Dielectric, the leading maker of broadcast antennas and RF systems, will unveil its new RFHawkeye monitoring system at the 2019 NAB Show (April 8-11, Las Vegas Convention Center). Co-axial transmission line systems, an expensive and essential component of any broadcast system, are subjected to a wide variety of environmental and operational conditions that can lead to previously undetectable, but undesirable and potentially damaging, changes over time. This new IP- connected system now gives broadcasters a way to monitor the performance and condition of this critical part of the broadcast RF system in real-time, 24/7 and under full power.
“Undetected deterioration of line or elbow components has repeatedly been shown to result in extensive damage and down time,” said Dielectric’s VP of Sales, Jay Martin. “RFHawkeye performs continuous time domain measurements of the RF system while the station is on the air at full power, providing advance warning of deterioration to local or remote operators, enabling early corrective actions.”
RFHawkeye establishes a foundation for centralized monitoring of transmission line conditions by remote operators at the regional or group level. Additionally, RFHawkeye lays the groundwork for a future Dielectric managed service that can enable monitoring of the RF transmission line system on behalf of the customer.
“The key benefit of RFHawkeye is that it can discern small, undesirable, and potentially damaging changes in the transmission line from the small benign changes in the antenna 24/7, while the station is on the air,” said Martin.
Time domain data is available during full power operation, offering valuable information for the RF engineer to assess without taking the station off-air. RFHawkeye delivers readily accessible and accurate results since it continuously collects real-time data under real-world conditions, and compares it to the baseline measurement. RFHawkeye also detects arcs inside the line, and provides the time stamp plus the arc’s location.
Dielectric has installed a prototype of RFHawkeye at WGME-DT in Portland, Maine and will review results at NAB. Development of the final production version continues, and all attendees are invited to visit Booth C2213 to see the system in operation.
RFHawkeye installation is simple. The system consists of a line section, or monitoring point, and a 2RU proprietary data logger powered by proprietary custom software. The software collects and analyzes system performance data at the tower site.
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.
RF Hawkeye gathers data to produce a “characterization” of the normal ranges of operation of the system. This characterization allows the operator to define thresholds for individual components and monitor how the system performs over time. RFHawkeye sends an alarm or warning to system administrators over the IP network at the first sign of technical anomalies. From the software dashboard, users can recall a diagram showing the location of an issue on the transmission line run, the elbow complex, or the antenna input.
“Perhaps the gas barrier is failing above the elbow complex, or connectors are failing in the transmission line 500 feet up. 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,” Martin added. “This pre-emptive approach inspires maintenance at the first sign of trouble, preventing costly downtime and catastrophic failures in the future.”
Martin notes that in addition to removing the high costs of periodic VSWR sweep services, RF Hawkeye could reduce insurance rates at TV stations by enabling more consistent maintenance.
“A failure that goes unchecked over time can quickly contaminate or destroy an entire transmission system,” he said. “RFHawkeye will preserve capital investment in RF equipment.”
24/7 Monitoring Service Support available
As more broadcast engineers retire, Martin notes that RFHawkeye provides a modern IP-oriented solution to replace traditional passive RF monitoring skillsets, and can support remote 24/7 monitoring support from Dielectric’s Raymond, Maine facility.
“Today’s younger workforce of centralized digital and IT engineers that are replacing the traditional local chief engineer will find value in RF Hawkeye’s IP-connected architecture to inform of potential problems,” said Martin. “With an appropriate service contract in place, Dielectric can respond to problems from our service center, proactively warning local personnel of the need for inspections and repairs, and coordinating efforts on behalf of our broadcast customers. With 77 years in business, Dielectric envisions this service as an important, new service to the industry in the post-repack period, while lessening the load for our customers.”