by Donald Shepherd, Chairman – AR RF/Microwave Instrumentation
MPD: The defense market for RF and microwave components through subsystems appears to be more lucrative than in recent years, especially in the area of electronic warfare. If your company sells into the defense market, what are your thoughts about how it will perform in 2017?
By providing a cross section of RF products, and observing many global factors influencing military needs for products and systems, it is apparent that innovations are continuing to drive technological advancements in RF and microwave components. As a direct result of this ever increasing need for innovative products and systems, it is anticipated that there will continue to be an emphasis on certain areas such as EMC testing and electronic warfare. The EMC test market, for instance, is expected grow at a fairly consistent rate as in previous years, with a healthy level dedicated to expansion of test capabilities. We also foresee healthy growth in areas involving advanced technologies, such as communication.
Although AR is well known as a broadband amplifier company, it’s important to remember that in-house engineering departments are developing a wide range of amplifiers and hybrid power modules to address the needs of many markets, including electronic warfare and other military RF needs. For instance, AR Modular produces booster amplifiers for military personnel and systems. These are militarized narrowband amplifiers, in many cases body-worn, that accurately reproduce the source signal. Evidence of the success of these amplifiers, in terms of soldiers’ lives saved, is well documented.
The safeguarding of military equipment and personnel from EW threats requires test scenarios that closely mimic the real world threats. Many of the threats seen today are increasing in bandwidth, power or both. Luckily, here at ARI, we continue to push the boundary in terms of bandwidth and power each year by releasing state-of-the-art amplifiers with up to 50 kW of power and other test products to satisfy these needs. These amplifiers are of Class A design, thus providing the best modulation and signal reproduction with the lowest harmonic distortion.
MPD: The fifth generation of cellular is rapidly approaching and the immense scope of 5G seems almost certain to present significant opportunities for the RF and microwave industry. What is your perspective on this issue?
The FCC’s ruling that opens up nearly 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum for flexible, mobile and fixed use wireless broadband sets the foundation for 5G. The emergence of 5G wireless systems will not only impact commercial products, but also ISM, military, aviation and automotive products as well. Within each sector, it is expected to see the birth of new products, systems, and greater machine to machine (M2M) communication. The biggest challenge for this emerging 5G would be proprietary modulation techniques and RF immunity from unintended threats. Therefore, as with all new RF technologies we see an explosive potential for solid state RF amplifiers and hybrid power modules. Areas such as EMC testing, R&D and product production performance testing will require new solid state amplifiers to address these specific needs. AR specializes in manufacturing applications oriented toward these power amplifiers. In addition, AR maintains positions on standards committees to support a responsible test approach that considers the environment of products. For instance, AR’s CW and solid state pulse amplifiers and USB pulse power sensors are products of choice for EMC and RF immunity testing on several wireless technologies. R&D, production, pre-compliance and compliance test systems are available from AR to meet each customer’s specific requirements.
MPD: The Internet of Things (IoT) might better be called the Wireless Internet of Things, as without RF and microwave technology, little could be accomplished. If your company is selling into this market, please provide your perspective on IoT and its prospects for the RF and microwave industry.
The expectation that products must operate in their intended environment has never been truer than with the Internet of Things (IoT). The system level complexities, as well as the growing interaction with humans, is truly astounding. The worldwide LTE rollout and evolution of the IoT will continue to influence commercial, automotive, military and aerospace industries. As the number of IoT products increases, so does the potential for disturbance (RF interference) among them. The largest challenge for these emerging applications will be RF security and safety, resulting in the need for appropriate EMC standards and testing of these products to ensure their proper operation in the intended environments. These will require RF test solutions in which AR specializes: providing various turnkey systems for RF immunity and emission testing designed to customer specific requirements. It is also certain that the upfront adaption of EMC design and preliminary EMC testing using AR’s turnkey solutions (i.e., emission and immunity) would provide manufacturers a greater competitive edge in their market.
MPD: In your opinion, what are the RF and microwave technologies to watch in 2017?
By providing an array of RF products, across the various sectors, we believe innovations are continuing to drive technological advancements in the RF and microwave components arena.
At the component level, we see a continuation of modest growth occurring in 2017. AR is already utilizing many of the newest and advanced component technologies on the market, and will continue to do so in 2017. This, along with custom, state-of-the art module and system designs, are what allows AR to achieve the incredibly wide bandwidths and incredibly high powers that are a cornerstone of our reputation. In terms of system-level technologies, AR is continuing to add new features and standard capabilities to our Multi-Tone Radiated Immunity Test System. In 2017, it is anticipated that Multi Tone methodologies will be added into international EMC testing standards. With the ubiquitous and congested nature of EM threats in today’s world, the Multi-Tone can produce a more realistic representation of real-world threats. Additionally, the Multi-Tone provides a significant reduction in test time over traditional single-tone testing.