24 May 2010


TriQuint wins AFRL contract for GaN modules to extend range of drone aircraft

RF component maker and foundry services provider TriQuint Semiconductor Inc of Hillsboro, OR, USA has been awarded a contract by the US Air Force Research Laboratories (AFRL) to develop new gallium nitride (GaN) modules that will extend the range and capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used for reconnaissance missions over Afghanistan, Iraq and other regions.

The new modules will include 20W and 50W devices.
TriQuint says that a challenging aspect of the program includes fitting new 20W amplifiers into the same space now occupied by the fleet's existing 1W devices that limit the
range and broadcast power of the aircraft.

"We need to increase the power of one device 20-fold without increasing the size," says TriQuint program manager Doug Cole. "We're using our proven 0.25-micron GaN process since it offers excellent power density and ruggedness - key requirements for avionic applications," he adds.

Increasing the output power of RF amplifiers will increase operational range and mission effectiveness, allowing new UAVs to serve in areas and under conditions that were impossible for their predecessors, says TriQuint. More efficient GaN devices will also reduce the need for thermal mitigation and extend battery life in each vehicle. As estimated by the AFRL, more efficient amplifiers can extend UAV patrol time from 1 to 3 hours, depending on the aircraft involved, payload and other operational conditions.

TriQuint is developing both the 20W and 50W devices using in-house resources including complete module fabrication. The firm designs and builds both integrated and multi-chip modules (MCMs) at its facility in Richardson, TX, offering added assurance that all resources needed for GaN or GaAs programs are available in a single, domestic location.

Cole says that TriQuint was chosen for the UAV amplifier contract based on its detailed plan to meet the AFRL's accelerated development schedule. Other factors included results from TriQuint's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Wide Bandgap Semiconductor (WBGS) RF GaN program, in which the firm led Phase II and is currently leading Phase III. TriQuint also leads a DARPA contract for highly advanced MMIC development using GaN technology in the Nitride Electronic NeXt-Generation Technology (NEXT) program.

The UAV program is divided into two main phases: developing appropriate high-power GaN amplifier MMICs; then the integration of MMIC amplifiers and other components into single packages to provide 20W and 50W Ku-band power amplifiers. TriQuint is on track to deliver the first amplifier MMIC by August. The first 50W prototype packaged assembly high-power amplifier (HPA) will be delivered in April 2011.

Search: TriQuint AFRL GaN modules UAVs