UAV-based Antenna Measurements at CNR-IEIIT

Although it may look like planet Mars, the landscape is from the Murchison desert in Western Australia. This UAV-mounted flying test source (radio-frequency) has been developed by CNR-IEIIT (in collaboration with INAF and Politecnico di Torino) to characterize the first prototypes (50 - 350 MHz) of the Square Kilometer Array (, the largest international radiotelescope ever built (to be deployed in the next years). The SKA science cases span from the epoch of rehonization, cosmic dawn and pulsar detection to the cradle of life (searching for life and planets).

Researchers of CNR-IEIIT already performed several international measurement campaigns in Cambridge (UK), Dwingeloo (The Netherlands) and Western Australia. In the picture, Dr. Virone and Dr. Paonessa are performing the calibration of the MWA acquisition system (precursor of SKA) and discussing about the extreme wind conditions that were challenging their drones in the desert.

The activity on VHF payloads started in 2012 and has been documented in many scientific paper [1]-[4]. The new developments concern near-field strategies and millimeter-wave frequencies. The first prototype of calibration system developed by CNR-IEIIT for the 50-GHz [5] instrument of the Large Scale Polarization Explorer (LSPE, a project funded by the Italian Space Agency) is shown below. The scientific aim of LSPE is the measurement of the B-modes of the Cosmic Microwave Background. This will verify the validity of available cosmological models.


[1]G. Virone et al., “Strong Mutual Coupling Effects on LOFAR: Modeling and In Situ Validation,” IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation, vol. 66, no. 5, pp. 2581-2588, May 2018. DOI: 10.1109/TAP.2018.2816651
[2] G. Pupillo et al., “Medicina Array Demonstrator: calibration and radiation pattern characterization using a UAV-mounted radio-frequency source,” Experimental Astronomy, vol. 39, issue 2, pp. 405-421, June 2015. DOI: 10.1007/s10686-015-9456-z
[3] P. Bolli et al., “Near-Field Experimental Verification of the EM Models for the LOFAR Radio Telescope,” IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters, vol. 17, issue 4, pp. 613–616, Apr. 2018. DOI: 10.1109/LAWP.2018.2859828
[4] F. Paonessa, L. Ciorba, G. Virone, P. Bolli, A. Magro, A. McPhail, D. Minchin, and R. Bhushan, “SKA-low Prototypes Deployed in Australia: Synoptic of the UAV-based Experimental Results,”, URSI RADIO SCIENCE LETTERS, VOL. 2, 2020, DOI: 10.46620/20-0021
[5] F. Paonessa et al., "Design and Verification of a Q-Band Test Source for UAV-Based Radiation Pattern Measurements," in IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement, vol. 69, no. 12, pp. 9366-9370, Dec. 2020, doi: 10.1109/TIM.2020.3031127.