Electromagnetic source locator

Efficient, comprehensive, and dependable system to clearly locate, identify, and mark an RF signal source


A radio frequency (RF) signal from a mobile phone can be located with various technologies and methods. Popular television shows would make it seem like this is easy but in the real world, it is much more difficult.

Steps are being taken to improve location technologies needed by law enforcement, search and rescue, and regulatory agencies in locating and identifying sources of RF radiation. This is especially true in cases where a person may not be capable of using a phone to call for help and searchers must rely on location technology.

Navy scientists and engineers have designed a system for locating electromagnetic radiation sources such as RF signal sources. The radiation sensor assembly includes a position detector, an orientation detector, and a range detector. A coupled computer includes a spatial processor, actuator control, an image processor, and communications module. A gimbaled directional or beam antenna on a ball turret provides increased performance in transmitting and receiving as well as in reducing interference.

In field use, the system may include two radiation sensor assemblies mounted on two vehicles that then operate to triangulate an RF source. Provision is made for placing several of the components in handheld units. As a valuable extension of this technology, the communication module can signal to an aircraft to drop a marker on or near the signal source giving a ground team a visual sign as to the location.

Applications for this technology include locating individuals in need of medical care. With today’s technology, most people carry cellular phones on or near their person at all times. By combining a signal detector, a directional antenna, a laser range finder, and a UAV, first responders can detect and locate injured persons quickly. The system overcomes interference by wilderness or overgrown urban environments which can hamper the location efforts for an immobilized person who may be trapped in a car wreck, unconscious, or otherwise unable to guide emergency services to themselves. The system may also be used by the telecommunication industry for locating RF signal sources interfering with cellular phone towers.

This US patent 9,874,625 is divisional of US patent 8,264,409.

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