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Real-time Locating System Uses Ultra-Wideband Radio Frequency Signals for Tracking
August 11, 2011

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Scientists at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) have developed a real-time locating system (RTLS) that uses ultra-wideband (UWB) radio frequency signals for tracking. UWB is a low-power, carrier-free, ultra-wide bandwidth signal transmission that has 100 to 1,000 times finer time resolution than conventional narrowband radio frequencies. UWB also has a lower power spectral density, allowing it to coexist with other wireless communications systems, such as Wi-Fi and cellular. The system has a tracking resolution of less than 1 percent of a range up to 2,000 feet. The tracking methodology is a calculation consisting of Angle of Arrival (AoA) and Time Difference of Arrival (TDOA). Originally designed for use in tracking lunar and Mars rovers, robots, and astronauts during exploration missions where satellite navigation systems are not available, the technology has a number of terrestrial applications including long-range tracking of emergency personnel in remote or hostile environments. JSC has applied for patent protection for this technology.


  • High resolution: Offers high temporal resolution (on the order of picoseconds) due to waveform shape and short duration of UWB pulses
  • High performance: Enables operation in proximity to other radio communication systems with little or no perceptible mutual interference due to low power spectral density of UWB pulses
  • Accurate: Permits precise measurements of propagation time while transmitting data due to high fidelity of timing circuitry
  • Economical: Offers lower costs than other tracking systems, as UWB is nearly all digital


  • Aerospace robots and astronauts in situations where global positioning satellites are not available
  • Emergency personnel (firefighters, police, and emergency medical personnel) in buildings, forests, and other types of remote locations where signals are difficult to receive
  • Merchandise location optimization
  • High-value inventory movement and location tracking
  • Military personnel and equipment tracking on a battlefield, depot, or base operations


Johnson Space Center has applied for patent protection for this technology.

Licensing and Partnering Opportunity

This technology is being made available through JSC's Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office, which seeks to transfer technology into and out of NASA to benefit the space program and U.S. industry. NASA invites companies to consider licensing this technology for commercial applications.

Contact Information

If you would like more information about this technology or about NASA's technology transfer program, please contact:

Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office
NASA's Johnson Space Center
Phone: 281-483-3809
E-mail: jsc-techtran@mail.nasa.gov

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