Air Force

Variable geometry reflecting antenna

Reflector antenna functioning across a wide range of frequencies and environmental conditions

Communications

A prototype of the Actuated Pin Antenna Reflector (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

With the expansion of the market for software based radios, there is a need for accompanying software defined antennas. Strides are being made in this area but there is still a reliance on antiquated equipment such as patch antennas which limit the radio from reaching a full bandwidth potential.

Air Force researchers have developed a device for improving performance and allowing increased directionality of reflecting-type antenna systems by varying the geometry of the reflecting surface. In this novel approach the reflecting surface is composed of an array of actuated pins which are capable of extending or retracting to alter the overall pattern. An actuator controlling unit has the address of each actuator and is able to extend or retract the pins to the desired degree. The specific pattern which the actuator control unit realizes is determined by an iterative position calculator which utilizes directional inputs from the user or inputs from a system which determines the optimal position. The antenna maximizes the received signal by assessing amplitude changes over time and utilizing that information to direct changes in the reflecting surface for ideal performance. This new antenna would have excellent application in receiving low-amplitude signals such as satellite communications, over the horizon radar, and in radio astronomy.

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