Quadsat gets ESA funding for ready-to-fly antenna testing kits

TAMPA, Fla. — Danish startup Quadsat said June 16 it has secured European Space Agency funding to productize the drones it uses to calibrate and test satellite antennas.

At the end of the 10-month 500,000 euro ($525,000) ESA contract, Quadsat CEO Joakim Espeland said the company aims to launch its first drone that customers can operate themselves to test their networks.

Quadsat currently has to send technicians to the customers that want to use its quadcopters as stand-ins for satellites to test their ground-based technology.

The quadcopters are integrated with custom radio frequency payloads that help operators, including megaconstellation startup OneWeb, verify ground segment antennas more efficiently outside laboratory conditions.

In March, Quadsat announced it had also worked alongside ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) to test antennas as large as 15 meters in Sweden. 

“This funding will make it easier to launch a more productised version as currently it is service-led,” Joakim Espeland told SpaceNews via email.

“This will make it easier to scale the solution, making drone-based testing more widely available.”

The funding came from ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) Core Competitiveness program, which supports the development of innovative satellite communications products, services and systems.

Including a previous 250,000 euro funding round with ESA, Espeland said QuadSat has so far raised about $5 million in total.

He said the company plans to raise more funding to expand its operations.

Quadsat says its drones use specialized software for flight automation and frequency measurements that can be used in any location.

The company sees strong demand for its antenna-testing solutions from low Earth orbit (LEO) constellations.

LEO operators traditionally use a visible geostationary (GEO) satellite to calibrate gateways outside the lab.

However, the closer the gateway is to the poles the trickier it is to get an unobstructed view of a GEO satellite to lock onto, because of how low they appear on the horizon. 

Beacons on top of large structures can also be built to characterize gateways, which Quadsat says are often logistically challenging to use and limit the range of possible tests.

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