Development of a Single-Channel Direction Finding Algorithm

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Development of a Single-Channel Direction Finding Algorithm

Nathan M. Harter
Thesis submitted to the faculty of of the Virginia
Polytechnic Institute and State University in partial
fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Science
Electrical Engineering.

Thesis Committee
R. Michael Buehrer, Chair
Jeffrey Reed
William Tranter

April 13, 2007
Blacksburg, VA
Keywords: Wireless Communications, Direction
Finding, Signal Processing, Beamforming

Copyright 2007, Nathan M. Harter
Nathan M. Harter
A radio direction finding (DF) system uses a multiple-element antenna array coupled with one or more receivers to estimate the direction-of-arrival (DOA) of a targeted emitter using characteristics of the signal received at each of the antennas in the array. In general, DF systems can be classified both by the number of receivers employed as well as which characteristics of the received signal are used to produce the DOA estimate, such as the signal's amplitude, phase, or time of arrival.
This work centers on the development and implementation of a novel single-channel direction finding system based on the differential phase of the target signal received by a uniform circular antenna array with a commutative switch. The algorithm is called the PLL DF Method and differs from older single-channel DF techniques in that it is a digital algorithm intended for implementation on a software-defined radio (SDR) platform with a custom-designed antenna array and RF switching network. It uses a bank of parallel software PLLs to estimate the phase of the signal received at each element of the multi-antenna array. Theses estimated phase values are then fed to a specialized signal processing block that estimates the DOA of the received signal.
This thesis presents the details of the initial version of the PLL algorithm which was used to produce a proof-of-concept system with an eight-element circular array. It then discusses various technical challenges uncovered in the initial implementation and presents numerous enhancements to the algorithm to overcome these challenges, such as a modification to the PLL model to offer increased estimator robustness in the presence of a frequency offset between the transmitter and receiver, revisions of the software implementation to reduce the algorithm's processing requirements, and the adaptation of the DF algorithm for use with a 16-element circular array. The performance of the algorithm with these modifications under various conditions are simulated to investigate their impact on the DOA estimation process and the results of their implementation on an SDR are considered.
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