The "Flish" - Flat Satellite Dish for Truly Worldwide Portable Satellite Broadband

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Electronics Electrical Eng and Comp Sci

Abstract

Our project aims to provide a simple, flat satellite dish (The Flish), which "knows" where the satellite is and does not need to be accurately pointed. It is capable of finding the satellite by itself within milliseconds, is simple, lightweight and low cost. We have identified that there is a significant requirement in the market for truly worldwide satellite internet broadband coverage. Cloud computing is one example, 50Bn mobile devices are projected to be connected to the cloud by 2025. How do you get the worldwide wireless infrastructure to support this? It may not be economical to provide terrestrial wireless broadband over large continents such as Africa, although satellite broadband can provide a solution to this. The satellite infrastructure is already there to provide global broadband coverage (eg Inmarsat BGAN). The problem is that the user terminals, particularly the antenna, are difficult to use by unskilled personnel, and require accurate pointing at the satellite. They are also prohibitively expensive, mainly due to their complexity and the low volume of users, similar to the early days of the mobile phone market, where phones were the sizes of bricks and calls cost a fortune. At QUB with the support of three EPSRC projects from 1998 to 2010, we have developed highly novel self steered antennas, which have the capability of "pointing" to a satellite within milliseconds. These antennas use simple analogue circuits, unlike current tracking antennas which either rely on complicated digital circuits, which consume a lot of power, or require heavy motorised steering mechanisms. That is why there has never been a simple, lightweight, low powered satellite broadband antenna on the market. The Follow on fund will allow us to produce a prototype self steered antenna, that will operate with the Inmarsat BGAN system. It will allow a user to "switch on and surf" with a simple, lightweight user terminal, that will find and track the satellite, even in on moving vehicle. The resultant prototype will be simple enough to enter the market at reasonable cost, opening up many markets for truly worldwide satellite broadband. During the project our in house commercialisation team will run a targeted marketing campaign to highlight this massive opportunity to potential licensees of the technology, and work closely with the companies and service providers, who are already partnering with us in the project, to ensure the resulting solution fits market needs

Planned Impact

Our product will have a significant contribution on quality of life. We expect some of the specialised satellite broadband market areas to be those that are the most beneficial to society in the shorter term (1yr). This is because these applications are concerned with obtaining instant satellite broadband anywhere in the world. The areas without terrestrial broadband coverage can also be some of the most deprived, either being in third world countries, or in areas stricken by natural disaster or war where the normal infrastructure has been wiped out. In these scenarios the aid worker, military or news reporter may only have seconds to sort out their broadband connection, something which our advanced antenna will be able to do, with a simple and lightweight structure, not available before. The vital minutes saved could literally be life and death for some of these operators. In the longer term (>3yrs) it is our vision that our antenna will enter the mass consumer market, potentially replacing the "sky" dish with a flat, easy to install variant, that "knows" where the satellite is, and does not need to be pointed in the right direction.

We will develop a focused promotion strategy. We will run target-marketing campaigns with key target accounts, building up a database of people within these organisations and producing regular newsletters and company / product information. We will aim to get editorial coverage in several international magazines and the trade press, as the technology will be novel and will get coverage without advertising spend. Publicity material will be produced by engaging PR consultants and a website produced, showcasing the potential of our new technology. We will also participate in the following three trade shows; NAB April - Las Vegas, Communicasia - Singapore, IBC - Amsterdam.

We see the engagement of the younger generation in research to be of vital importance. To this end we aim to use the public engagement experience of our investigators to carry out at least 5 motivational talks to schools and colleges, In addition we are keen to accept work placement students of which we would have about 5 per year for a one week period, engaged in research activities.

Within the project we intend to collaborate with at least four companies who represent the satellite broadband service providers, equipment manufacturers and end users, and will identify new partners within our focused promotion strategy.

Publications

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Buchanan N (2016) SATCOM Retrodirective Array in IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques

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Chan P (2013) 5.8 GHz full duplex amplitude shift keying retrodirective interrogator array in Microwave and Optical Technology Letters

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Chan P (2013) Full duplex reflection amplifier tag in IET Microwaves, Antennas & Propagation

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Chan P (2013) Two-Ray Modeling of Recombination Effects in The Presence of a Phase Conjugation Array in Microwave and Optical Technology Letters

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Chan P (2013) Co-operating retrodirective system in IET Microwaves, Antennas & Propagation

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Fusco V (2014) Pilot Tone Actuated Antenna Array Pattern Reconfiguration in IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation

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Fusco V (2013) Developments in retrodirective array technology in IET Microwaves, Antennas & Propagation

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Malyuskin O (2016) Ultracompact Retrodirective Antenna Arrays With Superdirective Radiation Patterns in IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation

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Malyuskin O (2017) Antenna terminals based on ultra-compact retrodirective antenna arrays in IET Microwaves, Antennas & Propagation

 
Title Ka Band flat satellite dish 
Description A prototype design for a Ku band receive flat panel (flat, hang on the wall, sky dish replacement) has been completed and fabrication is commencing with an outside company. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
 
Description New flat satellite dish technology that can auto track a satellite. The work was awarded a 2018 Mobile World Congress Gold Prize
Exploitation Route to create new types of satellite terminals
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Electronics,Security and Diplomacy,Transport

