Dielectric Launches Transmission Line Monitoring at 2019 NAB

New IP-connected antenna feedline monitoring system delivers real-time data, alarms and other benefits designed to flag changes and preserve RF investments.

Dielectric will unveil its new transmission line status monitoring system, RFHawkeye, at the 2019 NAB Show.

A monitoring point for Dielectric’s RFHawkeye system is affixed near the top of the tower at WGME-DT in Portland, Maine for real-time, 24/7 monitoring

A monitoring point for Dielectric’s RFHawkeye system is affixed near the top of the tower at WGME-DT in Portland, Maine for real-time, 24/7 monitoring

Co-axial transmission line systems are expensive, essential and subject to a wide variety of environmental and operational conditions, corrosion and stress. Time can lead to previously undetectable, but undesirable and potentially damaging changes. Dielectric’s 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, under full power.

RFHawkeye establishes a foundation for centralized monitoring of transmission line conditions by remote operators at the regional or group level. It also lays the groundwork for a future Dielectric managed service that can enable monitoring of the RF transmission line system on behalf of the customer.

“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.”

“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 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 the Dielectric booth to see the system in operation.

Simple installation

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.”

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