Antenna technology for extending the range of unmanned aerial vehicles without increasing their size or weight was recently patented by researchers at NDSU and the University of North Dakota.
“The idea is to turn the entire body of the vehicle into an antenna,” said NDSU researcher Raj Bridgelall. “The UAV essentially becomes a flying antenna.”
Under the concept, all of the components of the vehicle become a large set of antennas. By using a selected set of antennas from this larger array, researchers will create a powerful directional antenna beam that can be used to operate the vehicle remotely.
“This whole-body antenna will allow for greater use of low-power sensors, greater range, longer endurance and enhanced reliability,” Bridgelall said. “At the same time, we should be able to reduce overall power consumption and parasitic drag from the use of an external antenna.”
Bridgelall leads the Center for Surface Mobility Applications and Real-Time Simulation environments at NDSU’s Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute. He developed the technology with Michael Corcoran, who was at the time a UAS course manager with the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at UND.
Last year, Bridgelall and Corcoran received a patent on technology that integrates energy-storing capacitors into the body or other large components of manned and unmanned aircraft systems.
Bridgelall notes that both patents may have applications in land-based and marine-based remotely operated vehicles. "Those vehicles face many of the same constraints on size, range and battery life as UAS," he said.
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