INTELLIGENT ANTENNA METAMATERIAL METHOD AND APPARATUS
1. A sensor system, comprising:
- a dielectric layer having a plurality of metamaterial unit cells configured thereon as an array;
a plurality of varactors coupled to the plurality of metamaterial unit cells; and
an Intelligent Antenna Module (“
), the IAM adapted to;
detect a target in a section of a field of view;
assign a subset of the plurality of metamaterial unit cells into a sub-array; and
adjust a subset of voltage controllers associated with the sub-array to cause the sub-array to transmit a signal having a bandwidth to focus on the target.
The present invention is a metamaterial-based object detection system. An intelligent antenna metamaterial interface (IAM) associates specific metamaterial unit cells into sub-arrays to adjust the beam width of a transmitted signal. The IAM is part of a sensor fusion system that coordinates a plurality of sensors, such as in a vehicle, to optimize performance. In one embodiment, an MTM antenna structure is probe-fed to create a standing wave across the unit cells.
- 1. A sensor system, comprising:
a dielectric layer having a plurality of metamaterial unit cells configured thereon as an array; a plurality of varactors coupled to the plurality of metamaterial unit cells; and an Intelligent Antenna Module (“
), the IAM adapted to;
detect a target in a section of a field of view; assign a subset of the plurality of metamaterial unit cells into a sub-array; and adjust a subset of voltage controllers associated with the sub-array to cause the sub-array to transmit a signal having a bandwidth to focus on the target.
- View Dependent Claims (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
- 10. A sensor fusion system, comprising:
a plurality of sensors in a vehicle; a sensor fusion controller having an interface to receive signals from the plurality of sensors and implement a control action in response to the received signals; a metamaterial antenna structure coupled to the sensor fusion controller; and an IAM interface for communication between the sensor fusion controller and the metamaterial antenna structure, wherein the IAM interface controls subarrays of the metamaterial antenna structure.
- 11. An antenna structure, comprising:
a ground plane layer; a feed layer coupled to the ground plane layer; a first dielectric layer positioned proximate the ground layer and having a radiating structure; and a metamaterial layer positioned proximate the first dielectric layer, wherein the metamaterial layer comprises a t least one metamaterial unit cell.
- View Dependent Claims (12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/515,045, filed on Jun. 5, 2017, and incorporated by reference herein.
The present invention relates to intelligent antennas using metamaterial structures using dynamic control of the metamaterial unit cells.
Antennas are used in everyday life for communication systems, sensing devices, radar systems and so forth. Recently there is attention given to autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles. The designs and products contemplated today do not consider all the weather conditions, power consumption constraints and timing required for effective control of a vehicle. There is a need to provide a sensing system that works over the range of road, weather, temperature, visibility, traffic conditions and so forth, while maintaining consistent reliable service.
Embodiments of the present invention are described with respect to the figures. These are not drawn to scale and are drawn to clearly identify what applicant claims as the invention.
The present invention describes an antenna system having an antenna configured with metamaterial (MTM) cells and controlled by an Intelligent Antenna MTM interface (IAM). The antenna system may be used in applications including cellular communication networks, vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems, object detection systems, autonomous vehicle sensor systems, drone control and communication systems, and so forth. The MTM antenna structure is dynamically controlled by the IAM; control may be done by changing the electrical or electromagnetic configuration of the antenna structure. In some embodiments, varactors are coupled to the MTM antenna structure to enable adjustment of the radiation pattern. In some embodiments, the MTM unit cells may be configured into subarrays that have specific characteristics. For use in an autonomous vehicle, the system may perform a coarse focus with a large beam width as an ambient condition, and then narrow the beam width when an echo is received, indicating an object is within the field of view of the antenna structure'"'"'s radiation pattern. In this way, the larger beam width may sweep the full Field of View (FoV) of the antenna structure, reducing the time to scan the FoV. In some embodiments, the IAM is able to detect the area of the FoV of a detected object and map that to a specific configuration of MTM unit cells and/or subarrays to focus the beam, i.e. narrow the beam width. Additionally, in some embodiments, the specific dimensions and other properties of the detected object, such as traveling velocity with respect to the antenna structure, are analyzed and a next action(s) or course of action(s) is determined. The detected object in some embodiments is then provided as a visual or graphic display, which may act as a back-up security feature for the passenger in the vehicle.
An MTM unit cell, such as cell 140, includes multiple microstrips, gaps and vias, having a behavior that is the equivalent to a combination of series capacitors and shunt inductors. Various configurations, shapes, designs and dimensions are used to implement specific designs and meet specific constraints. The MTM antenna structure 110 may be configured into subarrays, which group unit cells such as cell 140 together. An IAM 50 acts to control the operational parameters of the MTM antenna structure 110. In some embodiments, these parameters include voltages applied to individual MTM unit cells, such as unit cell 140. IAM 50 includes modules and components that capture, measure, store, analyze and provide instructions. The extent of the capabilities of the IAM 50 is strong and flexible; as more and more information is required for an application, the IAM 50 can build additional capabilities. In this way, the IAM 50 is a software programmable module implemented in hardware, having an IAM controller 52 that governs actions within the IAM 50.
In the present embodiment described herein, the application is for an autonomous car, wherein the system 100 is a sensing system that uses radar to identify objects. The use of radar provides a reliable way to detect objects in difficult weather conditions. For example, historically a driver will slow down dramatically in thick fog, as the driving speed decreases with decreases in visibility. On a highway in Europe, for example, where the speed limit is 115 km/h, a driver may need to slow down to 40 km/h when visibility is poor. Using the present embodiment, the driver (or driverless car) may maintain the maximum safe speed without regard to the weather conditions. Even if other drivers slow down, the car enabled with the present embodiment will be able to detect those slow-moving cars and obstacles in the way and avoid/navigate around them.
Additionally, in highly congested areas, it is necessary for an autonomous car to detect objects in sufficient time to react and take action. The present invention increases the sweep time of a radar signal so as to detect any echoes in time to react. In rural areas and other areas with few obstacles during travel, the IAM 50 adjusts the focus of the beam to a larger beam width, thereby enabling a faster scan of areas where there are few echoes. The IAM 50 may detect this situation by evaluating the number of echoes received within a given time period and making beam size adjustments accordingly. Once an object is detected, the IAM 50 determines how to adjust the beam focus. This is achieved by changing the specific configurations and conditions of the MTM antenna structure 110. For example, in one scenario the voltages on the varactors are adjusted. In another scenario, a subset of unit cells is configured as a subarray. This configuration means that this set may be treated as a single unit, and all the varactors are adjusted similarly. In another scenario, the subarray is changed to include a different number of unit cells.
All of these detection scenarios, analysis and reactions may be stored in the IAM 50 and used for later analysis or simplified reactions. For example, if there is an increase in the echoes received at a given time of day or on a specific highway, that information is fed into the IAM controller 52 to assist in proactive preparation and configuration of the MTM antenna structure 110. Additionally, there may be some subarray combinations that perform better, such as to achieve a desired result, and this is stored in the IAM memory 54.
In operation, the MTM antenna structure 110 provides radar radiation pattern(s) to scan the FoV of the system 100. In some embodiments, an FoV composite data unit 112 stores information that describes the FoV. This may be historical data used to track trends and anticipate behaviors and traffic conditions or may be instantaneous or real time data that describes the FoV at a moment in time or over a window in time. The ability to store this data enables the IAM 50 to make decisions that are strategically targeted at a particular point or area within the FoV. For example, the FoV may be clear (no echoes received) for five minutes, and then one echo arrives from a specific region in the FoV; this is similar to detecting the front of a car. In response, the IAM 50 may determine to narrow the beam width for a more focused view of that sector or area in the FoV. The next scan may indicate the objects'"'"' length or other dimension, and if the object is a car, the IAM 50 may consider what direction the object is moving and focus the beams on that area. Similarly, the echo may be from a spurious object, such as a bird, which is small and moving quickly out of the path of the car. There are a variety of other uses for the FoV composite data 112, including the ability to identify a specific type of object based on previous detection.
The object detection module 114 receives control information from the IAM controller 52, and determines the adjustments, if any, to be made. In some embodiments, the scan begins with a coarse scan having a large bandwidth. On object detection, the beam width narrows. The variable beam dimension module 116 responds to the object detection module 114 and may vary the beam width as quickly or slowly as desired. In some embodiments, the beam width is a binary value, and in others it may take on continuous values. The object detection module 114 instructs the beam direction module 118 where to direct the beam, such as from a subarray. From the received information (echoes) the object dimension analysis module 120 determines parameters and dimensions of the detected object.
Continuing with system 100, the transmit/receive control 130 is controlled by controller 132 and controls the transmit and receive paths to and from MTM antenna structure 110. There may a portion of the unit cells, such as unit cell 140, that is dedicated to receive, and another portion that is dedicated to transmit, or the MTM antenna structure 110 may be a transmit and receive antenna. In some embodiments, the IAM 50 may allocate specific unit cells, or subarrays, as receive only, transmit only or as transmit and receive. There are any number of combinations and designs for these embodiments.
There are many methods that systems that the MTM antenna structure 110 may use with respect to the IAM 50 for applying, embedding, controlling and so forth. An embodiment for dynamic control of the MTM antenna structure 110 is illustrated in
In some embodiments, process 200 interfaces with a variety of other systems within an application. For example, in a vehicular application, information received at the antenna and the analysis of at least a portion of that data are provided to other modules for processing, such as to a perception layer in an automobile or to a navigation screen.
Each of the unit cells 340(i,j) in the antenna structure 300 may operate individually or as part of a subarray. As illustrated, the IAM 350 has associated or grouped specific unit cells into sub-arrays 302, 304, 306 and 308. The IAM 350 determines where the radiated beam is to be directed, the shape of the beam and the dimensions of the beam. The beam may be a coarse or large bandwidth beam, a midsized beam or a small, narrow bandwidth beam depending on the situation, the object detected and the timing of the detection, as well as other considerations. The IAM 350 may preconfigure one or more of the subarrays to anticipate a next action, or may use a default configuration, such as to start with a broad bandwidth which enables a faster scan capability or sweep time. For each sweep, the FoV is divided into portions, which may have consistent dimensions, different dimensions or may be dynamically adjusted. In some embodiments, the IAM selects specific directions to have a narrow beam, such as directly in front of the vehicle; other directions, such as on the edges of the FoV may be scanned with a wide beam. These and other design considerations are made by the designer in setting up the IAM 350, wherein some IAM 350 are flexible and configurable. In the illustrated example, the MTM antenna structure 300 has several subarrays that are intended to direct the beam and form the desired radiation pattern.
Once an object is detected, the FoV-to-MTM mapping 360 identifies the portion of the FoV for the IAM 350 and maps that location to a specific MTM unit cell or subarray that will focus on and capture more information about the object. In some embodiments, the IAM 350 has access to various scenarios and may use detected information to predict future conditions on the road. For example, if the MTM antenna structure 300 detects a deer running across the road in an area having a known deer path, the IAM 350 may predict the direction of the deer, as well as anticipate other deer that may follow.
As illustrated in
As a vehicle travels, there are different FoV snapshots or slices, such as from a near-field to a far-field slice. In
As discussed herein, the placement of the MTM antenna structure may be designed and implemented according to the application.
In some embodiments, a bill board 808 placed along the road has an MTM antenna structure 810 that detects objects traveling along the road. The bill board 808 may have lighting, switched effects, messaging or other power-supplied effects. For power efficiency, the bill board is able to change to a static message that does not use these effects. In some embodiments, the bill board will be able to detect the type of vehicles traveling on a crowded highway and then post an ad that those drivers would like. For example, if there is a faster way to travel for electric vehicles, a bill board may detect times when that lane is empty or sparsely used, while the other lanes are jammed In this case, the bill board 808 may want to advertise electric vehicles. This ability for infrastructure, such as a stationery bill board, to understand what is happening in its vicinity may be enhanced by communicating with specific vehicles or broadcasting a message to all the vehicles. Billboard 930 is a communicative billboard that detects a specific driver via wireless signals with the car but cannot communicate with cars not enabled for such communications. Using an MTM antenna structure, these billboards are able to understand more about their environment.
There may be other sensors that work in collaboration with MTM antenna structures, where each has a special area of detection. In one embodiment shown in
Some other considerations for antenna applications, such as for radar antennas used in vehicles, include the antenna design, capabilities, and receiver and transmitter configurations. A typical electronic system with an antenna array consists of two or more antenna elements, beam forming network, and a receiver or transmitter. The beamforming network may consist of a Butler matrix or other antenna arrays combined with phase shifting elements. Many different antenna configurations can be utilized as an antenna element in the antenna array: simple dipole, monopole, printed patch design, Yagi antenna, and so forth. One of the primary goals for antennas mounted on/in the car is to achieve a compact and aesthetic design. Other goals relate to the type of communication signal used for the radar beam. One type of modulation used is Frequency Modulation Continuous Wave (FMCW), which is effective in radar applications, as radar does not need to pulse, but rather transmits continuously. FMCW is a continuous carrier modulated waveform that is transmitted as a continuous periodic function, such as sinusoid, sawtooth, triangular and so forth. The sweep time, or sweep period, Ts is the time for transmission of one period of the waveform. The signal transmitted during one sweep period is referred to as a chirp. There is a difference in the frequency of the transmit and receive signals that is referred to as the beat frequency, bf. The range of the antenna, R, is the distance from the antenna to a detected object, and is a function of the sweep period, beat frequency, the speed of light, c, and the sweep bandwidth, Bs. A moving target induces a Doppler frequency shift that enables radar to detect the relative velocity of the target with respect to the antenna. The phase difference between the transmit and receive signals provides location information, while the frequency shift identifies a speed.
In the case of moving objects, the signal phase distortions may impact the performance of the antenna array. One way to offset such distortion is to use multiple subarrays at the Tx and Rx sides to filter out these impurities. Another way is to adjust the antenna calibration on-the-fly to reduce the phase distortion of moving objects.
Traditional phase shifting is used to control the beam of an antenna. Phased array antennas have multiple elements that are fed so as to have a variable phase or time-delay at each element and so that the beam scans from different angles. The multiple elements provide radiation patterns with lower sidelobes and enables careful beam shaping. The beam can be repositioned for more directed and efficient operation.
The present inventions provide an MTM antenna structure that provides phase shifting without the active elements required to change the phase, or in the traditional ways. The MTM antenna structures of various embodiments use the characteristics of the metamaterial shape and configuration to provide phase shift without the use of mechanical or electrical phase shifters.
One example of an MTM antenna structure 1000 is illustrated in
Another embodiment is illustrated in
Current technology presents a variety of sensors, such as for an automobile that may include various camera, laser, radar, temperature and other sensors. As shown in
As illustrated, the system 1200 includes a camera sensor 1204 which will detect visible objects and conditions and is used in rear view cameras that enable the user to better control the vehicle. The camera sensor 1204 may be used for various functions, including some that are invisible to the user, or driver. Infrastructure sensors 1206 may provide information from infrastructure while driving, such as from a smart road configuration, bill board information, traffic alerts and indicators, including traffic lights, stop signs, traffic warnings, and so forth. This is a growing area, and the uses and capabilities derived from this information are immense. Environmental sensor 1218 detects various conditions outside, such as temperature, humidity, fog, visibility, precipitation, and so forth. The laser sensor 1212 detects items outside the vehicle and provides this information to adjust control of the vehicle. This information may also provide information such as congestion on a highway, road conditions, and other conditions that would impact the sensors, actions or operations of the vehicle. The sensor fusion controller 1210 optimizes these various functions to provide an approximately comprehensive view of the vehicle and environments.
Many types of sensors may be controlled by the sensor fusion controller 1210. These sensors may coordinate with each other to share information and consider the impact of one control action on another system. In one example, in a congested driving condition, a noise detection module (not shown) may identify that there are multiple radar signals that may interfere with your vehicle. This information may be used by IAM 1250 to adjust the beam size of the MTM antenna sensor 1202 so as to avoid these other signals and minimize interference.
An environmental sensor 1218 may detect that the weather is changing, and visibility is decreasing. In this situation, the sensor fusion controller 1210 may determine to configure the sensors to improve the ability of the vehicle to navigate these new conditions. The actions may include turning off camera or laser sensors or reducing the sampling rate of these visibility-based sensors. This effectively places reliance on the sensor(s) adapted for the current situation. In response, the IAM 1250 configures the MTM antenna sensor 1202 for these conditions as well. For example, the MTM antenna sensor 1202 may reduce the beam width to provide a more focused beam, and thus a finer sensing capability.
In some embodiments, the sensor fusion controller 1210 may send a direct control to the IAM 1250 based on historical conditions and controls. The sensor fusion controller 1210 may also use some of the sensors within system 1200 to act as feedback or calibration for the other sensors. In this way, an operational sensor 1214 may provide feedback to the IAM 1250 and/or the sensor fusion controller 1210 to create templates, patterns and control scenarios. These are based on successful actions or may be based on poor results, where the sensor fusion controller 1210 learns from past actions.
A variety of information is determined from the MTM antenna sensor 1202; such information may be a function of the modulation waveform and technique, the frequency, the chirp delay, the frequency change of the received signal and so forth. The specific radiation pattern used may be crafted to accomplish specific goals according to the application. The sensor fusion controller 1210 enables such control to optimize the system and reduce the processing required. For example, the MTM antenna sensor 1202 may be used to reduce the number of sensor and/or the active time of each sensor. In this way, some sensors may be disabled during certain conditions, and activated on a change in that condition.
In one scenario, the MTM antenna sensor 1202 may be used in place of other object-detection sensors, wherein the radiated waveform is transmitted as an FMCW signal, and the frequency is modified so as to capture data in near field, mid-range and far field.