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Antennas are everywhere and given our increasing desire for ubiquitous and high fidelity communications, new antennas are being put up at high rates. More antennas in the field necessitates increased testing of the performance of those instruments. Antenna testing is commonly done in one of two ways. Near-field testing brings the antenna to an enclosed environment where environmental variables are tightly controlled, tests are done on a highly stable platform with robotic positioning and a sensitive probe which yields both phase and amplitude measurements. In a near-field test, the non-radiative near-field behaviors of electromagnetic fields are assessed. Due to their increased sophistication, near-field testing is typically done on adaptive antennas, signal processing antennas as well as conical scanning, monopulse or compound interferometer systems.
Far-field testing is done “in the field” and measurements of amplitude response are taken at ranges varying from fifty feet to three or more miles. Environmental factors impinge on the measurements, as well as technical difficulties in aligning the probe signal. This method is further compromised by simple logistical issues such as gaining land access.
In order to bring some of the benefits of near-field testing to far-field testing, Navy researchers have developed a solution to precisely align a probe source with a distant antenna and to deal with topological variations. The test system utilizes real-time kinematics and global positioning (RTK/GPS) to provide precise positional data. It quickly and accurately measures the far-field patterns of antennas and antenna/vehicle combinations. Measurements can be done on the fly in real environments such as over dirt, grass, sand, pavement, or in urban areas, and can include multiple frequencies, heights, polarizations, and distances. The RTK/GPS is coupled to an internal navigation unit and an RF probe is positioned relative to the antenna under test to collect emission measurements including amplitude and phase data. The data is time stamped and associated with a coordinate location and orientation data. A computer crunches the data and presents an emission pattern for that antenna.
- Test range up to 6 miles
- Environmentally rugged
- US patent 8,077,098 available for license
- Potential for collaboration with Navy researchers