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Beam tilt is used in radio to aim the main lobe of the vertical plane radiation pattern of an antenna below (or above) the horizontal plane.
Radio is the technology of using radio waves to carry information, such as sound and images, by systematically modulating properties of electromagnetic energy waves transmitted through space, such as their amplitude, frequency, phase, or pulse width. When radio waves strike an electrical conductor, the oscillating fields induce an alternating current in the conductor. The information in the waves can be extracted and transformed back into its original form.
In antenna engineering, side lobes or sidelobes are the lobes of the far field radiation pattern of an antenna or other radiation source, that are not the main lobe.
In the field of antenna design the term radiation pattern refers to the directional (angular) dependence of the strength of the radio waves from the antenna or other source.
The simplest way is mechanical beam tilt, where the antenna is physically mounted in such a manner as to lower the angle of the signal on one side. However, this also raises it on the other side, making it useful in only very limited situations.
More common is electrical beam tilt, where the phasing between antenna elements is tweaked to make the signal go down (usually) in all directions.This is extremely useful when the antenna is at a very high point, and the edge of the signal is likely to miss the target (broadcast audience, cellphone users, etc.) entirely.
With electrical tilting, front and back lobes tilt in the same direction. For example, an electrical downtilt will make both the front lobe and the back lobe tilt down. This is the property used in the above example where the signal is pointed down in all directions. On the contrary, mechanical downtilting will make the front lobe tilt down and the back lobe tilt up. In almost all practical cases, antennas are only tilted down – though tilting up is technically possible.
The use of purely electrical tilt with no mechanical tilt is an attractive choice for aesthetic reasons which are very important for operators seeking acceptance of integrated antennas in visible locations.
In GSM and UMTS cellular networks, mechanical tilt is almost always fixed whereas electrical tilt can be controlled using remote actuators and position sensors, thus reducing operating expenses. Remote electrical tilt is abbreviated as RET and it is part of the Antenna Interface Standards Group's open specification for the control interface of antenna devices.
Occasionally, mechanical and electrical tilt will be used together in order to create greater beam tilt in one direction than the other, mainly to accommodate unusual terrain. Along with null fill, beam tilt is the essential parameter controlling the focus of radio communications, and together they can create almost infinite combinations of 3-D radiation patterns for any situation.
Terrain or relief involves the vertical and horizontal dimensions of land surface. The term bathymetry is used to describe underwater relief, while hypsometry studies terrain relative to sea level. The Latin word terra means "earth."
Null fill is used in radio antenna systems which are located on mountains or tall towers, to prevent too much of the signal from overshooting the nearest part of intended coverage area. Phasing is used between antenna elements to take power away from the main lobe and electrically direct more of it at a more downward angle in the vertical plane. This requires a phased array. Changing the relative power supplied to each element also changes the radiation pattern in this manner, and often both methods are used in combination.
Communication is the act of conveying meanings from one entity or group to another through the use of mutually understood signs, symbols, and semiotic rules.
In a radio antenna's radiation pattern, the main lobe, or main beam, is the lobe containing the higher power. This is the lobe that exhibits the greater field strength.
In antenna theory, a phased array usually means an electronically scanned array, a computer-controlled array of antennas which creates a beam of radio waves that can be electronically steered to point in different directions without moving the antennas. In an array antenna, the radio frequency current from the transmitter is fed to the individual antennas with the correct phase relationship so that the radio waves from the separate antennas add together to increase the radiation in a desired direction, while cancelling to suppress radiation in undesired directions. In a phased array, the power from the transmitter is fed to the antennas through devices called phase shifters, controlled by a computer system, which can alter the phase electronically, thus steering the beam of radio waves to a different direction. Since the array must consist of many small antennas to achieve high gain, phased arrays are mainly practical at the high frequency end of the radio spectrum, in the UHF and microwave bands, in which the antenna elements are conveniently small.
In telecommunications and radar, a reflective array antenna is a class of directive antennas in which multiple driven elements are mounted in front of a flat surface designed to reflect the radio waves in a desired direction. They are a type of array antenna. They are often used in the VHF and UHF frequency bands. VHF examples are generally large and resemble a highway billboard, so they are sometimes called billboard antennas, or in Britain hoarding antennas. Other names are bedspring array and bowtie array depending on the type of elements making up the antenna. The curtain array is a larger version used by shortwave radio broadcasting stations.
