Electrical and computer engineering professor receives grant to improve radar technology using artificial intelligence

This year, the Department of Defense awarded 50 minority-serving institutions nationwide, including Virginia Commonwealth University, over $60 million in funds toward defense priority areas.

Yuichi Motai, Ph.D.
Yuichi Motai, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded Yuichi Motai, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, a $750k grant over the next four years to improve sensory intelligence technology.

As a part of the 2023 DoD Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions (HBCU/MSI) Research and Education Program, Motai’s project aims to form research and collaboration between the VCU College of Engineering and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division.

“This is the first DoD grant at VCU awarded as a minority-serving institution,” Motai said. “The resulting project will deliver a proof of concept on an intelligent range Doppler with software implementation on training, testing, and self-learning.”

Current radar systems can face issues such as unreliability in their detection and warning of incoming threats. Motai’s goal with this grant is to refine the tracking and classification of target objects through the use of advanced AI technologies with the Doppler radar.

The Doppler radar uses the Doppler effect to collect data by sending out a microwave signal towards a target. The motion between the radar and the target results in a frequency shift that is analyzed to collect velocity data about objects at a distance. This data is represented as a spectrogram, which visually depicts the changes in frequency.

Through the combination of the Doppler radar and current machine learning algorithms, this project strives to capture the spatiotemporal variations in data to provide highly accurate measurements of a target object’s velocity.

“This year’s awards continue to support transformative research that enhances our ability to respond to threats and remain technologically superior,” Evelyn Kent, director of the DoD HBCU/MSI Program and outreach, said. “We are cultivating a research enterprise that broadens idea sharing while expanding the pool of reliable science, technology, engineering, and mathematic professionals to meet both our mission and our workforce objectives.”