Defining the GNSS Smart Antenna
Surely you’ve heard the word “smart” being thrown around a lot to describe technology. Smart phones, smart watches, smart TVs, smart appliances, and beyond. What exactly is a smart antenna and what makes it “smart”?
By and large, you can expect a smart gadget to be a twist on an existing gadget that uses modern technological advances to enhance the functionality of the original. A smart phone is a pocket-sized computer, a smart TV provides access to web-based content via Wi-Fi, and a smart antenna is an antenna array that does more than just simply amplifying incoming radio waves. The most common application of this principle is a combination antenna-receiver, which does the tasks of both devices with a single unit.
Applications in GNSS Navigation
If the GNSS constellations are the source of navigational signals and the GNSS receiver is the destination, the antenna is part of the path those signals take to feed the receiver which converts the signals into information such as coordinates.
One common manifestation of the smart antenna is a two-in-one configuration, i.e. a GNSS antenna with an onboard receiver housed in the same enclosure. This differs from handheld outdoor receivers, which are portable receivers that are equipped with a small, low-power antenna. Instead, a smart GNSS antenna would typically consist of a high-power antenna—the kind preferred for geodetic, survey, and other high-performance applications—with a similarly powerful receiver. This reduces the need for multiple components by creating a single solution.
Other Smart Antenna Configurations
Many smart GNSS antennas will also include components that improve the performance and accuracy of the antenna. This includes signal processing algorithms, multipath rejection, interference handling, and Wi-Fi-enabled applications for interfacing with the antenna and receiver. In essence, it’s any antenna that includes built-in firmware applications or components that allow it to go above and beyond the typical range of what an antenna can do.
The primary benefit of using a smart GNSS antenna is that where, in the past, you would often have needed to purchase a separate, compatible antenna and receiver, you can perform a number of navigational applications with a single piece of equipment. With a smart antenna, you’ve got the power to do more with less.