Alaris’ New ESS Equipment Up and Running

Alaris Antennas has recently acquired and installed specialised ESS equipment, which will allow us to conduct a number of various environmental tests in-house.

The new equipment was designed, manufactured and installed by a South African company and consists of a walk-in temperature and humidity chamber as well as two vibration tables.

Environmental Stress Screening, or ESS, is a method used to identify possible product failures which are likely to occur in the actual service of the equipment. It was developed to assist electronic manufacturers to detect product defects during the design and production stages. This specialised equipment is widely used in various applications and can form part of the manufacturing process or it can be used in new product qualification testing.

ESS involves the testing of the impact of extreme temperature cycling (the products are exposed to a number of fast temperature changes which can range from – 30O  to 70+O C), vibration testing, shock and humidity variations.

Alaris believes that this implementation will advance customer service, since any defects uncovered during the Environmental Stress Screening process will lead to improvements in the manufacturing process.  In addition it will guarantee better operational reliability and performance of our products.

                     

AAD 2018 – Exhibiting at Home

Alaris Antennas will once again be attending the AAD Expo as part of the South African National Pavilion.

The Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) is Africa’s only aerospace and defence expo that combines both a trade exhibition and an air show. Held biennially in the City of Tshwane – South Africa’s administrative capital, the AAD Expo is one of South Africa’s largest contributors to the country’s GDP in show years, and is regarded as a national asset.

Rated amongst the top six exhibitions in the world, it brings together the largest gathering of industry players in aerospace and defence with more than 450 participating companies from over 30 countries. The AAD Expo provides a conducive environment for business-to-business linkages, as well as an ideal platform for engaging in dialogue and discourse on international defence, aerospace and other related best practices.

For more information on the expo, please visit www.aadexpo.co.za

 

Impacting lives in the Alaris community

Mandela Day 2018 was celebrated at Alaris Antennas with the theme #ActionAgainstPoverty.

This annual international day in honour of Nelson Mandela, is celebrated annually on 18 July, Mandela’s birthday.  Mandela Day is a global call to action that celebrates the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world, the ability to make an impact.

At Alaris, we embrace the concept of “changing one life at a time” and this year, we decided to focus on a beneficiary in our local community.

There is so much need in and around our community for basic and essential items that we therefore decided to do a collection of non-perishable foods and sporting equipment for a high school close to our offices.

The school that was chosen as beneficiary, is Olievenhoutbosch Secondary School, based in the township of Olievenhoutbosch in Centurion, on the outskirts of Pretoria, South Africa.

A brief background to the school and justification to get involved:

  • This is a “no fee” and public school, based in the Olievenhoutbosch township in Pretoria.
  • The concept of a “no fee” school is that the parents do not pay school fees, since the school is located in a very poor community. They are dependent on grants from the Department of Education and the involvement of the business community.
  • The school has about 1400 learners and the 107 matriculants achieved a 100% matric pass rate last year, including a couple of distinctions.
  • The great concern is that some of the learners go without food for a whole day.
  • The school is managed by a strong and positive principal whose aim is to bring change to the community.

Alaris staff assisted in sorting and packing the collected goods, and a group of staff members visited the school to distribute the goods, which were gratefully received by the headmistress and representatives from the student body.

During this initiative, we were once again reminded that one individual can indeed make a difference in another person’s life:  In the words of Madiba:  “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” 

Simplifying Direction Finding with the DF-A0047

The DF-A0047 is a handheld wideband direction-finding antenna, which has been used in multiple application areas. One of the more popular uses is ‘interference hunting’, whereby the antenna can be used to find a source of emitted interference by using received signal strength together with readings from the built-in electronic compass.

As an example consider a radio system consisting of a receiver and multiple transmitters.  Another transmitter in an unknown location is transmitting signals that are interfering with, and blocking signals from transmitters in the first system from being received.

In some instances, a source transmitter signal is identified by using an omnidirectional antenna, for example, on the roof of a vehicle, by driving around to find a circle inside which the interference source is transmitting from. This could typically be a large physical area.