URL http://www.ecit.qub.ac.uk
 
Description Major potential to influence penetration of satellite user terminals into non specialised markets . Exiisting systems are based on reflector type antennas and the specifications for their set up by non-trained users is difficult to achieve. Flish a self steered phased array type antenna mitigates these difficulties. Deployment will allow more widespread use, and easier type approval of steerable satellite user terminals. A proof of concept has been constructed and demonstrated at the Hartwell Catapult Applications Centre. In 2018 the work was awarded a Mobile World Congress Gold Prize, Barcelona. Beneficiaries: Anyone requiring broadband data from difficult locations or when operating from a mobile environment. Contribution Method: Opens access for the first time for a simple satellite terminal which requires no user intervenation during its set up.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics
Impact Types Economic

 
Description FLISH
Amount £102,000 (GBP)
Organisation Invest Northern Ireland 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2013 
End 09/2014
 
Description FLISH
Amount £102,000 (GBP)
Organisation Invest Northern Ireland 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2013 
End 09/2014
 
Description Proof of Concept
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Organisation Invest Northern Ireland 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2014 
End 06/2015
 
Description Antenna Type Approval 
Organisation Addvalue Communications
Country Singapore 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution AddValue Communications (Singapore) have agreed to commit time and resource with a view to type approving the prototype. Based on the success of the meeting with AddValue communications in June 2013 at Communicasia Singapore, they expressed an interest to visit us at QUB. We hosted AddValue on 21st October at the ECIT Institute, Belfast to discuss potential for a joint venture to produce a BGAN/L-Band terminal. AddValue would deliver the modem and we would deliver the antenna. AddValue would also work through the mission critical type approval and have agreed to commit the time and resource towards this goal. We have a planned approach to meet a specific technical milestone, gather market input and together engage with Inmarsat to assess market demand and eventual deployment/roll-out support.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Commerical Business Partner 
Organisation Banbatech
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are in discussion with Banbatech as a potential co-founder/commercial business partner.
Collaborator Contribution formation of new company to investigate exploitation of Flish technology
Impact none to report at present
Start Year 2015
 
Description Commerical Business Partner 
Organisation Flish Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are in discussion with Banbatech as a potential co-founder/commercial business partner.
Collaborator Contribution formation of new company to investigate exploitation of Flish technology
Impact none to report at present
Start Year 2015
 
Description Flish Collaboartion with Industry 
Organisation Inmarsat
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Collaborating partner engagement ? Inmarsat SDM volume provided by Inmarsat: V2C5: modulation and general physical layer. V5C1: User terminal specification. These are the detailed specifications to allow Flish to be compatible with the Inmarsat BGAN system ? Workshop with Cobham in Belfast to discussion possibilities for BGAN and ?Sky? Flish ? January 2013 ? US Department of Homeland Security hosted us in Washington for a 2-day workshop on new venture creation, where Stanford Research Institute International delivered training on effective models of innovation. Flish technology and market potential was peer reviewed, with strong feedback received ? May 2013 Critical as it is the only way for us to get system specifications.
Start Year 2012
 
Title Retrodirective Antenna Systems 
Description new type of self tracking antenna hardware 
IP Reference US8284101 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2012
Licensed No
Impact lead to further work with ESA
 
Title advances in retrodirective technology 
Description selftracking analog circuit 
IP Reference  
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2014
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact first working selftracking SatCom terminal
 
Title BGAN Antenna 
Description A new 4x4 array prototype for L band satellite broadband (eg Inmarsat BGAN) has been designed and functional in October 2013. It has been successfully demonstrated on receive to track Inmarsat spot beam signals to a coverage of +/- 40 degrees. Transmission back to the satellite will require type approval with a collaborating partner, although transmission measurements (for test purposes) are possible in the laboratory environment. The prototype is key to bringing the retrodirective antenna into an application such as Inmarsat BGAN. 
Type Of Technology Physical Model/Kit 
 
Title L Band BGAN self tracking antenna 
Description One of the main technical challenges of this project was to produce a self tracking antenna prototype at L band (1.5/1.6 GHz) which is fully compatible with the modulation types, and low level signals used in the Inmarsat BGAN (Broadband Global area network) System. The self tracking antenna available at the beginning of the follow on fund could only track unmodulated CW signals in the laboratory and could not track signals from an actual satellite. During the year of the follow on fund a new method was produced (IP currently being protected) to allow an analogue phase locked loop to track very low level signals which are phase modulated with either QPSK or 16QAM. Prototypes were initially designed in a modular construction to allow different configurations to be tested experimentally. 
Type Of Technology Physical Model/Kit 
 
Company Name Flish Ltd 
Description Stacom terminal manufacuturer 
Year Established 2014 
Impact first SatCom terminal using selftracking technology
 
Description Engagement with Industry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact discussion afterwards

new contacts in industry
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2007,2008,
 
Description Flish Outreach 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact • Flish, otherwise known as "Flat satellite dish" has been in ideal example to present at various school visits from our school of EEECS marketing team. The idea of replacing a dish with a low cost flat panel appeals to school pupils and is easily understood by them.



• Two motivational talks on Flish given to 6th form students attending the School of EEECS open days on September 2012. A further two talks are scheduled for September 2013.



• Generation Innovation Event Titanic Centre. Flish and other showcases used to encourage 6th form school pupils to consider a career in entrepreneurship - November 2012



• Flish Showcase Demonstration to Prince Andrew (along with 2 previous winners of the NISP £25K award) in the Visitors Centre at Titanic Dock and Pump House on the NISP site - Feb 2013
.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Video 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Video produced highlighting the work of Flish and activity since winning the £25k Awards. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5BM_aoncM8.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5BM_aoncM8
 
Description Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact New website launched - www.flish.ie

Targeted marketing campaign to drive traffic to the website - June 2013
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Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013