Secure Self-Tracking antennas


  • Secure Self-Tracking antennas

Secure Self-Tracking antennas

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Neil Buchanan

Second Supervisor: Prof. Vincent Fusco

+ Project Description

Self-Tracking (or Retrodirective) antennas offer a simple, yet highly effective means of providing a high gain antenna, with the ability to point a directional beam towards the target, in real time. The beamforming is entirely carried out in the analogue domain, removing the need for complex and power hungry digital beam forming circuits. Retrodirective antennas have been well characterised in the laboratory environment and QUB is investigating their use for applications such as satellite communication1. We have also recently completed a study2 with ESA on the use of these antennas on space launch vehicles, such as Vega. The results of these studies have demonstrated a very clear need for retrodirective antenna systems to be become more secure. Particularly, present systems have the weakness that unwanted users can “steal the beam” preventing the beam being pointed in the correct direction. This PhD study will look into innovative approaches where secure authentication can be applied to the retrodirective system, without adding significantly more complexity. There is potential for new retrodirective architectures to result from this study, adding significant novelty. This research will offer a high impact in a short timeframe due to its direct “real world” applications.


1. N. Buchanan, V. Fusco, “Increasing the TRL of an L band Retrodirective array for Type Approved SATCOM applications” 36th Antenna Workshop, ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands, October 2015

2. J. Puttonen, Jie Zhang, O. Puchko, J. Kurjenniemi, P. Salaris, A. Masci, R. Romanato, D. Di Lanzo, S. Falzini, N. Buchanan, Haesik Kim, H. Paaso, J. Seppänen, P. Järvensivu, G. Martini, A. Pagnani, and I. Aguilar Sánchez, “Robust telemetry system for future launchers,” in Proc. 7th ESA International Workshop on Tracking, Telemetry and Command Systems for Space Applications (TTC 2016), Noordwijk, The Netherlands, 13-16 September 2016

+ Objectives

1. Literature search and familiarisation of analogue self tracking arrays

2. Establish methods where a retrodirective antenna can be applied to a secure link

3. Produce novel contending options for secure retrodirective array

4. Determine by theory, simulation and measurement suitable hardware to allow retrodirective secure techniques to be practically demonstrated

5. Benchmark tests by simulation and measurements of the retrodirective antenna in a relevant environment, eg with a WLAN router and comparison with known techniques such as MIMO. Correlation of these results with theory/simulation.

6. Recommendations for the retrodirective antenna regarding its suitability towards a range of secure applications 

+ How to Apply

Applicants should apply electronically through the Queen’s online application portal at:

+ Contact Details

Supervisor Name: Dr. Neil Buchanan           

Queens University of Belfast
School of EEECS
Centre for Wireless Innovation (CWI))
NI Science Park
Queens Road,



+44 (0)28 9097 1721