Rohde & Schwarz Develops Direction Finding Antenna For Aircraft

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The new R&S®DF-ATC-S air traffic control DF system solution from Rohde & Schwarz was designed to provide accurate and reliable direction finding for both civil and military airports. The R&S®DF-ATC-S system enables ATC controllers to accurately determine the direction to the aircraft on the basis of its radio transmissions. These DF antennas are part of the new ATC direction finding solution (R&S DF-ATC), a system designed especially for ATC controllers that obtains accurate DF results for up to 32 channels in parallel. The system belongs to the larger CERTIUM LOCATE family.

The core component of the new ATC DF system is the compact and weatherproof R&S®DFU300 direction finding unit with a wideband digital direction finder, which is fast enough to process a multitude of frequency channels simultaneously. Up to 32 frequency channels can be processed with the direction finder at speeds that provide high DF quality of each individual channel.

Having completed five of the six contracted installations, the last proved to be the most challenging. The site was located within a forest and accessible only via a narrow track, making it unpassable for a truck-mounted crane. In order to avoid cutting down part of the forest, a more environmentally friendly aerial installation was chosen.

In 2018, DFS awarded Rohde & Schwarz a contract for R&S DF-ATC systems at the DFS center in Langen and five German airports (Nuremberg, Hamburg, Münster/Osnabrück, Stuttgart and Hanover). The systems increase the air traffic controller’s situational awareness by clearly referencing calling aircraft on a radar screen. The ATC DFs are housed in weatherproof units and usually mounted underneath a DF antenna that is three meters in diameter and weighs 120 kilograms. They are typically installed at a height of five meters, but to be taller than the surrounding trees, this was increased to 35 meters.

To reduce risks, the company avoided the winter season and performed the installation in late March. A special permit also needed to be obtained from local authorities. Despite adverse winds and the current security situation, the previous DF antenna could be removed from the helicopter and then the new DF antenna was held in position while a technician secured it on top of the mast.

“Installation by helicopter was a very special challenge and certainly not without risk, while the current security situation made it even more complicated organizationally,” explains Henrik Rausch, Senior Program Manager Monitoring and Network Testing at Rohde & Schwarz. “Site-by-site, we delivered and installed new direction finders and we are very proud to provide DFS with our latest technology. We have an excellent partnership with our customer, who benefits from our expertise in providing complete ATC direction finding systems as a turnkey solution. It is part of our advanced CERTIUM universe.”

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