness of current and future tactical aircraft increasingly depends on their ability to exchange information. Existing waveforms such Common Data Link (CDL) must be enhanced with mesh networking capabilities to meet desired efficiency, flexibility, and reliability requirements. In Phase I, we designed a backward-compatible Mesh Enhanced Tactical Airborne Link (METAL), and thoroughly analyzed the intrinsic tradeoffs arising from the partially upgraded network configuration. We also implemented and evaluated a prototype using IAIs RFnest wireless network emulation hardware and AGI toolkit. Beyond showing the potentially significant improvement in throughput and reliability provided by METAL, these early evaluations in a highly realistic network environment allowed us to identify and design several important enhancements to the topology management, resource allocation and routing functionalities. In Phase II, utilizing the key fundamental design guidelines established during Phase I, along with the additional knowledge regarding the legacy waveforms, we will implement several distributed mechanisms including topology formation, scheduling and routing optimization routines. We will also create a set of detailed, representative evaluation scenarios addressing various edge cases resulting from the heterogeneous network composition and verify the improved network performance benchmarks in two incremental development and evaluation spirals. BENEFIT: With many DOD aircraft aging and their service life extending, combined with downward budgetary pressure, there is a need to cost-effectively enhance existing tactical aircraft instead of developing entirely new tactical platforms. The proposed METAL system can be added as a software-only upgrade to various aircraft current using military communications waveforms (MADL, CDL etc.) such as the F-35. The METAL system will create a significant improvement over legacy systems by removing mission constraints and communication limitations artificially imposed by current waveform design. METAL will retain direct communication capability with legacy nodes. This approach improves network connectivity and performance, instead of causing increased isolation or requiring gateways. In the commercial sector, many point-to-point and spoke-and-hub waveforms are used for cellular communications, wireless data, and other consumer services. Due to increasing consumer data demands, there is a similar drive in the commercial world to improve the efficiency of these networks without requiring new hardware at either the consumer or carrier end. One possible application of METAL is to ease the deployment of microcells and femtocells, small-scale cell towers (e.g. a few hundred meters) that extend coverage and improve spectrum efficiency.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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