An unmanned aircraft with a wingspan measuring just under 20 feet (6 meters) currently sits in ESA’s Hertz radio-frequency chamber. Supported in mid-air to assume a realistic flight position, the drone is undergoing tests to ensure its satellite links can maintain contact between the UAV and its controller.
Developed by UK’s Barnard Microsystems Ltd, the drone’s wing houses a steerable array antenna. This allows the aircraft to keep in contact with the Inmarsat satellite constellation. The antenna array feature falls in line with the ESA’s ESTARR project, officially known as the Electronically Steered Antenna Array in the Wing of a Remotely Piloted Aircraft.
The steerable array must be able to coordinate multiple responsibilities. First, the array needs to electronically sweep its beam quickly and efficiently to counteract any movements caused by the drone itself. At the same time, the array must focus on the crucial control link without triggering any electronic or aerodynamic interference.
The drone will mainly be utilized in civilian applications throughout the world, including oil pipeline monitoring; oil, gas, and mineral geophysical survey work; and land and maritime border patrols.
The tests in the Hertz radio-frequency chamber are key, since the drone will spend the majority of its operating time away from its remote pilot. As the aircraft traverses through areas with limited communications infrastructure, a satellite data relay service is necessary for success.
Located in the Netherlands, the Hertz chamber formally goes by the name Hybrid European Radio Frequency and Antenna Test Zone. The interior walls are studded head to toe with radio-absorbing anechoic foam pyramids. This allows the chamber to perform radio-frequency tests without distorting reflections, as well as absorb noise.
Grab a closer look at the drone’s design in the image below.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense