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Chapter 1. Basic Radio Theory

Wave Motion Introduction A wave is a progressive disturbance in a medium, formed by alternating pressures and tensions, without any permanent displacement of the medium itself in the direction in which these stresses are propagated. This condition is readily observed on the surface of a pond. If a stone is thrown into the water then a series of waves is produced which radiate out until the bank is reached. If a plastic duck is placed in the pond, it will rise and fall as the wave passes underneath. There is no movement in the direction of wave travel. While the wave moves towards the bank, the water does not. The wave can be said to possess the following characteristics: The form of the wave moves outwards although the water itself does not The wave possesses energy obtained from the stone. With the passage of the wave, energy is lost due to friction and the further away from the source the smaller the wave The wave travels at a constant speed The wave is sinusoidal, it travels as a sine wave

The radio wave is an alternating waveform and as such the following terms are used:


A complete sequence of positive and negative values (AB)



Period Velocity The duration of one cycle (T). In the figure above T = 1/100 seconds The speed with which a wave travels through a given medium. For a radio wave this is 300 000 000 metres per second better expressed as 300 X 106 m/s The number of complete waves passing a fixed point in one second, denoted by the symbol f. Usually expressed as Hertz (Hz). It is obvious that f = 1/T The distance between similar points on successive waves or the distance occupied by one complete cycle when travelling in free space (AB), denoted by the symbol (Lambda) The maximum height of the wave. This can be positive or negative. The positive amplitude is represented by b




Electro-Magnetic Waves The atmosphere carries light, heat and radio waves. These waves differ only in their frequency and wavelength and the effects they have on different materials. Termed Electro-magnetic because of their electrical and magnetic nature. All these waves travel at the same velocity, denoted by the letter c. For the Radio Navigation syllabus this velocity is: 300 000 000 metres per second for simplicity of calculation this is usually written as 300 X 106 metres per second Properties of Radio Waves properties: A radio wave that leaves a transmitter has the following

They consist of oscillating electric and magnetic fields that are at right angles to each other and at right angles to the direction of propagation They require no supporting medium They can be reflected, refracted and diffracted They are subject to interference and Doppler effect They can pass through an opaque object such as a building although they do suffer attenuation in doing so

Relationship Between Frequency, Wavelength and Velocity The frequency of a sinusoidal wave is the number of cycles occurring in one second. Conversion of frequency to wavelength and vice versa is needed for the JAR exam. Frequency is given the symbol f and the unit is the Hertz, wavelength is the unit used is metres.



Because of the large figures used in frequency the following prefixes have to be used:

Prefix Kilo Mega Giga

Magnitude 103 106 109


1000 Hertz = 1 Kilohertz = 1Khz 1 000 000 Hz = 1 MHz 1 000 000 000 Hz = 1 GHz

Because of the large figures used in frequency the wavelength units can be small. The following prefixes are used: Prefix Milli Micro or Nano Magnitude 10-3 10-6 10-9


Convert 2 MHz to a wavelength = c = 300x106 = 150 metres f 2 x 106


Convert 60 metres to a frequency f = c = 300x106 = 5 MHz 60

Remember: The higher the frequency the shorter the wavelength and vice versa



Examples Convert the following wavelengths into the corresponding frequencies (The answers are given below): 1. 1500 m 2. 20 cm 3. 3500 m Convert the following frequencies into the corresponding wavelength: 1. 2. 3. 4. 300 KHz 75 MHz 600 MHz 8800 MHz

5. How many wavelengths, to the nearest whole number, of frequency 200 MHz are equivalent to 35 feet? Answers Wavelength to Frequency 1. 200 KHz 2. 1500 MHz 3. 85.7 KHz Frequency to Wavelength 1000 m 4m 50 cm 4. 3.41 cm 5. Number of wavelengths in 35 feet for a frequency of 200 MHz = c = 300 x 106 = 1.50 metres f 200 x 106

1 m is equivalent to 3.28 feet 1.5m = 4.92feet The number of wavelengths in 35 feet = 35 4.92



Which is approximately 7 Phase Difference In the diagram below the two waves are said to be in phase. The waves pass the same point of their cycle at the same time.

