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A cognitive radio front end using an optically pumped reconfigurable antenna system (OPRAS) is investigated. The scheme consists of a ultrawideband antenna and a reconfigurable narrowband antenna in close proximity to one another. The narrowband reconfigurability is achieved by a integrating laser diodes within the antenna structure to control the switching state of photoconductive silicon switches. This scheme has the advantage of eliminating the use of optical fiber cables to guide light to the switches, and enables easier integration of the reconfigurable antenna in a complete communication system. The performance of the proposed technique is presented, and comparisons are made to other commonly used switching techniques for reconfigurable antennas, such as techniques based on PIN diodes and RF microlectromechanical systems integration. The application of this antenna design scheme serving as the receive channel in a cognitive radio communication link is also demonstrated.