DERA developments aid satellite communications

Following the Defense Evaluation and Research Agency’s (DERA) successful work on mechanically stabilised antennas, an electronically steered transmit/receive antenna has been developed which has no moving parts, and offers duplex communications with greater-than-hemispherical coverage.

Applications are widespread. Because the antenna is computer controlled it can optimise its own performance to find the satellite itself and also overcome the hostile nature of its electronic and physical environments – without human intervention. Aside from the military relevance, the technology will prove valuable in commercial situations where interference from reflections of the signals from buildings, fuselage or other structures impair the communications quality.

Unlike mechanical antennas, which have reaction times related to the antenna’s inertia to compensate for vehicle motion, this new development can re-point the antenna almost instantaneously giving far greater opportunities for use on fast boats and fast aircraft – including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and helicopters. Research over the past ten years has proven that a platform-stabilised full duplex (i.e. simultaneous transmit and receive capability) microwave communication antenna with no moving parts was a realisable technology.

For the first time experts at DERA have successfully devised a way to make this goal a reality. The most significant advantage is that this technology can be mounted on moving vehicles. The communications suite (for providing the data or voice) can still ‘talk’ to the satellite because the antenna automatically compensates for the movement and orientation of the host platform. The antenna is entirely electronic offering possibilities for this technology to be fitted to very agile platforms such as highly manoeuvrable aircraft.