It’s hardly what you’d expect, right in the heart of fintech land between the City of London and the froth of West End retail.
Behind the gentrified façade of an old Post Office record depository lies a set of anechoic chambers and a world-class holographic scanner in a high-tech prototyping facility – just a couple of miles away from the Royal Institution, where Hanwha Phasor’s first facility was established.
Visits from potential customers, suppliers and employees generally elicit the same response to our prototyping and test facilities: ‘So you’re for real’.
It’s clear that, as pioneers of the world’s first commercial, very low profile AESA (active electronically steered array), we have moved beyond proving concepts. Hanwha Phasor is testing customised, integrated hardware, using facilities few, if any, competitors can claim – advanced test and calibration facilities in-house, with specialist equipment rarely found elsewhere.
All this enables us to carry out development lifecycle testing at speed using our own near- and far-field ranges, deploying fully integrated receive and transmit prototypes based on a wholly customised platform.
Hanwha Phasor may stand out as one of the few solid-state flat panel antenna innovators to have successfully demonstrated transmission to and from geosynchronous and low earth-orbiting satellites. However, system maturity is now the goal.
As Simon Cushin, Hanwha Phasor’s Head of Hardware, observes: “It’s a big step from a concept or prototype system, configured only on off-the-shelf hardware, to a real product like ours – capable of being prepared for certification and manufacture at high quality.”
Lab-scale testing for multiple rapid design iterations per day
Two eight-metre near-field anechoic chambers for rapid receive and transmit antenna testing encompasses system integration, performance characterisation and feature and algorithm development. True far-field patterns are established at the module level.
For the full array, we obtain true far-field results using our spherical scanner.
Designed and built by us and housed in an anechoic chamber, the scanner characterises the performance of a receive antenna under test in the near-field – before translating the data into far-field radiation patterns.
Today, we’re using it for R & D, perfecting our technology and developing our prototypes by rapidly and conveniently simulating far-field results in lab conditions, before true far-field testing in our 1500 square metre open-air site.
Tomorrow, our contract electronics manufacturer will be using this equipment in the production environment, calibrating our arrays in line with customer requirements and for quality control and diagnostics.
Rishi Kalra, Lead Systems Engineer (pictured), observes: “The scanner holography gets us the same sort of results we can expect from a huge test range — in our lab. We also use it like a microscope. Instead of optically zooming out to see what it looks like in a field, we can zoom in on any one of the thousands of tiny antennas to observe its contribution to the overall beam pattern. At this scale, a facility like this is quite rare.”
Continual real-world performance evaluations in far-field conditions
With a full suite of laboratory instrumentation, Hanwha Phasor’s far-field trial range occupies some 1500 square metres of exterior space in Essex, UK and the site on which radar was developed during the Second World War. We are proud to contribute to this continuum of technology innovation.
Using perimeter parabolic antennas on towers at varying angles to our AESA, we create interference challenges in satellite simulations to test the resilience of our antenna system. Our custom-designed, multi-axis turntable enables us to simulate extreme movement for comms-on-the-move applications.
Our Earth terminal (a 2.5 metre parabolic dish) enables us to ensure that our antenna can work with any customer’s connectivity ecosystem. Further, in controlling both ends of the link, we reduce risk in the test process.
Our test facilities are operated and maintained by Gareth Barnes, a former British Army communication system operator, who thoroughly overhauled our operations in 2020/2021 to create a five-star experience for our systems test team, offering continuity from the lab to the real world.
After field trials, Hanwha Phasor uses dedicated exterior space in our London lab to carry out continuous tests to satellite and customer demonstrations, using arrays mounted on full hemispherical turntables for rapid tracking and comms-on-the-move simulation.
We carry out validation and characterisation of the custom integrated chips that lie at the heart of our disruptive AESA technology in tandem with our dedicated ASIC (application specific integrated circuit) facility in Cambridge, UK, which you can read about here.