An Overview of Aircraft Radio Navigation

With the advent of the radio, aviation navigation was quickly revolutionized. Now, aircraft could perform flight operations much more accurately and efficiently, as well as correspond with various flight controllers and operators to ensure a safe and successful voyage. While many may be familiar with radio technology in regards to communication, it may also serve as a useful Navigational guide as well. With radio transmission and reception, a pilot is capable of discerning the current bearing and direction the aircraft is moving, even in times where vision is obstructed. In this blog, we will discuss a few of the radio guide navigational systems that have been used throughout history, as well as how each may provide for safe flight.

In the early days of aviation, most pilots utilized Radio Direction Finder systems, or RDF. These systems served as navigational guides by allowing a pilot to determine the position of station radio emissions with a directional antenna. By taking measurements of two separate stations, a pilot could find their bearing. Commercial AM radio stations often served as the most beneficial sources for measurement, as their high power and long range abilities made them easily measurable.

The low frequency radio range, also known as LFR, is another method that proved popular during the 1930’s and 1940’s. For an LFR Base Radio Mount station, four antennas are placed which emit Lorenz beams in each cardinal direction. Two of the beams are keyed with morse code signals, and flying through the centreline produces a steady tone to help pilots follow to the next station. With its sufficient safety margins and accuracy, the low frequency radio range could be used for route navigation and instrument approaches.

The VHF omnidirectional range system, also known as VOR, is a technology that allows for reverse-RDF capability that is accurate and may be fully automated. It came about in the late 1940’s, outperforming previous radio navigational technology for aviation. If an aircraft is outfitted with a receiving unit for VOR signals, it may receive radio emissions from fixed ground radio beacons to determine position. During operation, signals from the station are sent in a clockwise rotation, as well as a reference signal that is timed to be in phase with the directional signal as it passes magnetic north.

In quick succession, multiple radio technologies began to be realized and improved upon, ranging from transoceanic radios to Radio Frequency Oscillator technologies. In the post war era, distance measuring equipment (DME) began to rise in popularity. DME utilizes transponder based systems, and it is typically used alongside VOR stations to allow for a pilot to gauge their angle and distance. Since then, technologies such as satellite navigation have increasingly become popular due to their accuracy and ease of use. As satellite coverage can be found almost across the world and technology to utilize it is fairly cheap, many systems have been replaced with satellite navigational technology leading up to the present. When it comes time to begin sourcing the RF radio frequency relays, radio frequency inductor parts, and other radio components that you need for your operations, ASAP Aerospace Hub has you covered with everything you are searching for.


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