A Lafayette, Ind., company has come to market with a patent-pending directional antenna system designed to significantly extend the range of broadband networks.

Broadband Antenna Tracking Systems (BATS) is targeting the military, public safety and vertical markets such as petroleum and maritime with the system, which, according to CEO Bob Peterson, can automatically locate, maintain and continually optimize a connection between two fixed or mobile wireless broadband access points in a matter of seconds. The technology works with a host of proprietary wireless broadband systems such as Motorola’s Canopy and with standardized WiMAX and Wi-Fi systems.

Developed by three professors from Purdue University, the BATS technology uses integrated, high-gain narrow beam antennas to track broadband communications over long distances. Once the system locates a friendly communication point, it automatically connects to it without user intervention, such as manually positioning the antenna, Peterson said.

“It’s like a router integrated with a radio that is basically locating, locking and optimizing the signal,” Peterson said.

The antenna system is mounted on a pan-tilt chassis with a wireless broadband radio. The integration, along with the performance characteristics of the directional antenna, create search patterns and predictive algorithms that automatically locate a desire connection point.

What sort of range extension is possible? Peterson said the system can connect with a tower some 75 miles away. As such, public-safety agencies, many of which use Motorola’s Canopy fixed wireless technology, can obtain broadband access in remote areas by simply entering the GPS coordinates of the location and turning on the device, which scans the horizon, finds available access points and re-broadcasts them locally to extend streaming video, high-speed data applications and VoIP services.

Users also can use more than one system to create very-long-range relay stations that would be useful in emergencies in very remote or widespread areas.

“We’re talking with a variety of public-safety folks,” Peterson said. “During Hurricane Katrina a system like this would have basically created a smart mesh network, offering links without having to do it manually. … Our biggest client came in because when they first asked us to do this for them within an hour. We could do it in less than a minute.”

For other industries, such as the offshore oil industry, the BATS technology could be used as an alternative to costlier satellite services, which often require technicians to be dispatched to redirect antennas every two weeks to continually pick up the signal.

Ships can also deploy the antenna system and piggyback off other ships carrying the system to continually extend the range of the broadband signal.