Communication problems have plagued military personnel and first responders for years, particularly when groups working together can't find a common radio frequency. Software defined radio may reduce problems by making it easy to shift from one frequency to another.
The U.S. military is leading the push to SDR, which uses generic radio hardware that can send and receive over a broad frequency range, using software to pick the frequency needed at a given time. "You can have a whole bookshelf full of waveforms that can all run on a generic piece of hardware," says Nancy Pearson, director of radio systems engineering at Northrop Grumman (http://rbi.ims.ca/4402-531).
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being developed for use by all branches of the U.S. military, as well as some allies, will deploy a communications, navigation, and identification avionics interface controller that combines many radios into a single box. General Dynamics (http://rbi.ims.ca/4402-532) C4 Systems, based in Falls Church, VA, has shipped more than 200 SDR systems to the U.S. Navy.
SDR plays directly into the DoD's network-centric communications scheme, in which all allied forces can talk to each other. SDR makes it possible to effectively put many radios in a fighter plane or on a foot soldier's back.
Venture Development Corp. predicts that military spending on SDR will hit $1.7 billion by 2007. The Software Defined Radio (http://rbi.ims.ca/4402-533) Forum is working on cognitive radio, which it calls the next step in SDR. It automatically determines which frequencies are needed, further easing the ability to link different users.