REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (June 8, 2017) -- We've all been there. You are driving on a long road trip, talking on your hands-free cell phone to pass the time, you get to a remote area and lose your signal. A dropped cell signal is annoying and inconvenient. On the battlefield, losing a signal can be dangerous, even deadly.

The Electromagnetic Environmental Effects Test Division at the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center, or RTC, conducts a wide range of electronic testing on a variety of components. Some of that testing is conducted in RTC's Anechoic Chambers. Six on-site chambers provide a non-echoing location to test radio frequencies, or RF, of individual test components and even entire military vehicles and aircraft. RF Anechoic Chambers are also used to test antennas, radar systems, and electromagnetic interference issues with electronics.

"RF testing is sometimes called black magic because you cannot see it but it's there and it's important," said Lee Stucker, Lead Electromagnetic Interference Engineer at RTC. "The anechoic chambers provide a controlled RF environment used in determining if RF is successfully being kept out of an electronic box or being kept inside of it. Either can be important because the final location of an item could be anywhere."

The testing conducted inside the anechoic chamber determines if a test item is working as designed. The testing is to ensure that RF cannot penetrate into the test item, affecting it adversely, or to make sure the signal shielding technology is working correctly, that is, limiting RF from leaving the test time. A radio frequency can include anything from WiFi signals, Bluetooth, cellular signals, and microwave oven frequencies.

As with many RTC test capabilities incorporating modeling and simulation, vast amounts of performance data can be obtained at a fraction of the time and cost of other test programs.

"If someone gives you an item, you want it to work in the field. We ensure that's the case," Stucker said.