Unlocking the Potential of Robotic Solutions to Calibrate and Measure Active Electronically Scanned Arrays

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  • Author: Janse van Rensburg

Phased array, and more specifically Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology has been in use for several decades. This type of array uses active components to control the phase and amplitude weighting of individual elements or groups of elements to modify the array’s aperture distribution. The result is that the effective radiation pattern of the array can be controlled and reconfigured at a rate that is supported by the electronics. In the past, the cost and complexity of developing, manufacturing, and testing these arrays made the technology mostly inaccessible for non-military applications. Technological advances in the RF components used to build up phased arrays have led to more cost-effective and miniaturized solutions. This, combined with a broader understanding of the theory and best practices regarding phased array design, makes the technology viable across many industries including automotive, communication, medical and commercial aerospace. As a result of their proliferation, the need to accurately calibrate and measure AESA performance is on the rise.

Industrial robots are becoming increasingly popular for use in antenna measurement systems. These devices are relatively inexpensive, offer highly repeatable mechanical performance and are very reliable. These versatile robots can also be reconfigured to support multiple different measurement geometries, which make them ideal for use in antenna measurement systems. The acceleration and settling time of these industrial robots are unmatched by other mechanical positioners, so they are ideally suited for applications where a probe antenna must move from one point to another as efficiently as possible. This has proven useful for phased array calibration. This article describes a typical calibration and measurement process with two robotic-based measurement facilities currently under development.

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