Air Force

Multiport microwave device for compact antenna steering

This key component of phased array antenna systems can fit into space-constrained locations, such as the tail of a UAV

Communications

Scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Sensors Directorate have recently invented a rollable multiport microwave device for a more compact antenna system that can fit inside an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

A MQ-9 Reaper U.S. military UAV prepares to land. A rollable multiport microwave device could help save space inside UAVs. (Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

The patented technology is available via patent license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

One challenge in designing UAVs is the limited amount of interior or exterior space for their many components, including the systems for communication, navigation, and radar. Phased array antenna systems, which steer an antenna electronically instead of mechanically, have the ability to save such space. However, one component of phased array antenna systems — known as a multiport microwave device or a Rotman lens — has an elongated, flat, planar shape that may make it cumbersome to fit within the space confines of a UAV.

To this end, AFRL researchers have developed a multiport microwave device that can be rolled up to better fit in a space-constrained location. The device allows for multiple antenna beams to be formed without a need for switches or phase shifters and is a critical part of phased array antenna systems. The component may start out with a typical planar configuration and then be rolled into a cylindrical spiral, permitting it to fit onto the tail of a UAV, without affecting its performance.

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