Platform cuts calibration time for phased-array antennas

June 19, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
As the second product in its recently launched series of modular reference platforms, Agilent has introduced a multi-channel antenna calibration solution that enables engineers to characterise large multi-channel phased-array antennas during manufacturing and integration. The platform includes hardware, software and test expertise.

The reference platform at hand provides multiple, phase-coherent channels measured in parallel. Thus it increases the number of antenna measurements per time unit and optimises the amount of data through real-time digital down-conversion (DDC). Phased-array antenna as they are frequently used in AM and FM radio broadcasting, VHF communications and radar applications consist of thousands of individual transmit and receive modules which can make calibration a rather time-consuming with a considerable negative impact on production cost. Plus, the sheer duration of the calibration process can create a bottleneck in production and limit the manufacturer's ability to respond to increasing demand. The reference solution from Agilent greatly reduces measurement time while expanding the test system's flexibility to cover a broader set of applications.

The reference platform provides example software templates including relative magnitude as well as phase measurements, effectively enabling users to reduce the calibration bottleneck and speed up the element-to-element calibration of large phased array antennas. It is scalable from eight to 40 digitizer channels in a 5-slot chassis (more in a 14-slot chassis). Furthermore, it offers stable, coherent channels with less than one degree phase difference between channels and a high analysis bandwidth flexibility (300 MHz with DDC and 600 MHz without). The total measurement speed can be up to one million narrowband measurements per second, Agilent promises.

Like all of these new reference solutions, the antenna calibration platform includes utilities such as example program source code, optimised for specific applications that helps users to get the most out of their test system.

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