The DF-A0047 is then used in the identified area to find the source of the interfering signal on the ground. The handheld antenna is pointed towards where the highest signal strength is found in one location. This is then repeated in one or two more locations. The results are then triangulated to find where the signal source is originating.

The antenna combines several antennas in a neat and compact housing, providing an all-in-one direction finding system covering a very wide frequency band as an alternative to using multiple antennas to perform the same function.

For more information on this antenna, please click here, or contact sales@alaris.co.za

Alaris Antennas Patented Loop and Adcock Array Technology

Technology is an ever-changing field. For this reason, Alaris Antennas is constantly improving existing technologies as well as coming up with new ideas which complement and/or provide better performance than the older methods.

One of our patented technologies is our Hybrid Loop/Adcock Technology, which provides improved Radio Direction Finding performance.

The technology was developed as a result of the constant efforts to reduce the size of antennas while sacrificing little or no performance, often driven by the particular requirements for tactical applications. This technology provides the desirable qualities of Adcock arrays at high frequencies whilst substantially improving the low frequency sensitivity of electrically small Adcock arrays.

This method overcomes to a large extent the shortcomings that loops have when used in a DF array as the approach significantly reduces the sensitivity of the loop to undesirable cross-polarised signals which allows the loop to be used in a wider range of applications to perform DF. The new topology also overcomes the pattern breakup observed in normal loop topologies when the antenna starts becoming large. This allows the new loop design to be used over a much wider frequency range and to start approaching conventional Adcock Array performance at higher frequencies.

The loop antenna technology is able to suppress cross-polarized gain typical of traditional loops and when used in an Adcock array provides enhanced sensitivity when the array size is electrically small.

Visit www.alarisantennas.com to view our products, or contact sales@alaris.co.za

Dominating a Niche – The CEO Magazine Article

Recently we were contacted by The CEO Magazine, who wanted to do an article on the CEO of Alaris.  This is an international magazine, with its headquarters based in Sydney, Australia and with regional offices in Stockholm, Singapore and the Philippines. The article was written by Daniel Herborn from The CEO Magazine.

Headquartered in the South African city of Centurion, Alaris Antennas produces radio frequency products,  including custom antenna equipment. The products are used in electronic warfare, defence, homeland security, communication and frequency spectrum monitoring, as well as other specialised market sectors.

Juergen Dresel has been CEO of the company since 2015, but his involvement in the sector began much earlier. After completing studies in IT and
telecommunications as well as electrical engineering, Juergen worked in designing and developing antennas and antenna placement simulations.
“I was a co-founder of Poynting Antennas, so I’ve always been in a leading role,” Juergen says. “I was running the defence-market-related activities
of the company early on and built it up from when it was quite small, into something more significant.” Poynting Antennas later split into different divisions for commercial and defence antennas, with Juergen involved in the latter.

The defence division of Poynting Antennas later rebranded as Alaris Antennas to reflect its renewed focus as a B2B company. While there were previous efforts to diversify the company, Juergen says it has recently reaped the rewards of developing specialised expertise in defence and
communications antennas. “If you follow the larger industrial conglomerates, like General Electric and Siemens, they are starting to splinter off parts of the company and get back to their core areas. My view is that it is better to stay focused on what you’re doing and build in that direction.”

The two companies in Alaris Holdings group are Alaris Antennas and COJOT, a company that originated in Finland and designs and manufactures antenna products for military and security markets, including antennas suitable for manpacks and mission critical vehicles. There are significant
synergies across the two companies, and the collective skill set of the sister companies has allowed Alaris to access new markets and present opportunities for cross-selling.

As Juergen tells it, the company’s unique selling point is its adherence to three strategic pillars: its expertise in the radio frequency technology space; the global reach of its products; and its capacity to develop and exploit its intellectual property.

While many local competitors are concerned purely with importing and distributing radio frequency technology, Alaris Holdings has invested heavily in research and development to create its own proprietary technology. “That’s something we’re quite proud of,” Juergen says. “Having your own intellectual property gives you more independence, it allows you to control your destiny.” The company’s decision to concentrate on its own  technology also saw it sell off Aucom, a value-added reseller, as it was no longer a strategic fit.

