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Air Force awards $23.9 million contract for continued development of technology to expose threats to and defects in communications system

Warfighters in the field will soon have access to a better way to confidently assess the vulnerabilities of GPS receivers, thanks to an Ohio-based company working with support from the Air Force SBIR/STTR Program. (Courtesy photo)

Warfighters in the field will soon have access to a better way to confidently assess the vulnerabilities of GPS receivers, thanks to an Ohio-based company working with support from the Air Force SBIR/STTR Program. (Courtesy photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – A small business located in Ohio received a $23.9 million Air Force contract for development of an automated platform that analyzes wireless communication systems.

PreTalen LTD, an Ohio-based business, is in the midst of updating its Position Navigation and Time (PNT) Autonomous Negotiator Applying Cognitive Effects-Based Analysis system, known as PANACEA. PreTalen originally developed the PANACEA system with support from the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Program.

Before PANACEA, testing of military GPS receivers required establishing a connection between the receiver and a GPS signal simulator, invoking logging software to record position outputs from the receiver, and using another software application to compare the logged results against the true positions generated by the simulator. Since each receiver had to be tested separately, the process was painstaking, labor intensive and prone to error.

The PANACEA system provides a research asset and algorithms to quickly, quantitatively and confidently assess the vulnerabilities of PNT systems.  PNT systems combine three distinct capabilities: the ability to accurately and precisely determine one's location and orientation; the ability to determine current and desired position and to apply a course, orientation or speed to reach a position; and the ability to maintain accurate and precise time from a standard anywhere in the world.

By applying automation algorithms and cognitive analysis, PANACEA uncovers a PNT system's strengths and weaknesses. By using commercial off the shelf (COTS) simulators and coding the interfaces of the PNT systems, PANACEA is a deployable asset used by military and commercial entities for evaluating their PNT systems. PANACEA includes a database for input, output and analysis data so users can easily query results from vast tables of test data to quickly compile sound conclusions.

As a result of the SBIR-funded work, the U.S. Army adopted the PANACEA as its principal test asset supporting the Army’s PNT System of Systems Architecture (SoSA) testing of GPS receivers in 2015. PreTalen was awarded a $6.6 million contract for the procurement and delivery of 14 PANACEA systems for use in the PNT SOSA test program. At that time, PreTalen increased production to meet the demand for the system.

As an element of the new, Air Force contract, PreTalen will modify the PANACEA system to include a signals-based testing framework.

“We are excited to continue our work with the Air Force Research Laboratory in developing innovative cyber radio frequency solutions for the warfighter," said Bruce Hart, PreTalen's chief technology officer. "Navigation and wireless systems are becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber-based attacks. Working with the team at AFRL to develop solutions to these emerging threats will help ensure our military remains at the forefront of this battlespace.”

"This award leverages the extremely successful PANACEA Small Business Innovative Research SBIR program, demonstrating the value in the SBIR program and creating greater than an order of magnitude in tax revenue than the original SBIR invested," Hart added. "More importantly though, is the value to our warfighters and critical infrastructure that this technology is protecting and advancing."  

PreTalen is scheduled to complete the project by March 30, 2023.