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Antenna Design for Small UAV Locator Application

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Systems Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering

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Paper Authors


Steve E. Watkins Missouri University of Science & Technology

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Dr. Steve E. Watkins is Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, formerly the University of Missouri-Rolla. He is currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the USAF Academy. His interests include educational innovation. He is active in IEEE, HKN, SPIE, and ASEE including service as the 2015-17 ASEE Zone III Chair and as an officer in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Division. His Ph.D. is from the University of Texas at Austin (1989).

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Randall L Musselman U.S. Air Force Academy

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Randall Musselman received the B.S.E.E. degree from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, and the M.S. and Ph.D degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, CO, in 1982, 1990, and 1997, respectively. His current position is Professor and Curriculum Director, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, U.S. Air Force Academy, where he is in charge of the electromagnetics and communications courses and oversees all department curricular matters. Dr. Musselman is a licensed Professional Engineer and a member of Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu honor societies. Professor Musselman has authored over 60 journal articles, conference papers, and book chapters in the field of electromagnetic propagation effects and antenna design.

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A locator project for small UAVs is described that emphasizes antenna design. A UAV locator system must include an on-board transmitter with capability for providing a beacon signal in the event of a crash and an operator receiver that is tailored for a transmitter hunt. Hence, antenna topics can be discussed in relation to electronics hardware, electrical power, systems integration, and UAV technology. This specific context for applying antenna theory can highlight the relevance and trade-offs in what are often abstract topics. The design criteria for the transmitting and receiving antennas in a locator system include constraints on size, power, weight, and performance as well as frequency selection based on radio-wave propagation characteristics. This work defines locator design objectives and constraints for small unmanned aircraft/systems (small UAVs or sUAS), i.e. aircraft defined by weights between 55lbs and 0.55 lbs. Possible antenna approaches for the transmitting antenna and the receiving antenna are presented with regard to directionality, frequency, power, range, etc. An example design is presented as a case study for illustrating trade-offs among the design choices. The difficulty and scope for a student project may be varied by the number of unspecified constraints and the required results, e.g. antenna simulations or anechoic-chamber testing. As an educational resource, the material can be used as an assignment for electromagnetics and antenna courses, as a focus project for capstone design teams, and as a UAV-related extra-curricular activity or competition. The paper provides a structure for organizing the material, a case study to illustrate possible choices, and recommendations on educational implementation.

Watkins, S. E., & Musselman, R. L. (2017, June), Antenna Design for Small UAV Locator Application Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27594

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