TITLE: Scalable Directional
Antenna for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
Battlespace, Electronics, Sensors
ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PEO IWS
6.0, Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) Program Office
The technology within this
topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR),
22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related
material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the
Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls
dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals
(FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed,
and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s)
in accordance with section 5.4.c.(8) of the Announcement. Offerors are advised
foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to
the technical data under US Export Control Laws.
OBJECTIVE: Develop a
scalable, directional C-Band active array antenna system suitable for Group-IV
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) platforms.
DESCRIPTION: The Navy is
seeking to develop alternative routing of data through low-cost airborne
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) nodes to enable high data bandwidth, robust
connectivity, and data routing flexibility between platforms in the surface
fleet. A critical component necessary for this capability is a directional
antenna architecture that has the flexibility to scale in size, weight, and
power (SWaP), and is suitable for airborne applications. Such an antenna
architecture would enable line-of-sight networked communications utilizing
Group-IV UAV platforms (for the purpose of demonstrating this capability, an
MQ-8C Fire Scout will be used as the air platform). This will greatly increase
data throughput, system availability, and the ability to dynamically implement
alternative routing, thereby improving the fleet’s ability to successfully
execute complex multi-ship missions.
Currently the Navy utilizes both omnidirectional and point-to-point systems to
move data between surface combatants, air platforms, and ground forces. A need
exists to develop an airborne node that can provide directional data
distribution enabling rapid rerouting between platforms, and achieve robustness
in hostile Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI) environments. Current
directional airborne systems rely on antennas that have SWaP attributes
unsuitable for installation on Group-IV UAV platforms. An active array antenna
subsystem that minimizes the SWaP footprint will enable enhanced data routing
utilizing a wide range of UAV platforms and provide robust alternative data
paths for the fleet. Achieving these attributes requires an innovative antenna
architecture that is highly directional, and supports rapid beam steering. No
suitable C-Band antenna exists today in the commercial marketplace.
Achieving an innovative UAV solution provides two specific benefits to the
warfighter. First, it enables a greater proliferation of geographically
diverse network nodes enabling data routing around EMI sources. Secondly, it
can provide a relay functionality that supports sustained network connectivity
between geographically diverse nodes. In both cases the system performance can
be improved while avoiding deployment of high-cost tactical assets or deploying
manned systems for these functions.
The Navy is seeking an airborne, small SWaP, half-duplex, C-band active antenna
subsystem that achieves 39dBW directional effective radiated power (EIRP) while
minimizing sidelobes in transmit, and maximizing gain minus noise figure (G-F)
and dynamic range in receive. This high EIRP is required in order to close
links to the horizon in a variety of weather and EMI conditions while the high
dynamic range is required to discern distant signals in the presence of nearby
signals and noise. Rapid beam steering is necessary to support large network
sizes with a highly directional array. On other platforms, this combination of
requirements has resulted in antenna subsystems that have a large SWaP
footprint. Accomplishing all the above on a UAV while minimizing SWaP will
require utilization of modern technologies and technical innovation. The
platform for this project will be the MQ-8C Fire Scout. It is critical that
the architecture developed for the antenna is scalable from this design point
to alternative configurations, enabling lower or higher performance based on
available SWaP. For example, the primary components of the design could be
scaled down to 50% of the SWaP or up to 200% based on a future design point.
The driving requirements for the needed technology advances should result in a
scalable, light-weight, high-efficiency, air-cooled antenna subsystem and must
achieve high directivity and rapid beam steering in a small antenna, should
achieve an overall transmit efficiency of no less than 25% and be capable of a
transmit duty cycle of 50%.
The antenna subsystem will provide interfaces that include: Radio Frequency
(RF)-Transmit (Tx), RF-Receive (Rx), digital control, and power. Digital
control commands to the antenna will include a trigger signal, azimuth
beam-steering angle, RF frequency information, Tx power level, Tx or Rx switch
control, and diagnostic queries. All antenna control functions such as power
level adjustments, phase and amplitude control, and Tx and Rx switching will be
processed within the antenna subsystem. Any necessary power conditioning and
cooling will also be included within the antenna subsystem. The antenna subsystem
is not required to perform any up or down conversion or signal processing. The
antenna subsystem developed under this SBIR will also be required to interface
to the MQ-8C Fire Scout for both power and physical attachment. The antenna
architecture should be scalable for different levels of RF performance and SWaP
so that the basic building blocks can be used across multiple applications
(although each application would be expected to have a unique design).