The next major trend in antenna technology is smart antennas, which Juergen defines as equipment that includes an electronic component that allows for functions such as automatic frequency tuning, beam forming, beam switching and beam steering. “We are definitely positioning
ourselves to follow this requirement,” he confirms. The company is continuously innovating towards smaller, lighter antennas capable of operating with wider bandwidths and higher frequencies.

Alaris has embraced vertical integration by insourcing some time-sensitive services such as spray painting. Partnerships with reliable parts suppliers remain a key element of the business model. “There are a couple of suppliers in sub-Saharan Africa that we have close relationships with,” Juergen says.

The company also works closely with its partners to source difficult-to-find parts such as connectors, cables and other specialised components. “There is a little bit of everything – we source components from across Europe, the United States, sometimes Asia, but we have developed close relationships with certain suppliers.”

A particular field of expertise Alaris offers is its ability to design and manufacture tailor-made and boutique solutions for the specific needs of its customer base. “We position ourselves as a client-centric organisation,” Juergen says. “We typically win business by helping our clients with unique, innovative, bespoke solutions.”

Juergen says Alaris has built up electrical and mechanical engineering expertise to make such tailored products possible. It has know-how in CAD modelling, prototyping and simulation-based design, allowing the client to find the optimal antenna configuration for their needs. Antennas are
also thoroughly tested to ensure they can withstand environmental conditions such as salt spray, vibrations, extreme temperatures and exposure to water.

In a field where technical expertise is all-important, Juergen says attention to detail is one of his strengths as a leader. “I’m a firm believer in details,” he explains. “The view I take is that the more people within the business know and the more detail they have at their disposal, the better our business will be. The strategic path forward can be more clearly defined when you have more detail to work with.”

The company also works with an eye to the commercial needs of its clients. “We operate as competent, trusted advisers,” he explains. “This often helps the client to win business themselves. So, we have a fairly unique kind of position in the market and a unique product offering.”

Coming off strong performance in the last financial year, Alaris is exploring the possibility of offices in the US, Europe, and, later, Asia. The business is already overwhelmingly export-based, with 95 per cent of revenue coming from sales outside South Africa.

Juergen acknowledges there will be significant challenges moving into the US market, where acquisitions will be more expensive and the company will have to come to terms with a very different regulatory framework.

Alaris is committed to being a global concern, however, and is cognisant of the payoffs that come with gaining a foothold in what is by far the world’s largest market for defence and communication antennas. There are also tangible benefits, Juergen says. “Being client-centric, we need to be in close vicinity to our clients. The more often we can have face-to-face discussions with them, the better it is for us.”

For a PDF copy of the article as published in The CEO Magazine, please click here

 

Agile, customer-centric strategy helps Alaris Holdings expand its global footprint

Alaris Holdings’ strategy of being a highly agile and trusted customer-centric advisor to global clients in the field of radio frequency technology – predominantly leading-edge antennas and related equipment – is enabling the company to continue to expand its footprint in Europe, the United States, Asia, Middle East and Africa.

Established in 2008 and now with manufacturing and research and development facilities on three continents, Alaris has a well-recognised track record of providing international system houses with bespoke solutions in the fields of defence and electronic warfare communications through its operating companies, Alaris Antennas and COJOT.

Alaris Antennas designs, manufactures and sells specialised broadband antennas and other related radio frequency products. Its products are used in the communication, frequency spectrum monitoring, test and measurement, electronic warfare and other specialised markets. COJOT was established in Finland in 1986 and designs, develops and manufactures innovative wideband antennas for communications and counter measures applications.

A third operating company, based in the United States, is currently being added to the group to provide passive RF and microwave antenna solutions which complement the existing Alaris IP and extensive product range. “We have sold into the United States for years, but there is now enormous potential to grow sales in that market significantly. We definitely see ourselves as client-centric, which makes it important that we are geographically as close as possible to our customers in key markets like the US,” says Alaris Holdings CEO, Juergen Dresel.

Alaris presented its product line-up at the Electronic Warfare Europe 2018 exhibition and conference held in Lausanne, Switzerland on 5-7 June 2018. “This is an important networking opportunity for us. We are emphasising our unique IP and our highly skilled engineering team’s abilities to develop, design and manufacture specialised and customised sub-systems to rapidly meet individual client requirements,” Dresel notes.

