The world's first range of antennas made from textiles has been developed after more than two years of research co-operation between the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency and Applied Radar, a US communications and navigation technology company.

Known as the ET-100 series, the antennas are made from several kinds of nylon and other industrial fabrics. The textile material incorporates "conductive patterns" to operate as a lightweight antenna that can conform with the aircraft's structure. The antennas can pick up signals from 400Mhz to 3Ghz. However, individual antennas can only cover around 20% of this bandwidth. The most efficient antenna operates between 480Mhz and 520Mhz and is around 30cm2 (4.65in2).

An antenna's efficiency is measured against its ability to absorb signal energy or transmit it. Further work is required to improve the efficiency of wider- band antennas. The antennas are unidirectional, but omnidirectional antennas and a beam-forming antenna are being developed for the US Air Force. These would be useful on unmanned air vehicles, says Applied Radar, which adds: "We have talked to people about putting together a project for putting antennas on a UAV or airliner but there is no timetable."

Source: Flight International