In its 2019 NAB Show debut, our new RFHawkeye RF monitoring system captured the attention and interest of U.S. broadcasters seeking to monitor the performance and condition of their transmission line systems more efficiently. At our booth, visitors saw a prototype of this innovative solution as it remotely monitored the RF antenna system at WGME-DT, in Portland, Maine.
RF monitoring is important because this essential, expensive broadcast system component is subject to environmental and operational conditions that can lead to previously undetectable—and potentially damaging—changes over time.
With RFHawkeye, RF engineers gain access to accurate time domain data, collected under real-world conditions, without taking the station off the air. This new IP-connected system collects and analyzes system performance data at the tower site, and compares it to baseline measurements. It also detects arcs, and provides the time stamp plus the arc’s location.
According to our VP of Sales Jay Martin, “In monitoring the critical, transmission line system, RFHawkeye can distinguish small, undesirable, and potentially damaging changes from benign changes.” RFHawkeye uses this data to produce a “characterization” of the normal ranges of system operation that allows the operator to define thresholds for individual components, and monitor how the system is performing over time.
“Perhaps the gas barrier is failing above the elbow complex, or connectors are failing in the transmission line 500 feet up,” Martin noted. “RFHawkeye provides a pre-diagnostic heads-up to tell crews how far up the tower to climb, and where to pull the system apart for faster, safer inspections.”
RFHawkeye consists of a line section or monitoring point, and a proprietary 2RU data logger powered by proprietary custom software. The line section is inserted post-RF System (mask filter) inside the building, prior to the gas barrier, in a non-pressurized, controlled environment. That section monitors performance of the transmission line system beyond the transmitter and mask filter from a single monitoring point.
At the first sign of technical anomalies, RFHawkeye sends an alarm or warning to system administrators over the IP network. Martin adds, “This pre-emptive approach inspires maintenance at the first sign of trouble, preventing costly downtime and catastrophic failures in the future.”