To make antenna and radar-cross-section (RCS) testing more productive, engineers need faster test speeds, new measurement capabilities, and enhanced features. If such capabilities are attained, the benefits will range from less strain on resources to faster time to market. In a 28-page application note titled, "Reducing Measurement Times and Improving Economic Competitiveness in Antenna and RCS Applications," Agilent Technologies details test-range configurations and typical measurement scenarios that will help engineers achieve speed improvements.

The note focuses on the use of Agilent's PNA-X vector network analyzers (VNAs) and MXG vector signal generators (VSGs). Compared to its previous instruments, the company asserts that these instruments can provide far- and near-field antenna measurements up to 50 times faster and RCS measurements as much as 45 times faster. With an eye toward cost, the note also emphasizes that advances in measurement technology allow existing facilities to be optimized while boosting test throughput.

An overview is provided for the PNA-X family and the N5264A microwave receiver, which is based on that family. The note compares them with previous-generation receivers and shows how they may accelerate far-field antenna measurements. Equations are provided to help engineers calculate possible throughput benefits in far-field testing. After an overview of a configuration of such testing with remote mixers, the far-field throughput equations are applied to some example test scenarios. A discussion of the configuration for far-field testing with optional optical extenders also is included. A small-range configuration eliminates remote mixers and sources when compared to a remote-mixing configuration.

The same detail and level of information are provided in the following sections on accelerating near-field measurements and improving RCS measurements. Improvements in both technology and design skills have allowed designers to minimize RCS for the smallest possible return, making the received signals quite small. Tiny signals result in small reflections, which are caused by elements in the range. They can contribute to the reflected energy. To ensure a planar wavefront, the level of the returned signal also is impacted by the need to use large distances with large objects. The note explains how advanced network analyzers offer a time-gating feature to remove unwanted signals. Overall, it provides a solid foundation for engineers performing antenna and RCS measurements while illustrating upgrade paths that save time.