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New Rugged Antenna Designed to Withstand the Harshest Environments

FEIG Electronics has released a UHF RFID antenna capable of surviving the worst weather and harshest conditions, such as suspended over winter highways or on airport concourses—or even when collided into in port storage yards.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 26, 2019

The number of applications for outdoor RFID technology use in harsh environments has been growing, from toll collection to baggage tracking at airports and access control. But in some cases, RFID hardware is not designed for the conditions to which it is exposed, and antennas may be installed at highway overpasses, for instance, that cannot be easily accessed for repair or replacements if something goes wrong.

FEIG Electronics has developed a product, aptly named the Robust UHF Antenna, that is intended to address that problem. The antenna, which comes with a die-cast aluminum enclosure, has achieved an IP65 rating for high protection and can operate in temperatures ranging from -25 to +55 degrees Celsius (-13 to +131 degrees Fahrenheit) Its storage temperature can be as high as 90 degrees Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit).

FEIG's Robust UHF Antenna
The antenna comes in two versions and has the highest possible impact protection rating, according to Mike Hrabina, FEIG's global product manager. The 290/290 model is designed to offer a wider RF beam—typically 65 by 65 degrees around the antenna. The U580/290 model has a narrower beam width—30 degrees by 65 degrees—but a longer read range. The dimensions of the antenna are 288 millimeters (11.3 inches) square for the 290/290, and 576 millimeters by 288 millimeters (22.7 inches by 11.3 inches) for the U580/290. Both versions of the new antenna employ circular polarization. One version weighs 8 pounds, while the other weighs 3.5 pounds.

The antennas are considerably heavier and more durable than most UHF antennas currently on the market, Hrabina says. "It's sealed in aluminum," he states, "with the highest impact rating, and it's designed to withstand the worst weather." The face cover is non-metallic to permit the RF energy to radiate from the antenna. Additionally, he says, the antennas are designed to withstand vibration and impacts. For instance, they operate with vibrations of 10 to 150 Hz and can sustain shock at 30 g-force acceleration, according to Manuel Haertle, FEIG's UHF product line manager.

Initially, FEIG's engineers designed the antennas to address needs in road tolling. The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) is releasing an interoperability standard for road tolling with the intention of moving away from regional, proprietary tag-reading systems.

In fact, the tolling industry has spent more than a decade developing national toll interoperability. As the toll-collection protocol becomes universal, as many as 15,000 UHF RFID readers will need to be installed across the United States in order to meet the new standard. Because of the uniquely challenging environment and the inaccessibility of antennas once they are installed, Hrabina explains, "Reliability is going to be critical." For that reason, FEIG expects its new antennas to be the best option.

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