In the diagram below the waves are said to 90 out of phase: Wave B leads wave A by 90, or Wave A lags wave B by 90



Where two waves have a phase difference of 180, then they are said to be in anti-phase.

Radio Spectrum The electromagnetic spectrum is shown in the diagram below. The different effects brought about by electro-magnetic waves are determined by their frequency. The lower limit is determined by the size and efficiency of the aerials required and the upper limit by the attenuation and absorption of the radio waves by the atmosphere.

Wavelength 100 km Radio Waves 3 KHz 300 GHz 1 mm Infra Red

L i g h t

Ultra Violet


Gamma Rays

Cosmic Rays

The part of the frequency spectrum which is of interest to the pilot is further sub-divided below.
















MHz Radio Spectrum




Wave Propagation There are three principle paths which radio waves may follow over the earth between the transmitter and the receiver: Surface Wave A wave which follows the contours of the earths surface Sky Wave Space Wave A wave that is refracted by the Ionosphere and returned to earth A wave which is line of sight

A combination of the surface and space waves is called a ground wave. The radio energy reaching a receiver may be made up of components due to any one or more of these mechanisms but, depending on the part of the radio spectrum concerned one of the three will predominate. In general:


Surface Wave

Sky Wave

Space Wave

Low frequencies are propagated by surface wave Middle range frequencies by sky wave, and Upper range frequencies by space wave.



Surface Wave The surface wave follows the curvature of the Earth, a process known as diffraction. The process is helped by the Earths attenuation of the radio energy. The wave is slowed as it touches the Earths surface. Therefore, the wave front in the direction of motion will lag at the surface.

Wavefront falls towards the Earth as it progresses The wave front is tilted and diffractive bending occurs. The stability of this type of propagation makes the low frequency surface wave suited to systems requiring consistency of signal over long distances. The propagation does require large aerials and the cost of transmission can be considerable. Type of Surface High conductivity favours the passage of a radio signal. So passage over the sea is better than over rock or desert.

Transmitter Power Surface absorption and free space loss reduce the signal strength of a radio wave. If there is no restriction in the available transmitter power then global ranges can be achieved by VLF radio waves. Noise and Interference Noise affects the lower frequencies so affecting the signal/noise ratio. This can limit the usable range. For maximum ground wave range: Use low frequency for maximum diffraction and least attenuation



Use vertical polarization (see polarization) Sky Wave The sky wave ascends into the upper atmosphere and encounters a region containing electrically charged particles (the Ionosphere) where it is refracted sufficiently to return to Earth. Is the Critical Angle. Note that it is measured from the vertical down.

Ground Wave Dead Space Skip Distance

When the wave enters the Ionosphere it changes direction due to a change in velocity. If the wave penetrates halfway through the layer before being bent parallel to the layer it will bend back in the opposite direction to emerge from the top of the layer as an escape ray. This is likely if: The Ionization is insufficiently intense. The frequency is too high The angle of entry is too acute

Critical Angle For a particular frequency and degree of ionization, it is possible to define a critical angle below which total refraction will not take place. Defining the critical angle also establishes the minimum range - the skip distance. Any ray travelling away from the aerial at greater than the critical angle will be freely refracted down to about 5 above the horizon. Dead Space Because of the high frequencies used in sky wave transmission the groundwave travel is not as far as the returning sky wave. The distance between the limit of the groundwave and the first returning sky wave is called the dead space. The Ionosphere The Ionosphere consists of a series of conducting layers between heights of 50 to 400 kilometres. It exists because of the transmission of ultra-violet radiation



from the sun. Because of this dependence upon radiation from the sun the heights and densities of the layers vary according to the: Time of day Season of the year

There is also a connection between the 11 year sunspot cycle. Short term effects occur in a random fashion and these result in the ionized layers being in a state of constant turbulence. Three main layers have been identified and are designated D, E and F. The F layer splits into two separate layers during the day, the time of highest ionization. The D layer is a region of low ionization that only persists during the day. The E layer is more marked and remains weakly ionized by night with little change in height. The F layer is the most strongly ionized and has the greatest diurnal change in height.

