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Center For Technology, Research and Commercialization

Colorado Springs, CO

Keynote Speaker Rear Admiral (ret) Liz Young Brings Clarity to a Complex Issue

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, March 8, 2018 – The PNT Technology Showcase, held Monday, February 26, 2018 at the Catalyst Campus by C-TRAC, the Center for Technology, Research and Commercialization, was the most successful Technology Showcase yet. More than 50 attendees filled the Harvey House for an afternoon of immersion in emerging PNT technologies, followed by more questions and networking at well-attended breakout sessions and a happy hour with free wine, beer and hors d’oeuvres.

A directive from Congress asks that PNT (Positioning, Navigation and Timing) alternatives to standard GPS be developed due to concerns that the US is over-reliant on vulnerable GPS technology. Technology Showcases such as this are opportunities for inventors and innovators across all sectors – federal labs, university labs, and industry – to present promising technologies to audiences consisting of a wide array of interested parties, from military acquisition officers to venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and anyone who enjoys learning about the latest emerging technologies.  

Kicking-off the Showcase, keynote speaker Rear Admiral (ret) Liz Young wowed the audience with a funny and engaging overview of the current state of PNT, including her highly-informed opinions on the severity of the various threats to our current GPS system. Her address included many interesting historical anecdotes.

RDML (ret) Young made the point that “When you look back in time, to Vietnam, Korea, WWI and 2, the stories of heroism often start with ‘We were lost.’ And that was part of the reason why they had to be heroic. And if you think about it, the ground forces always have to answer three questions: ‘Where am I?’ ‘Where are my forces and the other friendly forces?’ ‘Where is the bad guy?’ and ‘What’s the best path to her to take her out?’ If you think back in the day, before GPS, how did we do that?...So the advancement of GPS allowed individual soldiers, small units, to know exactly where they are. That’s a huge advancement.” She then went on to elucidate the many contexts in which PNT – which is just another way of describing GPS and similar systems – benefits the warfighter.

The PNT Technology Showcase was held specifically for the benefit of an AFRL – Air Force Research Lab – charged with working this issue. Thus, the first presentation was by Electronics Engineer Mark Smearcheck of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Sensors Directorate. The AFRL Sensors Directorate’s mission is to lead the discovery and development of future capabilities, providing integrated Intelligence, Reconnaissance, combat identification and spectrum warfare effects. 

After reviewing the many contexts in which PNT is vital to the warfighter, Mr. Smearcheck discussed why and how the current GPS system is at risk, then covered some of the alternative PNT technologies currently in use worldwide. Mr. Smearcheck went on to explain in detail how the Air Force’s PNT capabilities are supported by open architecture to which contractors may request access for the purposes of working the PNT issue, including plug-and-play implementation options. 

Mr. Smearcheck rounded out his presentation with a summary of the transitional state of the technology, the planned path forward, and a quick overview of both current and future PNT technologies in support of the warfighter. As questions arose, the audience was eager to take advantage of this unique opportunity to make inquiries about the AFRL’s needs and capabilities in this area. 

The next presentation was by John Wallace, the Commercial Operations Manager of Rincon Research Corporation. Rincon designs and fields high-performance PNT capabilities while applying their knowledge of high-precision time transfer, GNSS and RF-based geolocation to meet evolving mission requirements. Mr. Wallace presented Rincon’s Raptor Zynq UtraScale + MPSoC SDR Development Kit, which combines the latest generation FPGA SOC technology with a MIMO-capable RF transceiver. Mr. Wallace was also peppered with questions from audience members, who indicated significant interest in the information shared.

GPS Source’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Kurt Williams, then took the floor to discuss their Sentry Scout Resilient Positioning Navigation and Timing (R-PNT) solution. GPS Source services the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) community as a leader in value-added solutions for the GPS, APNT and RF System design and manufacturing. Mr. Williams explained that the Sentry Scout provides mission essential data and integrates emerging and existing technologies – such as INS, CSAC, ES/EP, and AJAS – to create a commercially available solution for the US Army that can also be applied to non-military applications. A variety of questions were lobbed at Mr. Williams, who handled them all with aplomb despite a case of laryngitis.

The final presenter was Ryan Blay, a graduating senior from CU Boulder’s Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research (CCAR). CCAR is dedicated to the study of astrodynamics and the application of satellites to science, navigation, and remote sensing of the Earth and planets. The invention presented is a hybrid algorithm that combines Time-Difference-of-Arrival (TDOA) and Power-Difference-of-Arrival (PDOA) localization techniques in order to determine the position of a [GPS-blocking] jammer/spoofer in a wider variety of situations. The algorithm will eventually be expanded to include other localization techniques, such as Frequency-Difference-of-Arrival (FDOA) and Angle-of-Arrival (AOA).

After this final presentation, each speaker held a breakout session for any attendees looking for more information on their technologies. Beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres were served as audience members and speakers mingled and networked. 

More Technology Showcases are planned; to receive notification of future C-TRAC technology events, go to https://www.technologymarketplace.org and register with your email address.

The Center for Technology, Research and Commercialization (www.c-trac.org ) is a Colorado 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, founded for charitable, scientific, and educational purposes. C-TRAC’s wide-ranging efforts include assisting with the commercialization of government-owned intellectual property, as well as creating opportunities for collaboration between industry, academia and federal researchers that contribute to Southern Colorado’s growth as a hub for the aerospace, defense and cybersecurity industries. 

Catalyst Campus is a collaborative ecosystem where industry, small business, workforce training, entrepreneurs, start-ups and venture capital create community, spark innovation and stimulate business growth. The mission of Catalyst Campus is to be a leading-edge incubator, accelerator and research and development facility offering small to medium-sized businesses a scalable infrastructure platform that promotes technology advancement and guides technology transfer from the government to the commercial market and vice versa.