Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.
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52 unmanned systems inside April/May 2017 BREAKTHROUGH: KYMETA'S LOW POWER, FLAT ANTENNA Technology similar to what's in your TV screen is being used to build a new antenna with a lower price, profi le and power requirement— a breakthrough that could put the bandwidth of satellite communications within reach of connected cars, automated equipment, marine platforms and unmanned aircraft. The new mTenna u7 antenna taps the magic of metamaterials to create a fl at antenna that uses just 12 watts of power to support full duplex (two-way) communications with the Intelsat's satellite constellation. The antenna uses reconfi gurable holographic metamaterials with liquid crystal actuation. The result is an antenna that does not need to move and is so fl at it can be installed in a car roof. Metamaterials is a new area of research that combines materials and structures to create capabilities those materials would not have by themselves. "It's sort of like nanotechnology," said Nathan Kundtz, the president and CEO of Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta, which developed the mTennau7. "Where nanotechnology is a fi eld of inquiry that is generally about very small things, metamaterials' fi eld of inquiry is associated with what happens when you have ...thousands of individual micro elements, micro resonant elements, interacting with some sort of wave phenomena—in our case electromagnetic waves—and how they then operate as a medium." If it sounds complex, it is—but it shouldn't be entirely unfamiliar. "It's the exact same stack up as a television," Kundtz said. "So every single television has exactly the stack up with pixels that are tens of microns across. In our case our pixels are a millimeter or so across. " TV-maker Sharp is helping to produce the upcoming version, which is 70 cm in diameter. A smaller 20 cm version is in the works as are other form factors. The smaller version may be released as a standalone product for the Internet of Things, said Kundtz The 70 cm mTenna u7 will be available in May. Though aimed at the connected car market, the antenna was originally built for yachts. It is constructed to a marine ip66 standard, is hermetically sealed, has an O-ring sealed around the edges and additional protection inside in case there's a problem. "This will fl oat," Kundtz said. It also should be possible to adapt the mTenna u7 for use in aircraft by adding a heating element, Kundtz said. In fact, the fi rm notes on its website, the lack of moving parts, which are more likely to break under stress, makes the antenna more reliable for unmanned aircraft. " THIS (ANTENNA) IS SMALL ENOUGH THAT IN AN ARMORED VEHICLE SCENARIO OR IN A DIPLOMATIC VEHICLE SCENARIO IT CAN BE EMBEDDED DIRECTLY INTO THE ROOF OF A CAR—OR IT CAN BE MOUNTED ON THE ROOF. …EVEN A PRIUS CAN EASILY TAKE ONE OF THESE." Nathan Kundtz, president and CEO, Kymeta Technology similar to what's in your TV screen is being used Photo courtesy of Kymeta INFRASTRUCTURE COMMUNICATIONS Space X has filed with the Federal Communications Commission for a 4,000-satellite constellation to sup- port broadband. The Swiss startup ELSE is planning a network of LEO satellites focused on machine-to-machine communication. Via Satellite reported at the end of 2016 that ELSE had raised $4 million, which should enable it to launch two demonstration satel- lites by the end of this year. The service will support fixed M2M communications but also mobile linkages. ELSE has been approached by drone firms as well as maritime and au- tomotive organizations, Fabien Jordan, co- founder and CEO of ELSE, said in the Via Satellite interview. Global Updates Inmarsat will be relying on its constellation of geostationary satellites to support its new deal to provide secure software updates for driver- less and connected vehicles. "You know your average car coming off the production line today has over six mil- lion lines of code—and software bugs and the need for updates," said Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat Global, Ltd. Maintaining that soft- ware has become "a really thorny issue" for car manufacturers, he told attendees at the Satellite 2017 conference held in Washington in March. Fixing software bugs cost the in- dustry $7 billion dollars globally in 2016, he said, and triggered 17 percent of the product recalls. "That's projected to be a $40 billion dollar problem and 50 percent of the prod- uct recalls in the years to come because of the increasing software demand for the autono- mous cars." Inmarsat announced early this year that it will team up with Continental, a technology company that has been doing over-the-air up- dates for more than a decade. The companies will offer rapid, global over-the-air updates over Inmarsat's network. One of the advan- tages of using Inmarsat's constellation is its