Explore: Wireless technology for unmanned aerial vehicles

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles, especially UAVs, has further increased the demand for wireless data and has also contributed to the use of spectrum. In the field of national defense, there are a large number of various types of aircraft in service, ranging from large platforms such as Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk to small platform systems such as Aerovironment's Raven UAV. For these aircraft, wireless networks and satellite communication chains are clearly a major requirement, and the industry has developed waveforms and standards specifically for these systems, including small UAS digital data link (SUAS DDL) waveforms. With such a waveform, not only can the control of the small drone be realized, but more importantly, the data and video information sent from the onboard sensor network can be transmitted to the controller. Use this network to collect live intelligence more flexibly and efficiently. However, these platforms have limited power and they push up the need for transceivers used in the communications chain where available bandwidth is limited and multiple systems are required to operate in the same frequency band.

Explore: Wireless technology for unmanned aerial vehicles

Figure 2 AD9361 & ADF7203S transceiver

Although the defense industry is a leader in the field of drone systems, a large number of reports indicate that many commercial systems and operators plan to adopt drone technology in the future. It is reported that companies such as Amazon and Google are developing these systems. Commercial activities such as these also require wireless and secure data links. As this market segment develops, the demand for allocated spectrum will continue to rise, further pushing the demand for advanced communication transceivers.

Further deepening into the aerospace industry, wireless broadband communication systems are becoming popular on commercial aircraft today, so that passengers can access the Internet via WiFi during flight. At present, the demand for these services and their extension will continue, making extensive use of satellite communications to achieve broadband connectivity around the world. In addition to these developments, the aerospace market has begun to actively seek to introduce wireless technology into a range of other applications. The industry has begun to proactively evaluate the value of wireless sensors in order to improve safety and fuel efficiency. Fuel efficiency can be improved by reducing the weight of the aircraft, and for this reason, the sensor technology and the interconnection options between the sensors are also subject to rigorous review. In modern high-end military and commercial aircraft, the number of cables used may be as many as 100,000, the length may exceed 470 meters, and the weight may be as high as 5,700 kilograms, which does not include structural fixed point infrastructure and wires. Increase by another 30%. Although it is unlikely that wireless sensors will replace all of them, the Aerospace Vehicle Systems Research Institute (AVSI), a cooperative organization established by companies, academia and government agencies, has begun to investigate this possibility. AVSI has established a working group specializing in Wireless Aerospace Electronics Intercommunication (WAIC) technology with the goal of interconnecting a wide variety of aircraft sensors without the use of cables and harnesses.

Explore: Wireless technology for unmanned aerial vehicles

Figure 3 Possible Wireless Sensor Interconnect System

Although wireless sensors will undoubtedly reduce weight in this application, sensor networks can bring other benefits, including reconfigurability, which may also help improve security, but more importantly, wireless sensors can be added quickly. And upgrade the sensor without adding wiring and infrastructure. The ability to monitor and adjust more functions on the aircraft has the potential to significantly increase efficiency, as components such as engines and thermal management systems can be adjusted in real time. In addition, with the addition of equipment health monitoring and additional security monitoring capabilities, repair and maintenance needs can be monitored more closely, enabling early detection of problems and more efficient scheduling of repairs. The WAIC Working Group lists a variety of systems that may benefit from this technology:

● Smoke detection

● Fuel tank / fuel line

● Proximity detection

● Temperature

● EMI accident detection

● Humidity / corrosion detection

● Cabin pressure

● Emergency lighting

● Icing detection

● Landing gear (position feedback, brake temperature, tire pressure, wheel speed, steering feedback)

● Flight control position feedback

● Door sensor

● Engine sensor

● FADEC-aircraft interface

● Flight data

● Engine prediction

● Flight deck and cabin crew image/video (safety related)

● Avionics communication bus

● Structural health monitoring / structural sensors

● Active vibration control

In the above several examples, adding a wireless communication link to the aircraft system monitoring function is more difficult. In order to be effective, many systems need to be powered by batteries and require a lot of work, and may not be replaced for years. To achieve the required amount of sensors in a power-constrained environment, energy sources other than conventional batteries are used. Using energy harvesting technology as an alternative power source will help improve the flexibility of the sensor and help improve SWaP.

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