The Georgia Tech Research Institute’s (GTRI) software-defined, electronically reconfigurable Agile Aperture Antenna has now been tested on land, sea – and air.
Two of the low-power devices, which can change beam directions in a thousandth of a second, were demonstrated in an aircraft during flight tests held in Virginia in February. One device, pointed up, maintained a satellite data connection as the aircraft changed headings, banked, and rolled. The other antenna, pointed down, tracked electromagnetic emitters on the ground.
“We were able to sustain communication with the commercial satellite in flight as the aircraft changed headings dramatically,” explained Matthew Habib, a GTRI research engineer. “At the same time, we were maintaining communication with a device on the ground.”
In addition to rapidly altering its beam direction, the antenna’s frequency and polarization can also be changed by switching active components. The prototype used in the test operated from 500 to 3,000 megahertz with a plus or minus 60-degree hemispherical view.
Beyond its ability to be easily reconfigured, the antenna’s low power consumption and flat form make it ideal for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that have small power supplies and limited surface area for integrating antennas. Composed of printed circuit boards, the antenna components weigh just two or three pounds.
Beyond aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles, the antenna’s concept could also be used in mobile devices, where its ability to be tuned dynamically could help cut through congestion on cellular networks.