Research & Innovation

Dr. Hongbin Li Awarded Air Force Grant for Adaptive Signal Radar Detection

Hongbin Li
Dr. Hongbin Li, professor and undergraduate program director in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Dr. Hongbin Li, professor and undergraduate program director in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has received a $350,000 research grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) to perform research in adaptive signal radar detection.

The AFSOR manages the basic research investment for the U.S. Air Force (USAF) as a part of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) that fosters and funds research at universities and in industry to ensure the transition of research results to support USAF needs.

The grant will enable Li and his team to develop innovative solutions for a fundamental signal processing problem: the ability to detect weak signals in situations where strong interference occurs. For example, one scenario may include an airborne radar-sensing environment, where the radar detects the presence or absence of moving objects on the ground. The radar emits waveforms that function like an echo, interacting with the environment to send signals back to the sensor. The received signals contain strong “clutter,” which refers to echoes from objects such as oceans, mountains, buildings and other static surfaces. The clutter is much stronger than target echoes, and need to be adequately mitigated for weak signal detection.

Radar has been used since World War II to detect enemy planes and, as most of us know, now has a wide variety of application from police speed-detector guns to weather forecasting. Pilots are dependent on radar because they have difficulties navigating in certain conditions, such as dense fog or over water, when they cannot rely on visual cues alone to guide or land the plane. Radar can also provide essential information regarding potential ground threats that can jeopardize the safety and security of the aircraft.

Li’s goal is to develop new techniques for more sensitive radar by using what we already know about ground clutter, the knowledge that already exists about sources of interference. Unlike existing detection methods that can be severely affected by inaccurate information, Li’s approach has the potential to detect and reject such errors, and still benefit from the useful part of the prior knowledge.

This research project directly aligns with the Stevens research thrust area of defense and security.

“My research is focused on mathematical issues of the knowledge-aided weak signal detection problem. The problem is encountered in not only radar, but a wealth of other applications from wireless communications, bioinformatics, hyperspectral imaging, to radio astronomy. So, I am hoping my research can have impacts in these fields as well,” says Li.

Professor Li joined Stevens Institute of Technology in 1999. His general research interests include statistical signal processing, wireless communications and radar. He is currently an elected member on the IEEE Signal Processing Theory and Methods Technical Committee and the IEEE Sensor Array and Multichannel Technical Committee, an associate editor for IEEE Transactions on Signal Processing and Elsevier Signal Processing, and served on the editorial boards for other IEEE journals. He has received numerous awards, including the 2013 IEEE Jack Neubauer Memorial Award for the best systems paper published in IEEE Transactions on Vehicular Technology.