Joint Ranging and Phase Offset Estimation for Multiple Drones using ADS-B Signatures

Mostafa Mohammadkarimi*, Geert Leus, Raj Thilak Rajan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


A new method for joint ranging and Phase Offset (PO) estimation of multiple drones/aircrafts is proposed in this paper. The proposed method employs the superimposed uncoordinated Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) packets broadcasted by drones/aircrafts for joint range and PO estimation. It jointly estimates range and PO prior to ADS-B packet decoding; thus, it can improve air safety when packet decoding is infeasible due to packet collision. Moreover, it enables coherent detection of ADS-B packets, which can result in more reliable multiple target tracking in aviation systems using cooperative sensors for detect and avoid (DAA). By minimizing the Kullback-Leibler Divergence (KLD) statistical distance measure, we show that the received complex baseband signal coming from K uncoordinated drones/aircrafts corrupted by Additive White Gaussian Noise (AWGN) at a single antenna receiver can be approximated by an independent and identically distributed (i.i.d.) Gaussian Mixture (GM) with 2^{K} mixture components in the two-dimensional (2D) plane. While direct joint Maximum Likelihood Estimation (MLE) of range and PO from the derived GM Probability Density Function (PDF) leads to an intractable maximization, our proposed method employs the Expectation-Maximization (EM) algorithm to estimate the modes of the 2D Gaussian mixture followed by a reordering estimation technique through combinatorial optimization to estimate range and PO. An extension to a multiple antenna receiver is also investigated in this article. While the proposed estimator can estimate the range of multiple drones/aircrafts with a single receive antenna, a larger number of drones/aircrafts can be supported with higher accuracy by the use of multiple antennas at the receiver. The effectiveness of the proposed estimator is supported by simulation results. We show that the proposed estimator can jointly estimate the range of multiple drones/aircrafts accurately.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1667-1681
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Vehicular Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Range estimation
  • phase offset
  • cooperative navigation
  • expectation-maximization (EM)
  • Gaussian mixture (GM)
  • ADS-B
  • multiple receive antennas
  • detect and avoid (DAA)


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