Alumnus Michael Daly honored for pioneering high-frequency radio signal research

7/8/2016

Katherine Connor, SCC Pacific, and Julia Sullivan, ECE

Joint warfighters can now detect the direction and distance from which a high-frequency (HF) radio signal is coming thanks to the work of an ECE ILLINOIS alumnus.

Michael Daly (BSEE '07, MSEE '08, PhD '12) was honored with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN RD&A) 2015 Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists & Engineers of the Year Award in the Emergent Investigator category last month at the Pentagon for his breakthrough developments in HF signal propagation, including the significant addition of direction-finding capability.

Michael Daly (BSEE '07, MSEE '08, PhD '12) receives the Top Scientists and Engineers of the Year Award at the Pentagon. He is pictured with Sean Stackley, ASN RD&A, and Dr. Dolores Etter.
Michael Daly (BSEE '07, MSEE '08, PhD '12) receives the Top Scientists and Engineers of the Year Award at the Pentagon. He is pictured with Sean Stackley, ASN RD&A, and Dr. Dolores Etter.
“Figuring out where these signals came from—both for friendly and enemy signals—is extremely important,” Daly said. “Normally you have a group of antennas that, together, will figure out where a signal came from. You want the size of the receive sensor array to be as large as several wavelengths of the frequency you’re trying to find. But with HF, each wavelength could be up to 150 meters long, which is out of the question for most platforms except ships.

“What I helped to design is called a vector sensor. Instead of making those spread out antennas, you co-locate a bunch of them—in our case six antennas—in the same space.”

This vector sensor allows warfighters to determine what direction an HF signal came from, helping paint a more accurate situational awareness picture. It is also half the size of other prototype HF vector sensors, making it much more useful to deployed troops in the field.

In addition to this HF work, Daly also received the award for his contributions to the development of the beamspace multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) antenna, which doubles the data throughput rate between radios.

“It can be used as a very robust communications link because you get a squared scaling of your received power. For example, if you have 10 radios and they’re 10-watt radios, you can make it operate as though you have a kilowatt radio,” Daly said.

“I’m very honored to receive this, but it’s obviously not just one person doing any of this work,” Daly said. “It’s a team effort from start to finish.”

Daly has been conducting antenna research at SPARWAR Systems Center Pacific after joining through the Department of Defense’s Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship program.