MSc thesis project proposal

Tracking airplanes from space

Project outside the university

ISIS BV, Delft
Airplanes transmit ADS-B transponder signals to identify themselves and provide some key parameters such as location, airspeed, height, etc. Usually these signals are picked up by neighboring airplanes or radar systems at airfields, but over oceans there is no such coverage. This may lead to dangerous or embarrassing situations such as the ``lost'' Air-France aircraft that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean near Brazil a few years ago.

Using a nano-satellite system, it should be possible, and relatively cheap, to receive such transponder signals and relay them to ground stations. Compared to a ground station, satellite receivers have to deal with several additional challenges, such as high Doppler shifts and spreads, lack of synchronization, and possibly multiple overlapping signals.


The aim of the assigment is to develop signal processing models and algorithms to receive ADS-B signals in space, and possibly to implement the most suitable algorithm on a hardware platform that will be used in an actual flight unit.

A possible workplan is as follows:

  1. Simulation of the ADS-B signal environment in space
  2. Research on the current state-of-the art of reception techniques applicable to this specific problem
  3. Evaluation of demodulation algorithm performance by simulation
  4. Implementation of the selected algorithm on a hardware platform
  5. Reporting and documentation

The assignment will be carried out at ISIS - Innovative Solutions In Space BV, an ambitious and dynamic company in the space sector and located in Delft, The Netherlands. ISIS develops and offers products and services for the space sector, with a focus on small satellites. The company has a strong international focus, and is a systems integrator of CubeSat and nanosatellite (<10kg) platforms. Currently, ISIS employs over 40 mechanical, electronic, software, embedded and space systems engineers.


  1. Electronics engineering or telecommunication engineering background
  2. Good knowledge of signal processing applied to communications
  3. Good English skills
  4. Good skills with Matlab (C/C++ and VHDL is a plus)
  1. Experience in hardware development and working in a lab environment
  2. Creativity, innovation and idea generation
  3. Good interpersonal and organization skills
  4. Willing to work in an international and multicultural environment

The project is carried out at ISIS BV, Delft. The internship duration is 8-9 months.

Contact Alle-Jan van der Veen

Circuits and Systems Group

Department of Microelectronics

Last modified: 2018-03-14