400 km


200 km F1 E 100 km D





Frequency and Skip Distance At a fixed level of ionization an increase in frequency will cause the ray, previously the critical ray, to become an escape ray. This will cause an increase in skip distance. Ionization and Skip Distance At a fixed frequency if ionization decreases the effect will be the same as above. The critical ray becomes an escape ray. This will cause an increase in skip distance. Space Wave Transmissions at VHF and above cannot propagate by either surface or sky wave. Attenuation is so severe that the surface wave is virtually non-existent. These frequencies are too high to be refracted by the ionized layers aloft. Transmission is therefore by straight line - the direct wave. In addition to the direct wave there can also be a reflected wave. The two components make up the space wave.

Because of the different emission paths the direct and reflected wave will sometimes be in phase and sometimes out of phase. This will produce lobes and nulls particularly when the receiver is close to the station.

The range of a space wave appears to be line of sight. In practice it is termed quasi-optical: The lower atmosphere causes some refraction of the wave which bends it beyond the optical horizon, and A further small increase is gained from diffraction when the wave becomes tangential to the earths surface



This range can be approximated by the following formula: R = 1.25(HT + HR) Where: R HT HR Example Range in nautical miles Height of the transmitter in feet Height of the receiver in feet An aircraft flying at 10 000 ft receives a transmission from a station at 400 ft. What is the maximum distance communications can be made between the two stations? R = 1.25(10 000 + 400) R = 1.25(100 + 20) R = 150 nm Duct Propagation Under certain abnormal climatic conditions transmissions on a frequency greater than 50 MHz can be received at ranges in excess of the quasi-optical expected.






25 JANUARY 1989 - 0001 GMT. ST.HUBERT, BELGIUM PRESSURE 900mb 920mb 945mb TEMPERATURE + 7.1 + 7.5 - 3.5 DEW POINT - 40.0 - 28.0 - 3.9 MODIFIED REFRACTIVE INDEX 250.8 257.3 295.8

The conditions that cause this abnormal propagation are: A temperature inversion A rapid decrease in humidity with height

This forms a duct between the earth and a few hundred feet above the surface.



Radio waves have a wavelength that is small compared with the duct height. This allows the duct to refract the wave back to earth. The wave is then reflected by the earths surface back to the duct ceiling. A series of these refraction/reflection hops occur and thus the wave can be received well in excess of the quasi-optical range. The same conditions can occur when there is an inversion aloft.



These conditions are normally associated with large high pressure systems; a condition which is a regular feature in the tropics. Aerials A transmitter/receiver is only as good as the aerial. An aerial can be defined as a device used for the efficient transmission and reception of electromagnetic energy. Generally we look at aerials that radiate, however, the properties of a transmitting aerial apply equally to the receiving aerial. Aerial Characteristics When an aerial radiates an electro-magnetic wave two radio frequency fields are transmitted; E Field H Field Electric or electrostatic field The magnetic field.

These fields are transmitted at right angles to each other.



Note that the H field is always at right angles to the aerial and the E field is always parallel to the plane of the aerial. By convention the wave is said to be vertically polarized if the E Field Is perpendicular to the earth and horizontally polarized if parallel to it. A vertically polarized wave is produced by a vertical aerial: a horizontally polarized wave by a horizontal aerial. Note This is not true for slot aerials where a vertical slot aerial produces a horizontally polarized signal and a horizontal slot aerial produces a vertically polarized signal.

