Release Date
November 8th, 2023
Open Date
December 18th, 2023
Due Date(s)
January 18th, 2024
Close Date
January 18th, 2024
Topic No.


Software Defined Radio for Public Safety (SDR-PS)


Department of Homeland SecurityScience and Technology Directorate


Type: SBIRPhase: Phase IYear: 2024


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is seeking proposals for the topic of "Software Defined Radio for Public Safety (SDR-PS)" as part of their Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. This topic aims to address the communication needs of first responders, such as firefighters, EMS, and law enforcement, who often work in locations without network infrastructure or during congested or unavailable network situations. The current solution of carrying both land mobile radios (LMR) and broadband devices is cumbersome and impractical. The DHS is looking for a novel approach to SDR that provides flexibility, reconfigurability, and interoperability to maximize the value of radio investments. The proposed SDR-PS solution should support communications on and off network infrastructure, allow for critical transmission on multiple bands and systems, address the needs of first responders, and consider extreme operating conditions. The solution should also support multiple open-standards and be capable of upgrading via software. The required solution objectives include wide band transceivers, high power operation, hardware abstraction, compliance with encryption standards, long battery life, ruggedized design, and lower cost. The project duration is not specified, but the ideal target costs should be less than $3k. The application due date is January 18, 2024. For more information, visit the SBIR topic link: link.


Communication is paramount for first responders (firefighters, EMS, and law enforcement) to ensure effective mission response, coordination of resources, and ensure officer/agent safety during emergency operations. First responders, including officers of DHS Components (Customers and Border Protection, Federal Protective Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, US Coast Guard, US Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency), often work in locations where access to network infrastructure is unavailable. For example, incident response in remote areas may be beyond the reach of existing network infrastructure. Additionally, during disasters or major incidents, networks may be congested or unavailable for use, resulting in a lack of communications.

The current solution requires first responders to carry both land mobile radios (LMR) and broadband devices to allow operations on infrastructure (Cellular Networks). Although this solution offers resiliency, it is cumbersome and impractical to carry multiple devices. It also does not address all the critical communication needs during emergency responses. Another issue with the current solution is that traditional LMR radios are a long-term investment of at least 7-10 years and does not adapt as readily to changing technologies and advanced communications evolution.

Industry defines software-defined radio (SDR) as a radio communication system where components that conventionally have been implemented using analog hardware, are instead implemented by means of software and digital hardware on a personal computer or embedded system. SDR can tune to different frequencies and process various signals, from FM radio to 5G, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. SDR enables flexibility, reconfigurability, and interoperability of wireless systems, as well as a lower cost and power consumption.

This topic seeks a novel approach to SDR for public safety that addresses the needs of first responders while providing flexibility, reconfigurability, and interoperability to maximize the value of radio investments.

The proposed SDR-PS solution should: • Support communications on and off network infrastructure. • Allow for critical transmission on multiple bands and systems due to failed infrastructure or severe congestion. o For example, operation could allow for transmitting alert or emergency messages on several bands and systems either in parallel or sequentially with location. • Allow operation over multiple modes (device-to-device meshing, provide range extension at fringe areas). • Address the critical communication needs of first responders, to include emergency broadcasts, multiple users and channels. • Consider where and what conditions the system must operate under; Extreme heat and cold, moisture, ruggedized to support: impact from dropped/tossed, scrapped, or heavy weight. • Allow for operations in ultra remote areas by providing range extension or operation from device-to-device in areas of no coverage to mixed mode (using device-to-device and device-to-infrastructure) in fringe coverage areas. • Support multiple open-standards (e.g., Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) mesh, LTE (3rd Generation Partnership Project standard including High Power UE)), 5G, Project 25 (P25), Digital Mobile Radio, Tetra). • Consider availability, supportability, scalability, and sustainability of source components. • Enable future-proofing and transitional technologies. • Be capable of upgrading via software (new capabilities, standards, or use cases of technologies). • Improve on the size, weight, and portability compared to existing communication devices.

The required proposed solution objectives include: • Wide band transceivers to cover a range of 150MHz-6GHz (Spectrum flexibility). • Operate with high power (variable with up to 3Watts desired optionally up to 6 watts at very high frequency (VHF)). • Hardware abstraction (potential for future proofing loading by loading in any standard software-based communications standards to use the hardware platform). • Design and approach shall meet Federal Encryption Standards (AES 256 and FIPS compliance). • Battery capable of no less than 12 hours of continuous operations. • A ruggedized design to support field operations to include durability for abrasions, rainy environments, intrinsically safe, protection from five-foot drop, and exposure to extreme heat or cold (120 degrees F to minus 16 degrees F). • Lower cost is highly desired (ideal target costs should be less than $3k).