Joakim Espeland – CEO, QuadSAT
Hi Joakim, we look forward to welcoming you to the Mobility Connectivity Conference at Space Tech Expo Europe! Could you please tell us a little bit more about yourself and QuadSat?
I am the CEO and Co-founder of QuadSAT, a Danish company that has developed new tools and techniques for testing and calibrating satellite antennas. Having previously worked in the oil and gas industry, I realised how challenging it is to test and calibrate satellite ground segment equipment. The current processes are complex and expensive and mean taking the antenna to a dedicated test site or the ship to a port with dedicated test facilities. Having identified this gap, myself and co-founder Andrian Buchi set about exploring how drones could be effectively used for satellite antenna testing. We very quickly realised it had real value for the industry and have been able to build it into a commercial solution that is fully automated, flexible, and location independent, making it capable of scaling and transforming how antennas are tested. We have already worked with some of the largest companies in the industry, including SES, OneWeb, and ESA amongst others.
You will speak on the Panel: Designing the All Singing, All Dancing Antenna: Responding to End-user Terminal Requirement for Future Network Success panel session at the Mobility Connectivity Conference. How have antennas and terminals developed over the last decade?
Over recent years we have seen a number of key trends. For one thing, antennas have been getting smaller. There is a growing need for flat panel antennas to serve the demand for comms on the move. However, developing a small antenna that doesn’t compromise on performance is extremely challenging.
We are also seeing smarter antennas, which are needed to ensure they can automatically switch to the next LEO satellite during handoff. As ground terminals and antennas continue to evolve, it is not as simple as being able to use the same testing techniques we have always used as each evolution brings new methods that need to be approached in a different way.
QuadSat provides drone-based antenna testing and tracking solutions for satellite (as well as other) applications. What makes this method so unique?
Up until now, the only way to get extremely accurate results has been to test antennas within a dedicated testing site. This is expensive and requires transporting the antenna to that site. At the same time, there are a number of different antenna performance requirements developed by ITU, FCC, and industry, such as SOMAP developed from leading GEO stationary operators that if followed ensures that antennas do not generate interference. To follow these processes, there are dedicated test facilities for user terminals as well as case by case procedures developed by satellite operators on how to test over a satellite, however some limitations apply, such as which frequencies can be tested and tracking performance.
Our drone-based antenna test and measurement solution that ensures a full testing solution of radiation and tracking capabilities for ground segment. We are innovating complementary solution to antenna test facilities that can be used on location at any antenna site to ensure that the ground segment is working at its full capability, will avoid generating harmful interference and be able to close the loop with satellites rapidly enough to ensure no break in communications for users and control of the spacecraft. As well as being low-cost, location independent, and flexible, testing the antenna in its operational environment means also being able to verify the impact of specific environmental conditions.
The system provides pre- and post-flight software to ensure repeatability, control over the drone during measurements, ease of operation and data delivery in a uniform format. This in-depth testing will provide quality assurance and improve reliability throughout the satcom industry, allowing the industry to deliver the networks required for the connectivity of the future.
How do you see satellite communications and terminals developing over the next couple of years?
We will see space continue to get more crowded and there are certainly many LEO large constellations launches on the horizon bring with it a number of challenges. Though there have been disruptions in both launch and satellite manufacturing capabilities, we are yet to see a scalable rollout of ground segments designed to accommodate this new generation of technology. From experience we do know that Comms on the Move are the largest contributors to unintentional harmful interference among satellite operators. Here the key difference is that by moving the user terminal, we are creating a system that is mechanically dynamic. With LEO, all communications, both up and down will be dynamic as we have moving satellites. This will cause a challenge and poses a very real risk of causing radio frequency interference.
It will be more important than ever for satellite operators to be able to test their ground segment equipment both before launch and on an ongoing basis to verify performance.
What are you most looking forward to at the show?
As is the way with a lot of people this year, it is nice to be back out and about and able to meet people. I think it is great that the Mobility Connectivity Conference will be located right within the thick of the Space Tech Expo exhibition hall this year and I’m looking forward to attending as many sessions as I can, which will hopefully be easy thanks to our booth being extremely close by. Space Tech Expo always has a great range of innovative companies changing the way space can be utilised and I’m looking forward to seeing what is new.