- Buyers Guide
Pat Hindle, MWJ Editor
UAV Industry Prepares for Commerical Applications
AUVSI 2014 summary
The AUVSI unmanned systems show seems to grow each year and reached about 6500 attendees and 600 exhibitors this year in Orlando, FL. While the show has traditionally been dominated by military unmanned vehicles, this year marked a significant growth in companies and organizations offering unmanned vehicles for civilian use. With the wind down of US operations in the Middle East, the demand for unmanned military vehicles has been greatly reduced. The US currently does not allow for commercial use of UAS but the FAA plans to develop guidelines in 2015 or 2016. The FAA is choosing 6 test sites that will evaluate technologies to determine the best use cases and rules that need to be implemented. Most of the growth in UAS is expected to come from civilian applications such as public safety, agriculture, search & rescue and wildlife management.
A significant number of RF and microwave companies exhibit at AUVSI from component companies (filters, amplifiers, etc.) to antennas to cables. There are also companies that offer subsystems such data links and software defined radios. Here is a review of the companies we visited:
Advanced Microwave Products was featuring their PMT1 micro video/audio/data transmitter that is only .5 cubic in (under 1 oz) with output powers from 20 to 250 mW. The transmitter carrier frequency can be selected remotely and locally/remotely with a programmable binary switch. It is designed to withstand harsh environment so ideal for UAV and other applications.
Cobham was displaying a wide range of products from antennas and microwave subassemblies to radar systems and UAVs. They were showing off the AESA radar module that operates from 8 to 10 GHz with 500 MHz of instantaneous BW. It has a scan volume of +/- 60 degrees in azimuth and elevation with a NF of less than 4.5 dB, IIP3 of greater than -39 dBm and P1dB greater than -43 dBm all contained in a compact air cooled unit. The also demonstrated their EOD robot tEODor. See their video demo here showing the capabilities of this UAV.
Delta Microwave provides filters, amplifiers, passive products, multiplexers and integrated assemblies covering frequencies from 1 MHz to 43.5 GHz with output power up to 1.5 kW and power handling up to 25 kW. They have internal capabilities for simulation, design, modeling, machining, testing and screening.
Dow-Key Microwave has a long heritage of switch technology and has a broad line of space qualified products (they have participated in over 100 different space programs). They had on display various switching products including SPDTs, DPDTs, T-Switches, waveguide DPDTs, switch blocks and switch matrices.
Ducommun was showing off their various electronics solutions that range from cable assemblies to radar electronics to missile system circuit cards/assemblies to aircraft avionics. They have a wide range of experience on military and space programs plus provide specialized capabilities turnkey manufacturing.
An interesting product I found was the sidekiq software defined radio MiniPCIe Card made by EPIQ Solutions. RF tuning is from 70 MHz to 6 GHz (using the ADI device) with up to 50 MHz BW in a 30x51x5 mm PCIe card including transceiver and programmable logic. They were showing off various implementations of the device from a PC based signal analyzer to multichannel reconfigurable RF transceiver. See their video demo here.
Dielectric Laboratories (DLI) was showing off their filters, resonators, customer ceramic components and build to print thin film technology. Their ceramic expertise and manufacturing ability has enabled them to offer build to print services using their thin film technologies. Their custom ceramics offer significantly better thermal performance than most other technologies and higher K allowing for miniaturization of designs. They have full testing and characterization capabilities also.
Esterline Power Systems designs and manufactures a broad range of high reliability power switching, control components and distribution equipment. They were showing off their lines of electromechanical switching and devices, solid state power and control management, and primary and secondary power distribution equipment.
Haigh-Farr has expertise in antenna design with specially developed software tools to simulate the performance of antennas in real world environments. They were featuring their broadband button antennas such as model 13110 operating from 14-2.7 GHz and 4-5.5 GHz with typical VSWR less than 1.6:1 and power handling of greater than 30 W. Also, model 13200 operating from 1.4-7 GHz with typical VSWR less than 1.6:1 and power handling of greater than 50 W.
Insulated Wire (IW) was featuring their Re-Flex cables that have been tested to 24,000 bends with no degradation in electrical or mechanical performance. They are designed as a replacement to semi-rigid and conformable cables providing the same leakage characteristics and mechanical dimensions. They are 50 ohms, have a time delay of 1.4 ns/ft with cutoff frequencies of 34 or 60 GHz.
