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John Franzen 10-30-05 Revised 3-05-06 Figure 1 shows a three-antenna interferometer array. The array measures the DOA of an emitter located at angle with respect to the array boresight. If the emitter is sufficiently distant, a planar wave phasefront will intersect the interferometer array axis at an oblique angle arriving at each antenna later due to the difference in path length. The time difference of arrival is measured as an electrical phase angle between antenna pairs: 2 dij sin / . The DOA angle is thus related to the measured ij ij phase difference between pairs of antennas.

Fig. 1

The accuracy of the interferometer depends directly on the signal-to-noise ratio of the measured phase difference since any phase noise will induce error in the angle when the above equation is solved for DOA. It will be assumed that the phase noise is thermal noise. Random band-limited noise will cause the amplitude and phase of a sinusoidal signal to fluctuate. As shown in Figure 2, the noise signal can be referred to the measured signal by representing both as vectors rotating at the frequency of the measured signal. The signal vector stands still while the noise vector rotates about the tip of the signal vector at the rate n where n is the frequency of the noise and is the frequency of the signal. In Figure 2, s is the sinusoidal signal peak amplitude and nn is the rms noise amplitude. As the noise vector rotates, the signal phase fluctuates through an angle , where


nq s ni

. The band-limited noise vector nn is broken into two orthogonal

components as shown in Figure 2. The ni component is in phase with the amplitude of the signal, while the quadrature component, nq , is rotated 90. The in-phase error component adds to the signal vector s cos

t , varying its amplitude but not phase. The quadrature error component adds a random phase angle above and below the true signal, s cos t .


nq s ni
nq nn sin


s cos


nn cos

s nn cos( t )

Fig. 2

For large signal-to-noise ratios: s

ni , s

nq and s

s ni implies small




nq s

. The peak power of the sinusoidal signal is S

s2 . The total

noise power is N
2 nq

2 n

2 ni2 nq . The frequency of the narrow-band noise is

symmetrically distributed about the signal frequency

implies ni2

2 nq , therefore

N / 2 . Solving for the rms fluctuating phase angle,


in terms of the signal-to-noise

ratio yields:

N /2 S

1 . 2 S/N

If the phase difference between two antennas, each contaminated with uncorrelated noise is measured, then the total rms phase noise is given by

Tot .( rms )

N 2S

N 2S

N S 2


1 2

1 , S/N

assuming that both antenna signal-to-noise (S/N) ratios are the same. In general, it can be shown (Peyton Peebles: Radar Principles, John Wiley & Sons, 1998, page 455) that the lower-bound error in the phase measurement due to noise is

1 M S/N

, where S/N is the signal to noise power ratio in each channel; M is

2 the number phase measurements and M/2 is the number of phase-difference measurements that are averaged.
Finally, it is necessary to relate the phase noise to errors of the DOA angle measured from boresight. Using the interferometer equation, we can relate the sensitivity of the phase variance to the variance of the DOA angle as follows

d d

2 2

2 M (S / N )

2 d


Solving for yields the precision limit set by the thermal noise for the measurement of DOA angle .

2 M ( S / N ) 2 d cos 9.12o 2 M ( S / N ) d cos

, in radians.

, in degrees.

From this last equation, we note that the error associated with the DOA angle due to noise is magnified by the angular distance from boresight, i.e. the DOA of emitters close to boresight can be more accurately determined than for emitters located in angle far from the boresight. See Figure 3. Also, the error of the DOA angle decreases in proportion to the inverse square root of the number of measurements averaged. This approximation is accurate for SNR > 15 dB. The DOA error constitutes only that portion of the total angle error due to noise. A total system DOA error budget should include error parameters such as: impedance mismatch loss; receiver amplitude and phase imbalance; transmission line and equipment phase errors (especially antenna phase mismatch over frequency and angle); receiver dynamic range; antenna polarization losses; and platform position accuracy.

Fig. 3 4

% ******************************************************************************* % FILE: AoA_Err % DATE: 2-25-2005 % % Plots interferometer AoA error due to phase noise for various % signal-to-noise ratios for d/lambda = 0.5. % % % J. Franzen % ******************************************************************************* dtr = pi/180; SNR(1) = 15; SNR(2) = 20; SNR(3) = 25; SNR(4) = 30; SNR(5) = 40; M = 2; phi = 0:80; dphi = zeros(81,5); for k = 1:5 for j = 1:81 dphi(j,k) = sqrt(2)./(pi*cos(phi(j)*dtr)*sqrt(M*10^(SNR(k)/10)))/dtr; end end plot(phi,dphi(:,1),phi,dphi(:,2),phi,dphi(:,3),phi,dphi(:,4),phi,dphi(:,5),'LineWidth',2) xlabel('\theta (deg.)') ylabel('\sigma_\theta (deg.)') title('Interferometer Error, D/\lambda = 0.5') legend('SNR = 15 dB','SNR = 20 dB','SNR = 25 dB','SNR = 30 dB','SNR = 40 dB',0) grid on