Dielectric introduced a new engineering service that enables drone operators to fully and accurately characterize antenna azimuth and elevation performance without special waivers from the FAA. The service has been successfully beta-tested and is now “in production” at several broadcast tower sites.
The new service is a response to a common dilemma facing drone operators: To fully characterize an antenna’s elevation pattern, the drone flight must be performed in the elevation far-field, approximately several thousand feet from the antenna. Applications for FAA waivers have been stalled for more than 18 months in some cases, preventing the drone operator from completing measurements verifying antenna performance, according to the manufacturer.
The less-attractive alternatives for broadcasters include close-in flights, which are accurate for azimuth only; or the less accurate and time-intensive ground-based techniques. Since the field measurements are reimbursable for “repacked” broadcasters, the delay in obtaining an FAA waiver can result not only in a repack project dragging on much longer than necessary, but also in the delayed identification of installation problems.
Realizing that no special waivers were required from the FAA for drone flights within the tower structure shield, Dielectric devised a method to confirm the antenna’s far-field elevation pattern, in addition to the azimuth pattern, from data gathered within that shield. This technique has an added advantage, according to the company, since far-field measurements are subject to signal reflections, multipath and interference, as are the more complicated ground-vehicle measurements.
“The ability to compare near-field measurements with the virtual antenna model confirms that measurements in the far field would return the same data but, just to be sure, we carried out far-field drone measurements as well. The results matched,” said Dielectric Electrical Engineer Nicole Starrett. “The added benefit is that the antenna characteristics can be quickly transformed to any distance, near or far, for comparison.”
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