In radio engineering, an antenna is the interface between radio waves propagating through space and electric currents moving in metal conductors, used with a transmitter or receiver. In transmission, a radio transmitter supplies an electric current to the antenna's terminals, and the antenna radiates the energy from the current as electromagnetic waves. In reception, an antenna intercepts some of the power of a radio wave in order to produce an electric current at its terminals, that is applied to a receiver to be amplified. Antennas are essential components of all radio equipment.
A parabolic antenna is an antenna that uses a parabolic reflector, a curved surface with the cross-sectional shape of a parabola, to direct the radio waves. The most common form is shaped like a dish and is popularly called a dish antenna or parabolic dish. The main advantage of a parabolic antenna is that it has high directivity. It functions similarly to a searchlight or flashlight reflector to direct the radio waves in a narrow beam, or receive radio waves from one particular direction only. Parabolic antennas have some of the highest gains, meaning that they can produce the narrowest beamwidths, of any antenna type. In order to achieve narrow beamwidths, the parabolic reflector must be much larger than the wavelength of the radio waves used, so parabolic antennas are used in the high frequency part of the radio spectrum, at UHF and microwave (SHF) frequencies, at which the wavelengths are small enough that conveniently-sized reflectors can be used.
A helical antenna is an antenna consisting of one or more conducting wires wound in the form of a helix. In most cases, directional helical antennas are mounted over a ground plane, while omnidirectional designs may not be. The feed line is connected between the bottom of the helix and the ground plane. Helical antennas can operate in one of two principal modes — normal mode or axial mode.
A whip antenna is an antenna consisting of a straight flexible wire or rod. The bottom end of the whip is connected to the radio receiver or transmitter. The antenna is designed to be flexible so that it does not break easily, and the name is derived from the whip-like motion that it exhibits when disturbed. Whip antennas for portable radios are often made of a series of interlocking telescoping metal tubes, so they can be retracted when not in use. Longer ones, made for mounting on vehicles and structures, are made of a flexible fiberglass rod around a wire core and can be up to 35 ft long. The length of the whip antenna is determined by the wavelength of the radio waves it is used with. The most common type is the quarter-wave whip, which is approximately one-quarter of a wavelength long. Whips are the most common type of monopole antenna, and are used in the higher frequency HF, VHF and UHF radio bands. They are widely used as the antennas for hand-held radios, cordless phones, walkie-talkies, FM radios, boom boxes, and Wi-Fi enabled devices, and are attached to vehicles as the antennas for car radios and two-way radios for wheeled vehicles and for aircraft. Larger versions mounted on roofs and radio masts are used as base station antennas for police, fire, ambulance, taxi, and other vehicle dispatchers.
Beamforming or spatial filtering is a signal processing technique used in sensor arrays for directional signal transmission or reception. This is achieved by combining elements in an antenna array in such a way that signals at particular angles experience constructive interference while others experience destructive interference. Beamforming can be used at both the transmitting and receiving ends in order to achieve spatial selectivity. The improvement compared with omnidirectional reception/transmission is known as the directivity of the array.
A loop antenna is a radio antenna consisting of a loop or coil of wire, tubing, or other electrical conductor usually fed by a balanced source or feeding a balanced load. Within this physical description there are two distinct antenna types. The large self-resonant loop antenna has a circumference close to one wavelength of the operating frequency and so is resonant at that frequency. This category also includes smaller loops 5% to 30% of a wavelength in circumference, which use a capacitor to make them resonant. These antennas are used for both transmission and reception. In contrast, small loop antennas less than 1% of a wavelength in size are very inefficient radiators, and so are only used for reception. An example is the ferrite (loopstick) antenna used in most AM broadcast radios. Loop antennas have a dipole radiation pattern; they are most sensitive to radio waves in two broad lobes in opposite directions, 180° apart. Due to this directional pattern they are used for radio direction finding (RDF), to locate the position of a transmitter.
