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Conformal, Light-Weight & Load-Bearing Antennas Based on Conductive Textile Threads


TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Materials/Processes, Electronics

OBJECTIVE:  To develop conformal, light-weight and load-bearing antennas based on conductive textile threads that can endow small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) with operational capability down to the UHF band.

DESCRIPTION:  Communication missions of small UAV’s in low-altitude operation are severely limited for the signals from HAM radio, satellite radio, cellular phones or television due to the large size of antennas required.  An approach to accommodate required “low frequency” antennas for small UAV’s has been to utilize the entire volume of the structures which are often constructed of reinforced polymer composites. Recent advances in materials and electronics as well as new design philosophies demonstrated that conductive, flexible and high strength textile threads can be employed and weaved within the UAV structure to lower the antenna’s operational frequency. Similar textile thread-based antennas can also be employed for conformal on-surface installations on a variety of platforms. These can result in scalable and removable antennas that can be attached to existing vehicles without adversely impacting their mission performance.

PHASE I:  Examine the performance of conductive textile threads to realize planar and non-planar antennas with comparable performance to traditional metallic antennas. Examine new design concepts and demonstrate their capability to lower the operational frequency by exploiting 3D structure of small UAV’s.

PHASE II:  Based on the design concepts proven under Phase I, develop laboratory prototypes for testing and evaluation of conformal, light-weight and load-bearing antennas for small UAV’s based on conductive textile threads. Evaluate performance of these prototypes under mechanical stress conditions and introduce remedies to avoid detuning and undesirable frequency variations.


Military Application:  Conformal, light-weight and load-bearing antennas based on conductive textile threads will find significant usage in communication/navigation/surveillance systems for flight in controlled airspace.

Commercial Application:  Conformal and flexible antennas can be used in various commercial products including cell phones, RFIDs, body-worn antennas and even medical applications for improved imaging and patient monitoring.

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