Aerial Length The aerial is manufactured to a specific length dependent on the frequency to be used. Polar Diagrams The effective radiation or reception of an aerial is shown by a polar diagram. These can be shown as: Horizontal Vertical Looking down on the aerial from above Looking at the aerial from the side

Omni-Directional Aerials Simple Half-Wave Dipole In its simplest form a dipole consists of a metal rod or a wire cut to a specified length. The aerial is cut to a half wave-length. Example For a frequency of 30 MHz = 10 m The aerial for this wavelength will be /2 or 5 m This is called the Electrical Length. In an ideal world the Electrical Length would be the length of aerial required for a given frequency. The speed of electro-magnetic radiation through a vacuum is constant. When an aerial feeder is used the speed of the radiation is slower. This slower speed is approximately 5% less than the in-vacuo speed and we must take this into account by factoring the Electrical Length to 95% of its value. This is the Physical Length of the aerial for a given frequency. Example For a frequency of 100 MHz =3m Electrical Length of the aerial = /2 = 150cm



Physical Length = 95% of /2 = 142.5cm Marconi Quarter Wave Aerial Most practical aerials are cut to /4. By using the reflective properties of electro-magnetic waves the aerial compensates for the missing half of the dipole.

The Marconi aerial is particularly suitable for fitting into aircraft structures. To ensure that the aerial can be used over a range of frequencies an aerial loading unit (ALU) is fitted. This unit electronically matches the aerial to the frequency selected. Aerial Feeders There needs to be a connection between the transmitter/receiver and the aerial, this is known as a feeder. The type of feeder used depends upon the frequency to be used. The most common feeder in use in aircraft communications is the co-axial cable (better known to us as the TV aerial wire). Higher frequencies need a more sophisticated feeder, such as radar where a wave guide is required. Aerial Directivity The dipole radiates power evenly in all directions or omni-directionally. The plan and side views show the radiating pattern.

Note that the radiating polar diagram is from the centre of the aerial not the tip.



To modify the omni-directional properties and give the aerial directivity parasitic elements have to be added. The most common directional aerial in everyday use is the TV antenna The Yagi. The directional properties are derived by adding parasitic elements in front and behind the dipole.

To change the omni-directional properties a parasitic reflector, 5% larger than the dipole, is placed at a distance of /4 from the dipole. The normally circular polar diagram is now changed into an elongated heart shape. The reflector reflecting the power back towards the aerial. Note that the dipole is the only part of the aerial that has any power.

To enhance the directional properties parasitic directors are added on the opposite side to the parasitic reflector. These elements are 5% shorter than the dipole.



The resulting polar diagram is narrow in beam width and gives excellent directional properties. One disadvantage with the directivity achieved is that unwanted side lobes are produced. The side lobes are approximately 50% of the power of the main beam and can give spurious indications if not dealt with. Methods of suppression or removal of the side lobes are discussed in individual chapters on equipment.

Different polar diagrams can be achieved for different aerial combinations. An example of this being the figure of eight produced by two dipoles.

The significance of changing the polar diagram will become apparent as each piece of equipment is discussed in detail. Modulation Modulation is the superimposing of intelligence, such as speech or Morse identification, onto a carrier wave. Varying a parameter of the carrier, such as its amplitude or frequency does this. When electro-magnetic energy is radiated as a sinusoidal wave no intelligence is transmitted. The frequency is beyond the scope of human hearing and the wave itself would be meaningless. Keying By interrupting the wave, a process known as keying, Morse Code can be transmitted.



The frequency may be identifiable as Morse code, but is still outside the audible range. To help with audible reception the carrier frequency has to be converted into a signal within the audio range. This is achieved by mixing the received frequency with a known frequency; this produces a signal in the audio range. Example Received frequency Known frequency 500 KHz 501 KHz

Four frequencies are produced 500 KHz} 501 KHz} 1001 KHz} 1 kHz an audible frequency outside the audible range

This mixing process is known as heterodyning. The process is carried out by a receiver unit, the detector and an oscillator called the Beat Frequency Oscillator.



