Unmanned vehicles are finding increasing usage in military engagements, not only for aerial applications but also for ground and underwater missions. Modern antenna designs can increase unmanned vehicle fuel efficiency through reduced antenna size, increased antenna conformality, and reduced antenna weight. For airborne UAVs, time on station is a critical mission parameter directly influenced by payload weight and aerodynamics. For unmanned ground vehicles, increased antenna conformality reduces the likelihood of accidental damage that occurs with externally protruding antennas.
As designers look toward smaller and more capable UAVs, SWaP-C (size, weight, power, and cost) requirements necessitate smaller, lighter, more power-efficient components and subsystems built using modern manufacturing methods. With every subsystem as a candidate for SWaP-C improvements, small savings on subsystems can add up to significant overall savings for a platform.
Recent advances in materials and fabrication technologies are now enabling improved antenna designs with reduced size, weight, aerodynamic drag, and cost. Key innovations influencing next-generation antenna designs include composite materials and novel selective metallization processes. These innovations combine to allow cost-effective realization of three-dimensional antennas that are mechanically robust and can withstand harsh environmental conditions. Republished from Aerospace and Defense Technology (May 2014)