UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ultra low profile VHF antennas for M2M communications via satellite He, Yin


Government transport regulations and practical considerations limit the height of terminal antennas used in satellite-based mobile asset tracking applications to less than 2.5 cm. For Orbcomm systems that operate at 138 MHz (downlink) and 150 MHz (uplink), this implies an antenna that is just over one-hundredth of a wavelength tall. Achieving good efficiency and operating bandwidth with such an ultra low profile antenna is fundamentally difficult. Here we consider the possibility of using a multi-arm normal mode cylindrical helix antenna to achieve a significant fraction of the performance of a full size Orbcomm reference antenna in a more compact form. In order to simplify impedance matching, we introduced an internal magnetic coupling loop that can be increased or decreased in radius in order to achieve a good match. In order to identify the optimum design, we assessed the radiation efficiency and bandwidth of the antenna as a function of the key design parameters (helix height, radius, number of arms, number of turns, feed loop radius, presence or absence of crossbars that connect the arms at the top of the helix) using simulations and validated the results by measuring the performance of selected hardware prototypes. Further, we developed an equivalent circuit model that allows one to extract key design information much more quickly than would be possible by simulation or measurement. Our design curves show that bandwidth can only be increased with height and is independent of radius at ULP height. We found that efficiency increased significantly with helix radius but the presence of crossbars yielded only a marginal increase in efficiency. A pair of ULP antennas is required for uplink and downlink. To connect two such antennas to a standard Orbcomm modem with a single antenna port, we considered three duplexer designs: a carrier operated relay, a diplexer filter, and a novel complementary feed. The latter is both simpler and more effective than the first two. Over a 72-hour period, our best ULP antenna design (four arms, no cross bar, helix radius ~0.04 wavelengths) was able to exchange 45% of the messages that a standard Orbcomm reference antenna could.

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