Kassas and Student Team Win Four Best Paper Presentation Awards

Posted: October 27, 2022

Zak Kassas, a Buckeye Engineering professor, and his students earned four best paper presentation awards at the Institute of Navigation Global Navigation Satellite Systems Conference (ION GNSS+), held in Denver, Colorado. The research collectively pursues novel navigation approaches for ground vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and high-altitude aircraft, by exploiting signals from low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite signals (e.g., SpaceX’s Starlink) and cellular towers.

The first paper, titled “Joint detection and tracking of unknown beacons for navigation with 5G signals and beyond,” was co-authored by Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Zak Kassas and his Ph.D. student Mohammad Neinavaie. The research established the theoretical foundations of a novel framework capable of jointly detecting and tracking unknown beacons of terrestrial signals. Experimental results demonstrated the efficacy of the established theory, showing a UAV and a ground vehicle successfully detecting unknown signals in the environment (from cellular 4G and 5G towers), tracking the signals, and navigating the vehicles with these signals.

The second paper, titled “Blind receiver for LEO beacon estimation with application to UAV carrier phase differential navigation,” was co-authored by Kassas and his Ph.D. student Sharbel Kozhaya. It proposed an innovative receiver design that can blindly estimate unknown signals transmitted by low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. Experimental results showed successful blind acquisition and tracking of Orbcomm LEO satellites, which enable a UAV to navigate with these signals.

The third paper, titled “Protecting the skies: GNSS-less aircraft navigation with terrestrial cellular signals of opportunity,” was co-authored by Kassas, a past student, and collaborators from the U.S. Air Force. It showcased revolutionary results from a joint experiment conducted by Kassas’ Autonomous Systems Perception, Intelligence, and Navigation (ASPIN) Laboratory and the U.S. Air Force. The results demonstrated the tremendous promise of cellular signals as a reliable back to GPS for high-altitude aircraft navigation. ASPIN’s state-of-the-art cognitive software-defined receivers (SDRs) showed that hundreds of cellular signals can be acquired and tracked at high altitudes (more than 23,000 ft above ground level) and from cellular towers more than 100 km away. The paper also showed meter-level accurate aircraft navigation with only cellular signals over trajectories exceeding 50 km.

The fourth paper, titled “Observability analysis of opportunistic receiver localization with LEO satellite pseudorange measurements,” was co-authored by Kassas and his past student. It analyzed the observability of receiver localization with signals from a single LEO satellite. Experimental results showed a receiver localizing itself with signals from a single Starlink LEO satellite and a single Orbcomm LEO satellite. The results demonstrated the theoretical predictions of the paper’s observability analysis.

“It is fulfilling to see our results get recognized by the scientific community,” said Kassas. “ION GNSS+ is the largest annual positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) conference, and the sessions in which these papers won the awards comprised papers from highly-respected research groups. Aside from these awards, it was particularly rewarding to witness several papers and industrial products at the conference building on ASPIN’s findings from the past few years. I’m very grateful to the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Department of Transportation (DOT), Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), National Science Foundation (NSF), and Sandia National Laboratories for supporting our research.”

Category: Alumni