In radio electronics, a null is a direction in an antenna's radiation pattern where the antenna radiates almost no radio waves, so the far field signal strength is a local minimum. Nulls occur because different parts of an antenna radiate radio waves of different phase. In directions at which the antenna radiates equal amplitude radio waves of opposite phase, the radio waves cancel, resulting in little or no radio power being radiated in that direction. In other directions the radio waves from different parts of the antenna are in phase and reinforce, resulting in a maximum signal strength in the radiation pattern, called a lobe.
Conical scanning is a system used in early radar units to improve their accuracy, as well as making it easier to steer the antenna properly to point at a target. Conical scanning is similar in concept to the earlier lobe switching concept used on some of the earliest radars, and many examples of lobe switching sets were modified in the field to conical scanning during World War II, notably the German Würzburg radar. Antenna guidance can be made entirely automatic, as in the American SCR-584. Potential failure modes and susceptibility to deception jamming led to the replacement of conical scan systems with monopulse radar sets. They are still used by the Deep Space Network for maintaining communications links to space probes. The spin-stabilized Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 probes used onboard conical scanning maneuvers to track Earth in its orbit.
Lobe switching is a method used on early radar sets to improve tracking accuracy. It used two slightly separated antenna elements to send the beam slightly to either side of the midline of the antenna, switching between the two to find which one gave the stronger return, thereby indicating which direction the antenna should be moved in order to point directly at the target. The concept was used only briefly, and was almost completely replaced by conical scanning systems by the end of World War II. The concept is also known as sequential lobing, although this terminology appears to be rare, and the associated output was sometimes known as a split display.
A sector antenna is a type of directional microwave antenna with a sector-shaped radiation pattern. The word "sector" is used in the geometric sense; some portion of the circumference of a circle measured in degrees of arc. 60°, 90° and 120° designs are typical, often with a few degrees 'extra' to ensure overlap and mounted in multiples when wider or full-circle coverage is required. The largest use of these antennas is as antennas for cell phone base-station sites. They are also used for other types of mobile communications, for example in WiFi networks. They are used for limited-range distances of around 4 to 5 km.
An antenna array is a set of multiple connected antennas which work together as a single antenna, to transmit or receive radio waves. The individual antennas are usually connected to a single receiver or transmitter by feedlines that feed the power to the elements in a specific phase relationship. The radio waves radiated by each individual antenna combine and superpose, adding together to enhance the power radiated in desired directions, and cancelling to reduce the power radiated in other directions. Similarly, when used for receiving, the separate radio frequency currents from the individual antennas combine in the receiver with the correct phase relationship to enhance signals received from the desired directions and cancel signals from undesired directions. More sophisticated array antennas may have multiple transmitter or receiver modules, each connected to a separate antenna element or group of elements.
Curtain arrays are a class of large multielement directional wire radio transmitting antennas, used in the shortwave radio bands. They are a type of reflective array antenna, consisting of multiple wire dipole antennas, suspended in a vertical plane, often in front of a "curtain" reflector made of a flat vertical screen of many long parallel wires. These are suspended by support wires strung between pairs of tall steel towers, up to 300 ft (90 m) high. They are used for long-distance skywave transmission; they transmit a beam of radio waves at a shallow angle into the sky just above the horizon, which is reflected by the ionosphere back to Earth beyond the horizon. Curtain antennas are mostly used by international short wave radio stations to broadcast to large areas at transcontinental distances.
Three-dimensional beamforming (3DBF), full dimension MIMO or tilt angle adaptation is an interference coordination method in cellular networks which brings significant improvements in comparison with conventional 2D beamforming techniques. Most beamforming schemes currently employed in wireless cellular networks control the beam pattern radiation in the horizontal plane. In contrast to such two-dimensional beamforming (2DBF), 3DBF adapts the radiation beam pattern in both elevation and azimuth planes to provide more degrees of freedom in supporting users. By utilizing information on angle of arrival (AoA) of users provided by suitable antenna hardware such as sector antenna or planar array in both elevation and azimuth planes and estimating direction of arrival (DoA) of each users' signal, base station is capable of distinguishing different users using proper beamforming and also steering the array's beam to a desired direction which optimizes some preferred performance metric of the network.
In radio systems, many different antenna types are used with specialized properties for particular applications. Antennas can be classified in various ways. The list below groups together antennas under common operating principles, following the way antennas are classified in many engineering textbooks.