News Feature | March 7, 2017

These Foldable, High-Throughput Antennas Can Fit Inside A Bag

By Jof Enriquez
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq

GATR-flex
Image courtesy of Cubic Corporation's GATR

Carnegie Technologies and Cubic Corp. this week unveiled separately their ultraportable and lightweight antenna systems that can fold to fit inside a small backpack or suitcase. Owing to their portability, these high-throughput antennas can be deployed quickly by military and civilian operators in remote and harsh environments, or when stealthy communication is necessary.

At the Satellite 2017 industry conference being held this week in Washington, D.C., Carnegie Technologies unveiled the "world's most lightest, most compact Ku antenna" — foldable and small enough to fit into a standard laptop backpack, and easy enough for one man to carry, assemble, and link in less than two minutes. The antenna's design features rugged UV-stabilized PVC with metalized reflector surfaces to deliver ultra-high throughput Ku-band transmissions.

“Our Ku antenna is perfect for things like remote oil drilling operations sending sample data for analysis, military reconnaissance operations sending encrypted photos, first responders monitoring wildfires and floods, or media outlets that need small, highly mobile crews to cover breaking news events,” said Paul Struhsaker, CTO of Carnegie Technologies, in a news release. “We wanted to expand the options and reduce the costs to make communications possible in the most remote and extreme circumstances when you need to quickly set up, send and receive transmissions, pack up and move on.”

San Antonio, Texas-based Carnegie Technologies developed the Foldable Ku Antenna in collaboration with U.S. defense contractor Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).

Another defense contractor, Cubic Corporation, launched this week its 0.75-meter, 20-pound foldable satellite antenna terminal, GATR-FLEX. It's the next iteration of portable and inflatable antenna systems technology developed by GATR, a company acquired by Cubic in 2015.

Taking a cue from GATR's inflatable ball antennas, Cubic's engineers developed a different variation of the composite material so that it won’t inflate, but instead, the dish pops into parabolic shape, and folds into the shape of a pizza slice without cracking or creasing. The folded GATR-FLEX can fit easily in a carry-on-sized suitcase, while the entire unit – which includes a feed, receiver, and amplifier – can be packed up into the same suitcase.

“Our main concept here is portability,” Victor Vega, a product development manager with Cubic’s GATR business unit, told The San Diego Union Tribune. “It all fits into an airline carry-on.”

Additionally, the system comes with a motor to point the dish in different directions, and with a precise controller to help improve the signal, especially in transmitting on high-frequency Ka-band, which requires more precise pointing, explains C4ISRNET.

Operating on both Ku and Ka band frequencies, GATR-FLEX is capable of transmitting signals from today’s high-bandwidth satellites — enabling multiple high-definition video streams, as well as command and control data traffic and voice communication simultaneously. It's designed to support military special operations, as well as oil exploration and disaster relief work. The antenna's small size and portability also allow for greater secrecy in intelligence operations.