Note that the only piece of equipment that uses a BFO in the aircraft is the ADF. Normally electromagnetic radiation is modulated by one of the three methods listed below: Amplitude Modulation (AM) the wave. AM is where the modulating frequency alters the amplitude of

Where a carrier is amplitude modulated by a single tone the resultant waveform consists of three components: The carrier wave fc The upper sideband (fc + fs) The lower sideband (fc - fs), where fs is the modulating signal



The AM signal will consist of: 1 2. 3. 500 KHz 501 KHz 499 KHz the carrier the upper sideband the lower sideband

Intelligence is carried by both sidebands. The spread of the side frequencies is known as the bandwidth. For an amplitude modulated signal the bandwidth is 2fs. Both sidebands carry the same information, if one of the bands is suppressed (eg the upper sideband) then the only frequencies that need transmitting are 500 KHz and 499 KHz. This type of transmission will have two main advantages: Less power is required to transmit one sideband and the carrier The signal occupies less of the radio spectrum. This means that a more efficient use can be made of the frequency band the signal is in.

HF transmissions make use of the single sideband transmission. Frequency Modulation (FM) of the wave. FM is where the modulating frequency alters the frequency

The frequency of the carrier varies by an amount proportional to the instantaneous amplitude of the modulating signal. The rate of change of the carrier frequency is proportional to the frequency of the modulating signal, the amplitude of the modulated carrier remaining constant throughout. FM signals are relatively noise free. Unfortunately this type of broadcast uses a much wider bandwidth than AM and so FM has limited application in commercial aviation but is used in: VOR



Radio Altimeters Doppler

Pulse Modulation (PM) PM is where the carrier is transmitted in short pulses. These pulses can be coded to carry information. Two types of PM need consideration: Pulse Amplitude Modulation (PAM) In a similar way to AM it is possible for an audio waveform to modify the amplitude of a fixed train of pulses. Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) A system where each pulse amplitude is assigned a binary number. Classification of Emissions Radio regulatory agencies have designed a coding system that fully describes the form that a radio transmission may take. The table below details the coding system. First Character Type of Modulation N Unmodulated carrier A - Amplitude J Single sideband (no carrier) F Frequency P Unmodulated pulses Second Character Nature of the Modulating Signal 0 No modulation 1 Interrupted carrier 2 Keyed or digital audio modulation 3 Telephony (voice or music) 8 Two or more channels of analogue information 9 Composite systems comprising of 1 & 2 above with 3 or 8 X Cases not otherwise covered The emission characteristics for civil aviation use that you need to know are: ADF HF VHF VDF ILS VOR DME N0N A1A N0N A2A J3E A3E A3E A8W A9W P0N Third Character Type of Information Being Transmitted N No information transmitted A Telegraphy for aural reception E Telephony including sound broadcasting W Combination of the above X Cases not otherwise covered



Basic Radar Theory Introduction Radar is derived from the expression radio detection and ranging. It may be defined as any system employing radio to detect the presence of objects and to determine their position and movement. Radar Frequencies Radar occupies the frequency bands from VHF upwards. Higher frequencies are used because: They are free from external noise Narrow beams operate more efficiently with a short wavelength Primary radar use pulses, high frequencies produce short pulses The efficiency of reflection depends upon the size of the target in relation to wavelength. High frequencies are reflected more efficiently

Principles A transmitter sends out, via the aerial, a brief pulse of radio energy. Every 6.2 microseconds (s) this pulse will travel 1 nautical mile. If this pulse strikes a target, a small proportion of the radio energy will be reflected back to the aerial. The aerial picks up this reflected energy and passes it to the receiver. If the time of travel is known then the range can be calculated.