Using the diverse core competencies in R+D, engineering and manufacturing possessed by its operating companies, Alaris provides electronic warfare and communications products for a variety of applications. These include electronic counter-measures to prevent the remote detonation of bombs, jamming of enemy communications, monitoring of enemy communications and signal direction finding. The products may be mounted on vehicles, aircraft, drones, ships and submarines, or carried by individual soldiers.

In the civilian environment, the company’s technology is used by test and measurement businesses and frequency regulatory bodies.

Among Alaris’ unique technical differentiators are wideband products which reduce the need for multiple antennas, the development of high-technology antenna arrays, and smart antennas that can be re-programmed to take on a variety of tasks.

Alaris Antennas contributes to Czech Army’s MKEB II Mobile EW System

Alaris Antennas has provided various antennas which have been incorporated into the latest version of the MKEB system, which was showcased at the IDEB 2018 exhibition in Bratislavia by the Czech Army.

The system operates in the 20 MHz to 6 GHz frequency range and includes the LPDA-A0036 wideband LPDA antenna, the DIPL-A0035 wideband omni-directional VP antenna, the OMNI-A0098 active monitoring antenna and the MONO-A0076 HF passive monopole. These antennas have been combined with antennas from other vendors.

The MKEB II includes a containerised suite known as the PrTA (Technical Analysis Workplace), which provides a rapid deployment signals analysis and electronic warfare capability.

The PrTA is made up of three workstations built into a standard ISO 1C container and is designed to operate as a stand-alone unit located near a command post.

DSA 2018 Feedback and Countdown to EW Europe

Chicot van Niekerk was joined by Jarrko Unkeri from Cojot on the stand at DSA 2018, held in Malaysia in April.

Chicot had this to say about the show:

“Alaris attended DSA 2018 which spanned over 4 days. The exhibition was well positioned and a great improvement over DSA 2016 as it was held at a new venue. Alaris had a number of new visitors visiting our stand. We were also able to connect with existing clients throughout the region. In retrospect we conclude that it was a successful event.”

Alaris would like to thank the South African Department of Trade and Industry, as well as AMD for once again providing a platform for us as part of the South African National Pavilion.

With EW Europe less than three weeks away, Alaris is preparing for another successful show. EW Europe is a major annual highlight for us, and we look forward to meeting with current contacts as well as meeting many new prospective partners.

EW Europe has previously welcomed attendees from 46 countries. With 1,100+ visitors expected in 2018, it is the perfect platform to meet international influencers involved in procurement, development, and operations in one location and gives the best possible chance to network with decision makers from both the industry and the military.​

The 23rd edition of Electronic Warfare Europe will take place at the Congrès Beaulieu in Lausanne, Switzerland. The exhibition and conference will take place on 5th-7th June 2018 and will bring together the communities involved in EW, SIGINT, C4ISR, Cyber EM Activities (CEMA) and more. This is an unclassified truly-global EW networking opportunity, exhibition, workshop and conference.

High-Gain Omni Antennas in Mobile Applications

By John Fuhri

Antenna Principles

Omni-directional antennas are used in situations where the direction of the receiving antenna is not static or known.  A typical situation is where antennas are mounted on a mobile platform like a vehicle or vessel.

In any communication system, the quality and throughput that can be attained through a link is highly dependent on the signal strength and quality of the signal between the receiving and transmitting antennas.

Antennas play a crucial role in the performance of any wireless communication link.  High-gain antennas can be used to provide additional power in the link budget in general, due to the fact that antennas effectively amplify the signal being fed into the antenna.

It should be noted however, that antennas provide the additional amplification in a completely different way than a powered amplifier.  Antennas, being passive devices, can only amplify the input signal by focussing the beam in a particular direction.  Therefore, there will always be a trade-off between the gain and the beam-width over which this gain can be achieved.  For example, a narrower beam will provide more gain and vice-versa.  This trade-off also exists in omni-directional antennas.  Since omni-directional antennas are required to provide signal over a 360o beam in the azimuth plane, the additional gain can only be achieved by reducing the beam-width in the elevation plane.

