The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded BAE Systems a contract valued at $9.2 million for the Radio Frequency Machine Learning System (RFMLS) program. Under the contract, BAE Systems will develop data-driven machine learning algorithms to help decipher the ever-growing number of RF signals, providing commercial or military users with greater situational understanding of an operating environment.

Modern data-driven machine learning research has enabled significant advances in image and speech recognition and autonomous vehicles. As adversaries have built capabilities to disrupt the RF spectrum, exploring how machine learning can be applied to RF signal processing to counter the threat is an important step. With the explosive growth of RF devices and the IoT, the number of connected devices such as phones, sensors and drones makes it even more important to identify signals intended to hack, spoof or disrupt RF spectrum usage.

“The inability to uniquely identify signals in an environment creates operational risk due to the lack of situational awareness, inability to target threats and vulnerability of communications to malicious attack. Our goal for the RFMLS program is to create algorithms that will enable a whole new level of understanding of the RF spectrum, so users can identify and react to any signals that could be putting them in harm’s way.” — John Hogan, product line director of the sensor processing and exploitation product line at BAE Systems

Under the phase 1 contract, BAE Systems will create machine learning algorithms using cognitive approaches and feature learning techniques to differentiate signals. Researchers aim to create algorithms that can learn to differentiate important versus unimportant signals in real-time scenarios, through a deep learning approach.

Work for the RFMLS program is being done by the research and development team at BAE Systems’ facilities in Burlington, Massachusetts and Durham, North Carolina.

The technology being developed for the RFMLS program is part of the machine learning and artificial intelligence research focus area within BAE Systems' autonomy technology portfolio. It adds to previous work, including the DARPA Communications Under Extreme RF Spectrum Conditions (CommEX) and Adaptive Radar Countermeasures (ARC) programs.

BAE Systems has also advanced to the second round of another major DARPA effort to bring machine learning and artificial intelligence to the RF domain: the Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2).