Conformal Antennas for Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)

Period of Performance: 01/25/2012 - 04/07/2014


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

First RF Corp.
5340 Airport Blvd. Array
Boulder, CO 80301
Principal Investigator


ABSTRACT: Conformal, wideband and low frequency antennas are a persistent source of research and development for military and commercial integrators, particularly airframe integrators. Generally, conformal antennas are either narrow band or inefficient. Low frequency antennas are usually large and not conformal. The intense research in metamaterials for antenna applications over the past decade has been focused on reducing the size and footprint of antennas, allowing for conformal installation of antennas that otherwise would remain as drag inducers on aircraft. But, if the performance benefits of these materials are to be realized, they need to become lighter and more affordable. Otherwise, they are too heavy and too expensive to fly aboard UAVs. During Phase I of this program, FIRST RF validated the performance of a lower cost and lighter weight alternative metamaterial for use in the design of a communications antenna and a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) antenna. We have measured data supporting our fundamental claim that there are manufacturable and fieldable conventional metamaterials. The Phase II program that we propose here will be focused on putting the Phase I research into action by building application specific hardware for both a communications antenna and for an ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) antenna. BENEFIT: The benefits of this technology start with the affect the technology has on conformal antenna operating near a ground plane. Most low frequency and/or broadband antennas are not able to operate conformally because of the band limited nature of operation in proximity to a ground plane. Metamaterial research for antenna applications has been very focused on allowing conformal antennas to operate at low frequencies and over broad bandwidths. But physical embodiments of many metamaterials are very expensive and very heavy. The proposed technology is a low cost and lightweight alternative to these materials, benefitting conformal antenna and airframe designers, as well as general users of metamaterials for conformal applications.