 

Looking at the above radiation patterns, it should be noted that a single dipole has a radiation pattern with a wide beam and gain of about 2.2dBi.  The second figure shows an array of four dipoles identical to the first.  By stacking four of these dipoles and feeding each dipole in phase, the gain of the array increases to 7.7dBi, but over a much narrower elevation beam.  In addition to the narrower beam, additional side-lobes are created that are separated by deep nulls in the pattern.  These nulls imply that, at certain angles of incidence, the antenna will receive practically no signal at all.  It is therefore important to note the positions of these nulls when designing a system where an omni antenna is required.

The beam-widths of antennas are normally expressed as the angle over which the gain is within 3dB of the maximum gain in the main lobe. It is often useful to also find the angle of the first null in the pattern.

Comparison of a 5dBi vs 8dBi Omni-Directional Antenna

The gain of an antenna comes from stacking a number of similar elements and feeding them in-phase.

The radiation pattern below shows the first-null and 3dB beam-widths of a simulated antenna:

The below radiation pattern is that of an antenna of about half the length of the above:

The second antenna would use half the number of antenna elements and will have a gain of nominally 3dB less than the first.

The table below summarize the gain and beam-widths of the two antennas:

AntennaNominal Gain3dB BeamwidthFirst-null Beamwidth
Dipole 8-Stack8dBi20°
Dipole 4-Stack5dBi18°41°

It should be noted that both the 3dB and the first-nulls’ beams are doubled when the gain is halved (i.e. 3dB lower), exactly in line with expectations.

Practical Applications

Vehicle parked on a sidewalk curb

A typical sidewalk curb in South Africa is about 150mm in height and it is not uncommon for bigger vehicles to park with two wheels on the sidewalk.  Assume that the vehicle is about 2m wide.

8dBi Antenna5dBi Antenna
Antenna @ 4.3° incline4.9dBi4.05dBi

At an incline of 4.3o, the 8dBi antenna already lost 2.73dB relative to the maximum gain, while the 5dBi antenna only lost 0.85dB.

Vehicle driving on a typical urban road

8dBi Antenna5dBi Antenna
Antenna @ 5.71° incline2.34dBi3.51dBi

At an incline of 5.71o, or a 10% slope, the 8dBi antenna already has less gain in the direction of the receiving antenna compared to the 5dBi antenna.  Due to the narrow beam of the high-gain omni, the gain rolls off much quicker as the elevation angle increases.  In this scenario, the lower-gain omni will outperform the high-gain omni.

Vehicle driving in off-road conditions

8dBi Antenna5dBi Antenna
Antenna @ 10° incline-24.5dBi0.92dBi

At an incline of 10o the 8dBi reaches its first null and the effective gain of the antenna towards the receiver is effectively non-existent.  A vehicle parked in this orientation will completely lose connectivity.  While it is not typical for a vehicle to be parked in this orientation, it is not unusual for a vehicle to reach an incline of 10o or more for short instances during off-road excursions.  The signal strength seen at the receiver will vary wildly over short periods (more than 20dB in less than a second).  Some communication systems will attempt to switch to lower modulation schemes, and if not designed to deal with these quick changing signal levels, keep switching continuously to the point where throughput is significantly reduced.

In the case of the lower gain omni, the antenna still presents a gain of almost 1dB towards the receiver, which is usually well within the designed safety margin of most communication systems.  Since the change over time is much less (about 4-5dB) compared to the high-gain omni, the communication system will be presented with a more time-stable signal as well.

Conclusions

High-gain omni-directional antennas achieve additional gain at the expense of elevation beam width. In static installations, the reduced beam-width is generally acceptable, but one needs to practice extreme caution when using them in mobile applications.

The shorter antenna will, in addition to the electrical advantages of a wider beam, also have significant mechanical advantages.

  • Shorter antennas are less likely to hit over-head obstructions.
  • Shorter antenna will be lighter and more stable on the same spring mount.
  • Shorter antenna will be mechanically more robust, even when experiencing significant impacts like an oak-beam test.

For more information on our range of High-Gain Omni Antennas, visit our Product Section here