European Antennas has supplied blade antennas to Cranfield Aerospace for use on the Boeing X-48B Blended Wing Body (BWB) prototype.

Cranfield Aerospace built and provided two complete uninhabited airborne vehicles and a ground control station for Boeing, in accordance with requirements and specifications supplied by Phantom Works, Boeing’s advanced R&D unit.

The Boeing / NASA / US Air Force research laboratory / Cranfield Aerospace team will soon begin ground testing its concept in preparation for flight testing in early 2007, following earlier successful wind tunnel testing carried out at NASA Langley.

Produced to validate the structural, aerodynamic and operational advantages of the BWB concept, the air vehicles are 8.5% scale models, with a wingspan of 6.4m and maximum take off mass of 230kg. Flight characteristics have been scaled to extrapolate full-scale dynamic behaviour in order to learn more about the BWB’s low speed flight control characteristics, particularly during take-off and landing.

The three models of blade antenna supplied to Cranfield Aerospace by European Antennas have omni-directional radiation pattern coverage. Weighing less than 20g, they are robust, weatherproof, measure 105mm x 30mm (4.1in x 1.2in), and are 2.4mm (0.09in) thin. Each antenna covers a different frequency band, and forms part of the telecommand, telemetry, video and audio reception systems.

These antennas met the specification from Cranfield Aerospace of being light and small (so that aerodynamics would not be affected, and they would function whilst the experimental aircraft was being trialled in flight). It was critical to have 360° horizontal coverage with maximum elevation pattern for optimized signal reception at a fixed ground location, irrespective of the aircraft’s location and orientation.

The attributes of European Antennas’ blade antennas are well proven, as they have previously been used on diverse and demanding applications, including WRC and Grand Prix race cars, and UAVs.

European Antennas was able to provide dummy units for aerodynamic testing within three weeks, and final flight units within eight weeks, in order to meet critical deadlines for Cranfield Aerospace.