Dr. Ahmed G. Abo-Khalil

Electrical Engineering Department

line of sight

Line-of-sight propagation refers to electro-magnetic radiation or acoustic wave propagation. Electromagnetic transmission includes light emissions traveling in a straight line. The rays or waves may be diffracted, refracted, reflected, or absorbed by atmosphere and obstructions with material and generally cannot travel over the horizon or behind obstacles.

At low frequencies (below approximately 2 MHz or so) radio signals travel as ground waves, which follow the Earth's curvature due to diffraction with the layers of atmosphere. This enables AM radio signals in low-noise environments to be received well after the transmitting antenna has dropped below the horizon. Additionally, frequencies between approximately 1 and 30 MHz, can be reflected by the F1/F2 Layer, thus giving radio transmissions in this range a potentially global reach (see shortwave radio), again along multiply deflected straight lines. The effects of multiple diffraction or reflection lead to macroscopically "quasi-curved paths".

However, at higher frequencies and in lower levels of the atmosphere, neither of these effects are significant. Thus any obstruction between the transmitting antenna and the receiving antenna will block the signal, just like the light that the eye may sense. Therefore, since the ability to visually see a transmitting antenna (disregarding the limitations of the eye's resolution) roughly corresponds to the ability to receive a radio signal from it, the propagation characteristic of high-frequency radio is called "line-of-sight". The farthest possible point of propagation is referred to as the "radio horizon".

In practice, the propagation characteristics of these radio waves vary substantially depending on the exact frequency and the strength of the transmitted signal (a function of both the transmitter and the antenna characteristics). Broadcast FM radio, at comparatively low frequencies of around 100 MHz, are less affected by the presence of buildings and forests.

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