In situ antenna diagnostics and characterization system based on RFID and Remotely Piloted Aircrafts
Abstract A cost-effective solution for in situ antenna characterization and diagnostics based on Radio Frequency IDentification technology and Remotely Piloted Aircrafts is presented. The cost-effectiveness of the proposed solution is achieved by replacing the radio frequency equipment on-board the small aircrafts with Radio Frequency IDentification tags, while the Antenna Under Test is connected to a Radio Frequency IDentification reader, thus reducing the weight and complexity of the payload of the aircrafts dedicated to antenna measurement task. Received Signal Strength measurements are geo-referred with centimeter-level accuracy thanks to a Real Time Kinematic system. An iterative phase retrieval technique based on the Sources Reconstruction Method is used to recover an equivalent magnetic currents distribution on the Antenna Under Test aperture plane. The reconstructed currents distribution provides antenna diagnostics information and enables the calculation of the antenna radiation pattern. The presented method has been validated by means of measurements in the UHF band for two different antenna arrays with excellent results. Highlights In situ antenna diagnostics and characterization from near field measurements. Quick detection of antenna arrays malfunctioning elements. Use of small RPAs: the payload is reduced to a single RFID tag and a RTK beacon. Antenna measurement conducted in less than 10 minutes. cm-level accuracy thanks to the use of RTK data geo-referring. Phase retrieval method capable of handling arbitrary geometry acquisition grids. Methodology based on Received Signal Strength measurements. Graphical abstract [DISPLAY OMISSION]
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