VectorNav - Skytech Case Study

High Precision Antenna Pointing


Uptime and bandwidth are the critical performance metrics of these SOTM systems and relate to the ability of the system to efficiently transmit and receive large amounts of data. To ensure a high percentage of uptime, it is necessary that the SOTM terminal is pointed directly at the target satellite. To maximize bandwidth, the antenna pointing error must be less than +/-0.2 degrees in order to maximize transmission power and remain within regulatory requirements as stated in the FCC Vehicle-Mounted Earth Station (VMES) rules. Maintaining accurate pointing for SOTM terminals is a significant challenge due to the need to measure and compensate for a wide range of platform dynamics, such as those experienced by land, marine, or aerial vehicles.

USV with SkyTech Terminal Onboard

USV with SkyTech Terminal Onboard

PROFILE: SkyTech Research Ltd.

Skytech Research

Skytech Research Ltd. designs and manufactures a wide range of multi-band Ku/Ka and X/Ku/Ka stabilized satellite communication terminals for professional and recreational maritime use, upmarket mobile land vehicles, and for military and law enforcement. Skytech Research Ltd. is a part of IDS Ingegneria Dei Sistemi.


Skytech Research BB50 Ka-Band Antenna

Skytech Research’s BB50 Ka-Band Antenna

To address the challenge of maintaining accurate pointing performance, Skytech implemented a closed-loop control system, which uses signal strength measurement as feedback. As the satellite moves across the sky, a conventional parabolic antenna scans the signal strength and tracks its maximum value. This technique requires deliberately introducing a pointing-error (constant variation) to ensure that the signal maximum has indeed been located.

The SOTM terminal controller also requires additional information to compensate for platform motion in order to remain locked around the center of the signal. An inertial navigation system (INS) mounted on the platform can provide high accuracy, low latency measurements of the platform position, attitude (pitch, roll and yaw), and angular rates in order to provide pointing corrections to the SOTM terminal controller.

Skytech’s compact, light, and self-contained high-performance VSAT equipment required an INS that could be integrated into the full range of terminals from 30 cm to 150 cm diameter antenna and could fit on the smallest terminal pedestal and within the radome. The INS needed to provide precise positioning to enable fast acquisition and tracking of the target satellite and accurate pitch and roll to within 0.5° in both static and dynamics situations. Most importantly, Skytech required an INS that would be reliable and consistently perform to specification in the trying conditions the terminals are subjected to.


Skytech evaluated several suppliers of inertial measurement units, but only VectorNav satisfied their needs in terms of product performance, price, and support. “When selecting a navigation solution provider, there are many criteria that one needs to evaluate, but there are two that are most important to us. The first is obvious: the product needs to perform reliably and according to specification. Secondly, the provider needs to stand behind their product with capable support personnel that are ready to help at any moment and make us feel like valuable customers. VectorNav is the only company that has consistently provided both,” said Federico Zarghetta, CEO of Skytech Research.

Close collaboration between Skytech and VectorNav resulted in the decision to use the VN-200 GPS/INS to provide position and attitude feedback to the terminal controller. The VN-200 was easily integrated with Skytech’s terminals because of its small size, low power requirements, and simple interface. Skytech mounted the VN-200 directly onto the terminal frame under the radome, keeping the entire system enclosed and compact. The high accuracy and low latency of the VN-200 enables Skytech to deliver terminals that are incredibly light, compact, and unsurpassed in satellite tracking in harsh environments characterized by high levels of shock, vibration, and oscillation.


Skytech Research BB50 Ka-Band Antenna

Skytech Research’s BB50 Ka-Band Antenna

VectorNav’s reliable products and consistent customer support provided an optimal solution to Skytech’s challenges. Skytech and VectorNav have established a successful partnership that will continue to deliver market-leading products and adapt to evolving needs in the field. “VectorNav helped us in our moment of need and have continued to support us as we bring new products to market. We are extremely glad to be able to partner with them,” said Zarghetta.

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