K&L Microwave was showing off their high power ceramic diplexer surface mount device 9DLX0-1090-1030/X8 with low insertion loss operating from 1026-1034 MHz in the receive band and 1086-1094 MHz in the transmit band. They also featured their miniature high frequency bandpass filters with center frequencies for Ku-, K- and Ka-Bands. They offer significantly smaller size than cavity or waveguide filters and use PCB mounting. BWs are 5-25%, center frequencies 18-36 GHz with insertion loss of less than 3 dB.
Integrated Microwave Technologies (IMT) showed off its new Briefcase Receiver that is a COFDM (DVB-T-compliant) diversity receiver/monitor integrated into a ruggedized, portable IP66-rated briefcase that offers exceptional RF performance and durability, combined with true ease of operation and highly reliable H.264 high-profile and MPEG-2 decoding. It nsures reliable reception of COFDM-modulated microwave transmissions via maximal-ratio combining technology that takes advantage of its integrated dual antennas to identify and quickly switch over to the best signal received at each point in time. It also contains an AES decryption circuit and a built-in MPEG-4/MPEG-2 decoder, and can receive either HD or SD video transmissions and display them on a built-in LCD monitor.
Mercury Systems has an extensive line of integrated microwave assemblies on display such as their Echotek Series RFM-1802RF with synthesizer ADV-1800S dual-channel wideband microwave tuner that has low phase noise and fast tuning speed. These characteristics are the result of DDS technology that uncouples tuning speed from phase noise creating a high performance tuner (the measured phase noise is typically -86 dBc/Hz at 100 kHz offset and -96 dBc/Hz at 1 kHz offset). They both fit into a 2-slot VME solution.
Norsat International recently launched the ATOM series of Ku-band BUCs and SSPAs. The ATOM series BUCs and SSPAs are up to 82% smaller, 68% lighter, and 60% more energy efficient than alternatives, enabling a wide range of applications including portable VSAT, Satcom on the Move, Radar, TWTA replacement, and airborne terminals. Norsat has optimized the performance and quality of the ATOM products by working closely with key customers in North America and Europe, and has already shipped in excess of $2 Million of product to these customers.
Precision Devices Inc (PDI) does testing and services such as constant acceleration, mechanical shock, frequency aging, powered burn-in, seal testing, solderability and resistance to soldering heat, sine vibration, stabilization bake, temperature cycling/thermal shock and visual/mechanical examination. They also provide crystal oscillators including space level qualified devices.
Reactel was featuring many filter solutions such as their low profile discrete component filter, 9AM-1315-X1710M. With a profile of .12”, the high performance bandpass filter is well suited for densely populated boards or portable applications. It has low loss of less than 1.5 dB at passband, high rejection of greater than 25 dB at DC-333 and 2500-6000 MHz and compact size. These types of low profile filters are available to 40 GHz.
Samtec provides IC-to-Board solutions including advanced IC packaging and micro interposer fabrication, cables and connections. They were featuring their BullsEye compact board to board solutions. These can be single connections or ganged configurations.
Spinner was showing off their cable and connector expertise including their new media rotary joint. Their available transmission technologies includes RF contacting and non-contacting joints, up to 20 optical channels in single and multi-mode designs, non-contacting data channels (Ethernet and CAN bus) and non-contacting power transmission up to 25 W. And now media channels (dry air and/or cooling media) will the added that was designed for a customer project for a phased array antenna. They were also featuring their family of fiber optic joints including single and mult-channel designs.
TECOM (Smiths Microwave) was featuring wideband compact ground terminals, model GDT-1000 and GDT-1100. They operate from 1-18 GHz covering L-, S-, C-, X- and Ku-band using a single feed. The GDT-1000 (24 or 36” dish) is single linearly polarized (manually adjustable) while the GDT-1100 is fixed or TTL switchable polarization (options including: vertical, horizontal, RHCP and LHCP). Both are lightweight and rugged with 15 min setup.
Teledyne Microwave Systems was showing off a complete suite of ITAR-free products for Ka-Band systems that have been specifically developed for both legacy and new designs. Both up and down converters have the ability to electronically switch between the commercial and military Ka-/K-Bands. Each converter has a number of functions that enable easy integration into legacy and new systems. These include either internal or external reference at both 10 and 50 MHz along with blanking and attenuation control. By combining these converters with the standard SSPA, a full transceiver can be configured to operate over the 29 to 31 GHz transmit band and the 19.2 to 21.2 GHz receive band with just three hermetically sealed modules.