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Performance Evaluation of Monolithic Thin-walled

Ellipsoidal Radome for Airborne Steerable Antenna


Asif Rizwan, Diptiman Biswas
Aeronautical Development Establishment
Defence R & D Organisation, Ministry of Defence
Govt. of India, Bengaluru 560075
contactasifrizwan@gmail.com

Abstract For long-range Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)


an onboard radome-enclosed directional antenna is the most
practical way-out. In this paper an airborne monolithic thinwalled radome is designed and evaluated by optimizing different
design parameters. The design and optimization was carried out
through electromagnetic simulations and the radome
performance has been evaluated experimentally.

on the output. OPAT involves: a) Changing one input


parameter, keeping others at their nominal values, then, b)
Returning the parameter to its nominal value and then
repeating for each of the other inputs in the same way.

3-D Gain
Pattern

KeywordsMonolithic Radome, Steerable Antenna

I.

INTRODUCTION

For short to medium range UAVs with limited payloads,


an onboard omni antenna is more than sufficient to meet the
data-link requirements. However, to support high data-rates
due to a variety of payloads over longer ranges, onboard
directional antenna is the most practical way-out. To ensure
un-interrupted Line-Of-Sight (LOS) communication between
Ground Control Station (GCS) and UAV performing different
maneuvers, the onboard directional antenna has to
continuously look towards the GCS, which calls for a steering
mechanism that can rotate 360 in Azimuth plane. This can be
achieved with the help of a steerable mechanism housed inside
a radome along with the directional antenna. The basic
function of an airborne radome is to protect the enclosed
antenna assembly from environmental effects and
aerodynamic drag. Ideally, radome should be transparent to
electromagnetic radiations, with minimum distortion, in the
operational frequency band. To achieve this, it is important
that radome is electrically thin and has a low dielectric
constant & loss tangent. However, requirements such as high
strength, performance at extreme operating temperatures and
stringent environment preclude them in most cases [1].
The Aim of present work was to design and evaluate
radome for onboard steerable antenna. The critical parameters
of design were to finalize radome thickness and radome
separation from illuminating antenna, to ensure that electrical
performance of steerable antenna is not deteriorated.
II.

Thin-walled
Ellipsoidal Radome

2x4 Patch
Array Antenna

Fig. 1. Simulation Model of Radome enclosed Patch Array Antenna

Various radome parameters that are expected to affect the


radiation pattern of an antenna (Dielectric Constant, Loss
Tangent, Thickness and Radome distance from illuminating
Antenna) were studied in this analysis.
The analysis was carried out by plotting radiation pattern
of antenna, with and without radome, at different input values
as shown in Fig. 2. The insertion loss was computed and
plotted as a function of corresponding input parameter. The
results were verified by experimental measurements in
anechoic chamber. Fig. 3 shows experimental Gain Pattern
comparison of antenna with and without radome.

MODELING

Fig. 1 shows cross-sectional view of the simulation setup


with a radiating C-band patch antenna (2x4) enclosed by an
ellipsoidal radome. The analysis has been carried out in
FEKO-electromagnetic simulation software by changing oneparameter-at-a-time (OPAT), to see what effect this produces

III.

RESULTS

In this section we present the results, with each subsection


devoted to analyze radome performance as a function of a
particular radome design parameter.

Fig. 5. Insertion Loss as a function of radome Loss Tangent

C. Radome Thickness
Radome Thickness was changed from 0.5 mm to 2 mm in
steps of 0.25 mm and the Insertion Loss of radome was
observed keeping other parameters at their nominal values.
Radome Insertion Loss increases almost linearly with increase
in Radome Thickness as shown in Fig. 6.
Fig. 2. Polar Gain Pattern of antenna with and without radome

A. Dielectric Constant
Dielectric Constant of radome was changed from 4 to 5 in
steps of 0.2 and the Insertion Loss of radome was observed
keeping other parameters at their nominal values. Radome
insertion loss increases almost linearly with increase in
Dielectric Constant as shown in Fig. 4.

Fig. 6. Insertion Loss as a function of radome Thickness

D. Antenna Distance from Radome


Distance of antenna from radome was changed from 30
mm to 207.5 mm in steps of 2.5 mm and the radome insertion
loss was observed keeping other parameters at their nominal
values. Radome insertion loss is a sinusoidal function of
radome distance from antenna with a period of half
wavelength (/2) as shown in Fig. 7.
Fig. 4. Insertion Loss as a function of radome Dielectric Constant

B. Loss Tangent
Loss Tangent of radome was changed from 0.01 to 0.06 in
steps of 0.01 and the insertion loss of radome was observed
keeping other parameters at their nominal values. Radome
Insertion Loss increases with increase in Loss Tangent as
shown in Fig. 5.

IV.

DISCUSSION

Actual radome used in this study is made of multiple


layers of glass fabric laid-up in a particular orientation. Due to
complex manufacturing process of radome, material errors
(Dielectric Constant and Loss Tangent) are inevitable. Effect
of material errors on electrical performance of radome is not
very profound as shown in Fig. 4 & 5 [2].

The primary function of radome is to protect enclosed


antenna assembly and electronics from environmental effects,
which will be guaranteed by increasing the thickness of
radome. However, trade-off has to be reached-at between
strength & electrical performance and at the same time
keeping a check on total onboard weight of radome, as evident
from Fig. 6.
Similarly, the distance of illuminating antenna from
radome surface is a trade-off between electrical performance
and shape (size) of radome. One of the reasons for not
positioning the illuminating antenna in close proximity of
radome and choosing an ellipsoidal shape is to avoid sharp
contours, which will in turn reduce our bore-sight errors.
Further, if radome is in the near-field of illuminating antenna,
the losses are considerably larger than calculated by a simple
plane wave transmission loss [3]. It can be seen from Fig. 7
that the losses increase as we bring the radome surface in the
near-field of illuminating antenna as compared to the losses
when radome surface is in far-field of antenna (> 2). As the
distance of illuminating antenna increases from radome,
insertion loss follows a near sinusoidal variation with a period
of half wavelength (/2) at the operational frequency. Further,
antenna peak-gain can be increased if illuminating antenna is
suitably positioned from a radome of particular thickness
(negative insertion loss as shown in Fig. 6 & 7).

V. CONCLUSION
Radome design for a particular application is an intricate
process of optimization between the electrical performance of
radome and its design parameters. The final model was
realized after many design iterations and cycles of testing and
measurements.
VI. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The authors express their sincere thanks to Sri P. Srikumar,
Director ADE and Dr V Ramachandra, Ex-Head FTTT for
their encouragement and constant support to carry out the
work and also for permitting this paper for publication and
presentation at the conference.
VII. REFERENCES
[1]
[2]

[3]

Kozakoff, D. J., Analysis of Radome-Enclosed Antennas, 2nd ed.,


Artech House, Inc., Norwood, 2010.
EM Performance Analysis of Radomes With Material Properties Errors
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Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters, IEEE Volume: 13
DOI: 10.1109/LAWP.2014.2320898; Publication Year: 2014 , Page(s):
848 - 851
Characterization of the effects of thin radomes on antennas for space
applications;
Faust,
W.P.
;
Rahmat-Samii,
Y.
Antennas and Propagation Society International Symposium, 1994. APS. Digest Volume: 2; DOI: 10.1109/APS.1994.407955; Publication
Year:1994,
Page(s):906-909,
vol.2

Fig. 7. Insertion Loss as a function of Antenna Distance from radome

Fig. 3. Experimental Gain pattern comparison of antenna with & without radome as measured in anechoic chamber