Antenna Magus antenna information browser

Antenna Placement on Aircraft Platforms with FEKO and Antenna Magus

A dielectric patch antenna is designed to user specification with Antenna Magus and placed on an aircraft for simulation of various performance parameters with FEKO.

System integrators are often interested in the effects on performance of an antenna when it is mounted on an operational platform, but are not skilled at antenna design or electromagnetic simulation of antennas. The combination of FEKO and Antenna Magus provide system integrators with a easy to use tool chain that can be used for various applications of antenna placement analysis:

  • Siting an antenna on a complex platform in a position where operational performance is optimal.
  • Calculation of the radiation pattens of the antenna, both in isolation and when mounted on the intended platform.
  • Determination of the coupling between antennas that are closely spaced on the platform (S21).

This white paper presents a possible information flow through Antenna Magus and FEKO to satisfy the requirements of communication system integrators.

Project Specification:

  • Antenna:
    • Low-profile microstrip patch antenna
    • Centre frequency: 4.3 GHz
    • Gain: 9 dBi
    • E-plane beam width:  88 °
    • H-plane beam width: 52 °
  • Mount the antenna on the lower fuselage of an aircraft platform
  • Calculate the antenna radiation pattern within this operating evironment
  • Calculate the coupling of this antenna with a monopole antenna (centre frequency 4.3 GHz) mounted on top of the fuselage

Antenna Design

The first step in the design process is to identify a suitable antenna topology.  Antenna Magus is used in “Find mode” to identify suitable candidates.

Search for "patch", "medium gain", "pin feed".

Antenna Magus

Searching for appropriate antennas in Antenna Magus

Once appropriate antennas have been short-listed, they can be interrogated via the Antenna Magus “info browser” to compare detailed information about the antennas in deciding which will be the best suited to the current requirements.

Antenna Magus antenna information browser

Antenna Magus antenna information browser

The antennas that were considered in this case were either a triangular patch antenna or an elliptical ring patch antenna.  Both antennas satisfied the gain requirements.  A decision was made to select the triangular patch antenna for further work as its radiation pattern is closer to omni-directional than that of the elliptical ring patch.

Triangular patch antenna

Triangular patch antenna

Elliptical ring patch antenna

Elliptical ring patch antenna

Antenna Magus antenna information browser

The next step of the process is to design the antenna in the Antenna Magus “design mode”.  The antenna can be designed based on specification of the centre frequency and the substrate properties before performance is estimated.


Design process:
- Specify frequency as 4.3 GHz, free-space substrate (h = 2 mm)
- Estimate performance
- Tweak the centre frequency until resonance occurs at exactly 4.3 GHz

Antenna Magus

Tweaking designs in Antenna Magus

Having designed and tweaked an antenna in Antenna Magus and estimated its performance, prudent design methodology requires that the design be tested in a highly accurate 3D electromagnetic simulation software suite such as FEKO. The Antenna Magus design can easily be exported to FEKO, relying on the latest FEKO simulation functionality, to test the design in a rigorous analysis methodology.

In this case, FEKO confirms that the design results in the specified 4.3 GHz centre frequency and delivers 9.1 dBi gain.

CADFEKO model

CADFEKO model that was exported from Antenna Magus

Input impedance

Input impedance presented in POSTFEKO

Far-field gain

Far-field gain presented in POSTFEKO

Antenna Placement

The triangular patch antenna that was designed in Antenna Magus and confirmed correct in FEKO is intended for use on an aircraft platform.  This aircraft can be imported into CADFEKO and the antenna simply mounted in the correct position.

Antenna placement

Antenna placement in CADFEKO, using the “align” tool

FEKO’s Multilevel Fast Multipole Method (MLFMM) is a fast, full-wave, mathematically rigorous solution method that can be used to solve problems very accurately.  It can thus be used as a reference solution to test the results that were computed by the high frequency asymptotic simulation methods (e.g. Method of Moments-Physical Optics, MoM-PO).

MLFMM

MLFMM

MoM-PO (coupled)

MoM-PO (coupled)

MoM-PO (decoupled)

MoM-PO (decoupled)

3D gain patterns are a good way to evaluated installed antenna radiation patterns in a qualitative manner, but for detailed comparisons 2D plots remain the best.  2D comparisons of the radiation patterns computed with the different FEKO methods confirm that the MoM-PO is very accurate in front of the antenna, as is to be expected theoretically.

MLFMM and MoM-PO

Excellent agreement between MLFMM and MoM-PO

Different simulation methods have different areas of strength and weakness in application. The results shown here confirm that in front of a radiator, PO methods are highly accurate. As PO methods are asymptotic high frequency approximation methods, they will outperform full-wave solution methods in terms of simulation requirements.

Comparison of simulation requirements for different simulation methods in FEKO
(Antenna mounted on aircraft at 4.3 GHz)
MLFMM Coupled MoM – PO Decoupled MoM – PO Decoupled MoM – Large Element PO
Hardware Intel IA 64
12 CPUs
1.6 GHz
Intel Itanium 2
4 CPUs
1.5 GHz
Intel IA 64
12 CPUs
1.6 GHz
Intel IA 64
1 CPU
1.6 GHz
Runtime 2 hours 13 hours 1.7 hours 0.48 hours
Memory 36 GByte 24 GByte 6.6 GByte 0.026 GByte
# mesh triangles 1,832,217 1,731,743 1,731,743 29,812
# unknowns 2,747,102 2,597,414 2,597,414 44,759

Antenna Coupling Analysis

Coupling between different antennas that are mounted on the same platform can easily be modelled in FEKO by computing S-parameters between the two antenna ports.  For antenna coupling, only the MLFMM is a suitable simulation methods as it is the only method that accurately models mutual coupling and the shadow regions of a model.

CADFEKO model

CADFEKO model for a microstrip patch coupling to a monopole antenna, both mounted on a fighter airframe

Coupling (S21)

Coupling (S21) is very low between the microstrip patch and the monopole