Engineers Want Truck to Do Double Duty as Radio Transmitter

University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers believe they can increase the size of high-frequency antennas needed to transmit radio signals by turning the vehicles carrying them into transmitters.University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers believe they can increase the size of high-frequency antennas needed to transmit radio signals by turning the vehicles carrying them into transmitters.

Engineers with the University of Wisconsin-Madison have come up with a novel way to boost the size of high-frequency antennas needed to transmit military communications across great distances: Turn the vehicles carrying the antennas into transmitters.

Antennas must be at least a quarter the length of the radio waves they transmit in order to do the job effectively. The ideal size for an antenna is that of an average adult, according to the engineers. The research is supported by a $550,000 grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

So, to get around adding length to the antenna, Associate Professor Nader Behdad determined he could use the vehicles themselves to broadcast the radio signals.

It’s a clever way to go around the limitations set by the laws of physics,” he said in a statement released by the university. “From a practical point of view, the volume of the object on the military platform is the same, but we’ve effectively achieved a larger antenna.”

The university has demonstrated a proof of principle using computer simulations and scale models of simple military platforms.

The hurdle will be developing the materials that will allow the vehicle itself to be a transmitter. Currently, they don’t exist.

“It’s pretty clear that we cannot beat the laws of physics, although it’s not for lack of trying,” Behdad says.

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Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.