Pulse Radars Pulse radars are employed as: Primary radars - ATC surveillance radars, Airborne weather radars Secondary radars - DME and SSR Doppler

The radar transmits energy in very short bursts of high energy. Timing the pulse yields a direct measurement of the range and requires a sensitive receiver. The transmission, travel



and reception of the pulse must be achieved before the next pulse is transmitted. This will then ensure that we have an unambiguous target. Primary Radar A primary radar relies on the weak reflections from a passive target. The effectiveness of the radar depends upon the transmitter power and the receiver sensitivity. Secondary Radar Relies on the target co-operating with the transmitter. The target transmits a reply signal to an interrogatory signal such as in SSR and DME. The interrogation and reply are usually on different frequencies. Secondary radar has both advantages and disadvantages over a primary radar: Advantages Primary radars require much more power to achieve the same range Target size and aspect are irrelevant because the target transmits the response Responses on the secondary radar are much more reliable Information can be encoded to give the transmitter and receiver information Clutter on the radar screen can be eliminated

Disadvantages The radar requires the co-operation of the target Bearing resolution can be inferior Side lobes can be a problem at short range Beacon saturation can be a problem There are two principle means:

Radar Direction Finding

Lobe Comparison Beam Direction Finding

Lobe Comparison Mainly used by secondary radars two aerials are used to define direction. The aerial is rotated till an equal strength signal is received.



Beam Direction Finding By using a parabolic aerial a near parallel beam can be achieved. Because the direction of the aerial is known and the pulse is transmitted and received before a second pulse is transmitted the azimuth of the target can be calculated.

The beamwidth of a parabolic aerial can be calculated by the formula: Beamwidth = 70 /d Where: = wavelength of the radar d = diameter of the parabolic aerial Remember with this calculation that and d must be in the same units. Radar Terminology Certain terms are used in radar and these need to be understood.

Pulse Recurrence Frequency (PRF) This is the rate at which pulses are transmitted by the radar. The units used are pulses per second (pps). The maximum PRF is determined by the fact that each pulse must be able to reach the most distant target and return before the next pulse is transmitted. Otherwise there is a possibility of ambiguous range measurement.



Pulse Recurrence Interval (PRI) The time interval between pulses. The units are normally microseconds. The PRI is used to determine the maximum range of the radar. The relationship between PRI and PRF is simple.

PRI = 1 PRF Example For a radar with a PRF of 250 pps find the maximum range PRI = 1 / PRF = 1 / 250 = .004 seconds = 4000 seconds = 4000 X 10-6 seconds (to convert seconds into microseconds multiply by 1 000 000) Distance = speed X time The total time of travel out and back for the pulse is 4000 seconds The time of travel one way, so that the range can be calculated = 2000 seconds or 2000 X 10-6 seconds Distance = (2000 X 10-6) seconds X (300 X 106) metres per second Distance = 600 000 metres = 600 kilometres This is the maximum unambiguous range of the radar Pulse Width (PW) The duration of the pulse. This determines the minimum range of a radar. The pulse must travel half its distance before it hits a target and returns to the radar. Otherwise the radar will still be transmitting the same pulse. Example A radar has a PW of 2 seconds, what is its minimum range The minimum range must be half the time of travel, which is 1 second Distance = speed X time = (1 X 10-6) seconds X (300 X 106) metres per second Distance = 300 metres



Choice of Frequency To produce a narrow beam a high frequency must be used. The advantages of using a narrow beam are obvious: Bearing accuracy will be greater There is an increase in effective power The radar will be able to resolve closely spaced targets High frequencies also generate a squarer pulse shape Wavelength has to be shorter than the target size

All the above have to be taken into consideration

The basic radar has seven elements: Master Timer This is the trigger unit and has two functions: Modulator It generates the basic PRF Synchronizes the firing of the transmitter The output from the modulator switches the transmitter on and off and so controls the pulse length of the transmitter output Delivers the pulse to the aerial




Receiver A sensitive superhet that can amplify the very weak returning echoes. These are then processed for display. The same aerial is used for both transmission and reception. The receiver must be protected from the high power transmitter. This is achieved by electronically isolating the waveguides for both. A duplexer which in real terms is the brains of the radar does this isolation. Radar information is usually displayed on a Cathode Ray Tube A parabolic dish on older aerials. Now a flat bed array which electronically simulates a parabolic dish.

T/R switch

Indicator Aerial



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