New generation of antennas for maritime shipping
Communication via the Internet is a matter of course today. Ocean cruises are no exception to the rule, crew and guests demand reception for telephone calls, Internet and television.
Technically this is accomplished via satellites whose reach extends around the entire globe. Due to the rapid expansion of the satellite infrastructure over the last 30 years, even the most remote areas can now be supplied with fast Internet.
Data transmission to a mobile target
There is challenge for using satellite antennas on ships; due to their mobile nature, it is not possible to install conventional, fixed reflectors. Automatic tracking antennas compensate for the rolling, pitching and yawing of ships in order to maintain a connection to the satellite.
Leipzig-based EPAK is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of maritime antenna systems. Now, with its PRO series, it is launching a new generation of antennas onto the market.
New features in handling and error analysis
Since the customer requirements are not limited to the technical and functional properties of the hardware, the handling has also been brought up to state of the art. The antennas of the PRO generation can also be controlled via smart phone, tablet or PC. Extensive configurations can be made via the web interface and live sensor data from the antenna can be displayed. This simplifies troubleshooting, enables performance analysis around the clock and eventually reduces the need for maintenance. Remote diagnostics and troubleshooting are carried out by EPAK experts at any time and free of charge.
Extra feature: Two SIM card slots in the ACU allow easy switching between the satellite connection and the low-cost 3G/4G network when it becomes available.
A fourth motion axis has been integrated into the PRO series antennas to make tracking faster and more flexible. Mechanical design and electronic control are precisely synchronized. Through gyro position sensors and readings from the satellite signal, the control unit receives information about how the position of the antenna (or the ship underneath it) has changed. Complex mathematical algorithms then calculate the required counter-movement and control the motors. This process happens within milliseconds and continues in a loop of repetitions. As a result, the antenna can move at a rate of 50° per second per axis. This is fully sufficient to maintain a stable satellite connection even in extreme sea conditions.
Speed was a key concern in development, and not just in the mobility of the antenna. Using state-of-the-art electronics made it possible to achieve significant optimization in the communication between modem, antenna and controller. Another key factor for the performance is tracking accuracy, because as soon as the antenna is not perfectly aligned with the satellite, the signal quality drops.
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