The antenna should be a steerable active phased array that operates in C-Band,
and is able to rapidly form beams in any azimuth position at any frequency
within the operating bandwidth (BW). Additionally, the antenna pattern must
provide good coverage for all body orientations during flight with a goal of no
more than 3dB of loss relative to maximum gain, in the absence of body
blockage, within an elevation of ±10 degrees to the horizon. The gain roll-off
for elevation angles less than -10 degrees should be proportional to gain loss
with slant range. To minimize body blockage, the antenna will be housed into
two pods, each with a 180° azimuthal coverage. The payload weight and volume
available on UAVs is similarly constraining; therefore, a maximum weight limit
of 75lbs. per pod should be assumed for the antenna subsystem. The antenna and
supporting equipment housed in each pod is allocated a maximum payload
dimension of 43.0” long x 10.3” high x 10.3” deep and an available power of
250W at 28VDC. Each antenna will include a self-contained cooling systems
using ambient air with parameters based on worldwide operational conditions at
altitudes from 1kft-15kft, and any necessary power conversion/filtering
The company should identify how they plan to achieve their design and provide
supporting evidence for the feasibility of its Phase II design. This should
include an engineering notebook that details all calculations and assumptions
used, drawings and graphics to clearly communicate the design, performance
predictions and supporting model(s), and material that clearly identifies
scalability and substantiates predictions.
Background documents such as the interface control documents and the Phase II
antenna subsystems performance specification will be provided by NAVSEA. The
Phase II effort will likely require secure access. NAVSEA will process the
DD254 to support the contractor for personnel and facility certification for
secure access. The Phase I effort will not require access to classified
information. If need be, data of the same level of complexity as secured data
will be provided to support Phase I work.
Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective
contractor(s) must be U.S. Owned and Operated with no Foreign Influence as
defined by DOD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating
Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented
and approved by the Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor
and/or subcontractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level
facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced
phases of this contract as set forth by DSS and NAVSEA in order to gain access
to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United
States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected
company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M
during the advance phases of this contract.
PHASE I: Define and develop a
concept for a scalable, directional C-Band active array antenna subsystem.
Demonstrate the feasibility of the concept in meeting Navy needs and establish
that the concept can be feasibly produced. Feasibility will be established by
some combination of initial analysis or modeling. Feasibility will also be
established by analysis of the proposed SWaP footprint, suitable for Group-IV
UAV platforms. The Phase I Option, if awarded, will include the initial design
specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype in Phase II.
Develop a Phase II Plan.
PHASE II: Based on the Phase
I results and the Phase II Statement of Work (SOW), develop and deliver a
prototype that will demonstrate the performance parameters outlined in the
description. Testing, evaluation, and demonstration are the responsibility of
the small business and should therefore be included in the proposal. Validation
of the prototype will be through comparison of model predictions to measured
performance. Prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology
for Navy and potential commercial use.
It is probable that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase
II (see Description section for details).
PHASE III DUAL USE
APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology to Navy use and
further refine the prototype according to the Phase III development plan to
determine its readiness for system integration and qualification testing. This
will be accomplished through platform integration and test events managed by
PEO IWS to transition the technology into Navy Group-IV UAV systems with an
initial integration onto the MQ-8C Fire Scout.
The efforts of the research in scalable, high-performance antennas will have
direct application to private sector industries that involve directional
communications between many small nodes over large areas. These applications
include transportation, air traffic control, and communication industries.
1. Akbar, F. and Mortazawi,
A. "Design of a compact, low complexity scalable phased array
antenna." 2015 IEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium, Phoenix, AZ,
2015, pp. 1-3. doi: 10.1109/MWSYM.2015.7167107. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281069226_Design_of_a_compact_low_complexity_scalable_phased_array_antenna
2. Mayo, R. and Harmer, S.
"A cost-effective modular phased array." 2013 IEEE International
Symposium on Phased Array Systems and Technology, Waltham, MA, 2013, pp. 93-96.
doi: 10.1109/ARRAY.2013.6731807. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=6731807
3. Neumann, N.,
Hammerschmidt, C., Laabs, M. and Plettemeier, D. "Modular steerable active
phased array antenna at 2.4 GHz." 2016 German Microwave Conference
(GeMiC), Bochum, 2016, pp. 333-336. doi: 10.1109/GEMIC.2016.7461624. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=7461624
4. “Autonomous Vehicles in
Support of Naval Operations, Chapter 4, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Capabilities
and Potential.” The National Academic Press, 2005, ISBN 0-309-09676-6; https://www.nap.edu/catalog/11379/autonomous-vehicles-in-support-of-naval-operations
5. Agrawal, A., Kopp, B.,
Luesse, M. and O’Haver, K. “Active Phased Array Antenna Development for Modern
Shipboard Radar Systems.” Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest, 2001, Vol. 22,
No. 4. http:// www.jhuapl.edu/techdigest/TD/td2204/Agrawal.pdf
KEYWORDS: Rapid Beam
Steering; Directional Airborne Systems; Scalable Directional Antenna; Small
SWaP; Phased Array; Group-IV Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
** TOPIC NOTICE **
These Navy Topics are part of the overall DoD 2018.1 SBIR BAA. The DoD issued its 2018.1 BAA SBIR pre-release on November 29, 2017, which opens to receive proposals on January 8, 2018, and closes February 7, 2018 at 8:00 PM ET.
Between November 29, 2017 and January 7, 2018 you may talk directly with the Topic Authors (TPOC) to ask technical questions about the topics. During these dates, their contact information is listed above. For reasons of competitive fairness, direct communication between proposers and topic authors is not allowed starting January 8, 2018 when DoD begins accepting proposals for this BAA.
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