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Australian company using drone with Signal Hound analyzer to measure radiation patterns

LA CENTER, Wash.—People are finding ways to use drones for just about anything these days, and that includes the radio industry. Signal Hound has announced that Australian company Innovative Drone Solutions is combining a Signal Hound compact signal analyzer with a drone to characterize radiation patterns of tower antennas.

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Using Signal Hound’s USB-SA44B spectrum analyzer, the engineers are able to log RF fields and measure cell tower propagation patterns. The drone can fly up to 25 minutes and can measure up to 10 services. This technique has been used with AM, FM, VHF and UHF DVB-T broadcast technology.

Objective
To verify and diagnose the “shape” of new and existing broadcast antenna systems and verify
Effective Radiated Power (ERP) measurements based on:
• GPS location data (accurate to ±2m)
• Calculated Free space path loss
• Calibrated receive antenna gain factors
• Calibrated Feeder losses
• Measured Received field strength / channel power (accurate to ±1.5dB)
• Correction factors associated with the sampling methodology (i.e. AM, FM, DAB+, DVB-T)

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Overview / Methodology
The methodology follows that of the ITU Recommendation ITU-R SM.2056-1 “Airborne verification of antenna patterns of broadcasting stations”. Further to these recommendations, the UAV, with measuring equipment, will be setup using custom developed software that enables real-time configuration, measurement logging and reporting. The logging software allows for the input of a variety of broadcast services to be logged. Depending on the broadcast site characteristics, omnidirectional or directional antennas can be used. Once service and broadcast site information has been finalised, a ‘distance’ in the Far Field (FF) is chosen to perform a VRP flight to determine the peak height of the HRP. An HRP (full circumference) is performed at the peak VRP. Received data is logged and real-time calculations of HRP, VRP and ERP are performed and can be seen by the operator on the ground.