NovAtel's Annual Journal of GNSS Technology Solutions and Innovation

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Page 46 of 51

antcom 2014 For more Solutions visit velocity 47 •  electrical— designated frequencies, a particu- lar beam pattern, or special isolation on gain or noise. The resulting innovation is frequently designed into new Antcom products, with the latent effect of increased production volume once antenna cus- tomizations become integrated into a product line. In its customization activities, "Antcom is re- ally treated like a design house," says Huynh. "R&D, in part, is driven by demand." One relatively new customer is The Boeing Company's Advanced Technology Programs (ATP) Unmanned Undersea Systems group based in Huntington Beach, California. The Echo Ranger is a five-ton unmanned sub measuring 18 feet (5.5 metres) in length and capa- ble of operating autonomously at depths of 10,000 feet (3,000 metres). Developed in 2001, the Echo Ranger has evolved into a sophisticated underwa- ter vessel used for deep-dive reconnaissance, sur- veillance, and environmental operations. Recently, the ATP-Unmanned Underseas Sys- tems group wanted to add a combined GPS/wire- less machine-to-machine networking capability to the Echo Ranger, which required an antenna that could combine GPS and Freewave Technolo- gies' M2M functionality. The onboard equipment must be pressure-rat- ed to 10,000 psi at a minimum to ensure surviv- ability throughout all of Echo Ranger's potential depth changes. Connectors also have to be rated to the same pressures, and, in general, compo- nents on the vessel also need to be somewhat cor- rosion resistant. After a lengthy search, Boeing ATP turned to Antcom for a customized solution, the first proj- ect that has employed Antcom's antennas. The Echo Ranger uses the GPS antenna to ac- quire a fix prior to diving. The FreeWave is used to communicate health and status messages and gives the Echo Ranger's operators the ability to command the vessel to dive, says Brian Phelps, a systems en- gineer with ATP. Of course, while submerged the antennas cannot receive RF transmissions. Phelps had first contacted Antcom several years previously but never actually acquired products from the antenna manufacturer. De- spite the lack of orders, a member of Antcom's sales organization, MaryJo Jerro, stayed in touch with Phelps. "Once we got serious about developing these special antennas earlier this year," Phelps says, "MaryJo put me in touch with one of her design engineers—Ken Lee—so that we could set re- quirements and ensure that our requirements could be met." Customers can go through an archive of an- tenna schematics on to get a base- line idea of what might suit their needs. Then the engineering team at Antcom can modify designs to meet very specific requirements. "I was pleased to learn that [Antcom] had al- ready produced underwater antennas, and they quickly shared data with me during the process," says Phelps. Phelps provided Antcom with the antenna de- sign requirements that were passed on to him by his project engineers. "Antcom provided me with several different antenna designs that allowed the selection pro- cess to flow more easily," Phelps says. "There are so few COTS antennas available that could meet the requirements set by my team. Antcom was able to deliver a working antenna that is rated for our requirements." Up to this point, the Antcom antenna has only seen depths no greater than 300 feet, Phelps says, adding "I look forward to taking their antenna deeper and monitoring its performance." The custom Antcom GPS/wireless antenna is the small gray "button" mounted on top of the short yellow mast of the Echo Ranger, shown here during sea trials. The Antcom antenna used on the Echo Ranger " " We see customization as an investment in customers… We take risks and do things we've not done before.

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