When the military wants to build a new aircraft, the last thing they need is a huge antenna sticking up like the radio antenna that you’d find on your Mazda. But military aircraft, both manned and unmanned, need powerful antennas for navigation and communications. The solution is to create a flatter, lower profile antenna, a piece of technology that is both powerful and streamlined. This problem presents a unique engineering challenge. KC Kerby-Patel is an applied electromagnetics researcher who is puzzling over that problem – now with the support of a three-year Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant.
Kerby-Patel was awarded the 2015 Young Faculty Award (YFA) from DARPA. The stated purpose of this award is to “identify and engage rising research stars in junior faculty positions at U.S. academic institutions.” The grant consists of nearly $500,000 for the first two years, and nearly $250,000 for the third optional year of support. She is one of only 22 YFA winners this year.
“I’m working on a new way to design low-profile antennas backed by high impedance surfaces,” says Kerby-Patel. “High impedance surfaces are a promising new material for antennas, but right now there is a lot of trial and error in the design process. We’re trying to eliminate that trial and error.”
Her research involves three components: First, she will develop a model that simplifies the physics of the antenna into an equivalent circuit. Second, she’ll compare the behavior of the actual antenna to the model using electromagnetic simulation software and real-world experiments. Finally, she’ll use the new physical detail captured by the model to create novel methods for designing low-profile antennas. The goal is to create an antenna that can be used in unmanned aerial vehicles for communications and sensing.
Kerby-Patel has been teaching and researching at UMass Boston since 2014, and she says that this grant represents a “great beginning” for her lab.
“Coming straight from a research position from industry, KC impressed us with her innate ability to convey knowledge to her students, connecting what they learn in classroom with cutting edge technology,” said Engineering Department Chair Greg Sun.
The UMass Boston Engineering department was established in 2014, and offers bachelor’s degrees in computer engineering and electrical engineering, as well as a host of extra-curricular, research, and internship opportunities for students.
“Our new engineering degree and research programs are rising very quickly because of the hard work of our distinguished faculty like Professor KC Kerby-Patel,” said Zong-Guo Xia, Vice Provost for Research.