Antennas Demystified

Scott Honaker N7WLO

Importance of Antennas

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Antennas are as important as the radio A $5000 TV with rabbit ears will have a lousy picture Antennas are cheaper than amplifiers Antennas are reciprocal – they hear as well as they talk

Choosing Antennas
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Frequency – Dictates size Mounting location – Base or mobile Omni or directional – Coverage or gain Polarization – Horizontal, vertical, circular Resonant or non-resonant – Tuner required? Power available Feedline length and type

dBi vs. dBd

dBi - Gain vs. Isotropic Resonator

Isotropic Resonator is infinitely small antenna with no feedline in free space radiating equally well in all directions (spherical pattern) Gain referenced to a “real” dipole antenna with a donut-like pattern

dBd - Gain vs. Reference Dipole

dBd = dBi + 2.15 dB

Gain/Loss Calculations

ERP (Effective Radiated Power) is the real number to consider Gain uses a Log-10 scale
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3dB = 2-fold improvement 6dB = 4-fold improvement 10dB = 10-fold improvement 20dB = 100-fold improvement

ERP=Power x (Gain - Feedline Loss)

Radiation Patterns

Visual representation of gain, beamwidth, F/B ratio and F/S ratio in one plane E-Plane is crosssection that includes driven element H-Plane is perpendicular to driven element

Dipole Patterns

Yagi Patterns
E-Plane H-Plane

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SSB/CW is generally horizontal FM is generally vertical Satellites can be circular - RHCP, LHCP Polarization loss can be significant at VHF/UHF and microwaves Bounced signals can change polarization Verticals are more susceptible to

Antenna Design Considerations

Gain, SWR, Bandwidth, Front/Back ratio are related and optimum values are not achieved simultaneously for each Does antenna have power going in desired direction? Gain/Beamwidth

SWR Power Losses

All power fed into the line, minus the line attenuation, is absorbed into the load (antenna) regardless of the mismatch at the antenna terminals Line attenuation (loss) is the key factor in determining losses due to mismatched antennas (high SWR)

SWR Loss Examples

SWR losses are added to line attenuation for total loss values 100’ RG-58 @ 20 meters, 50’ RG-8x @ 2 meters, 50’ Belden 9913 @ 70cm have nearly identical attenuation of 1.5dB

SWR SWR Losses 1.0: 1 1.5: 1 2.0: 1 3.0: 1 5.0: 1 10:1 0dB 0dB 0.2dB or 5% 0.6dB or 13% 1.5dB or 29% 3.0dB or 50%


Inductive loads – base, center, top

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Screwdriver antennas (adjustable loading) Hamstick-style antennas Hustler center-loaded whips Rubber HT antennas Texas Bugcatcher Cushcraft MA5B

Capacitance “Hats”
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Ground Plane Verticals

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¼ wave is omnidirectional with unity (0dBd) gain when provided a proper ground plane ½ wave is unity gain with no ground plane and 3dBd with ground plane 5/8 wave is 3.5dBd gain with nice omni pattern and low radiation angle Longer antennas have more omni patterns with asymmetric ground planes (vehicles) and lower radiation angles (see below)
¼ wave ½ wave 5/8 wave

Ground Planes

“Perfect” ground plane from 120 evenly spaced radials at least ½ wave in length Wire mesh or wire from #12 to #28, above or a few inches below the ground work fine Elevated feeds (1/8λ or more above ground) can use four ¼-wave radials Vehicles provide poor ground planes at HF but elevating the feedpoint

Imperfect Ground Planes
Number of radials 16 24 Length of radials in wavelengths Total wire installed in wavelengths Power loss relative to “perfect” ground Feedpoint plane impedance in ohms 60 90 12 0 0.1 0.12 0 0. 0 0.4 5 .15 2 .25 1.6 3 5.4 12 2 48 2.5 3 2 1.5 1 0.5 n/a 52 46 43 40 37 35 36

Other Verticals

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Wide usable frequency range SWR ~2:1 for fundamental through second harmonic SWR ~3:1 for remainder of coverage Omnidirectional – Unity gain 2-3 dBd gain with vertical and horizontal components


Balanced Feed Designs

Simple and effective  Vertical or horizontal polarization

Full wave has 3dBd gain  Circular, Quad (square) or Delta (triangular) design

E and H-plane patterns vary with height above ground

Dipole Types


Has 3dB to 6dB of directivity toward slope Single high mount, internal angle should be >90 degrees Good attic antenna Keep center section straight Remainder of element can bend or curve to fit


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Dipole Types – Cont.


High impedance needs open wire feed Same overall size as ½ wave dipole but contains 1 wave of wire for nearly 3 dBd gain Standard dipole with each leg made up of multiple wires around spacers forming a wire tube Larger effective element diameter increases bandwidth


Multiband Dipoles


Multiple dipoles/loops at a single feed

Traps are tuned circuits used to generate multiple resonances on a single wire  Traps cause loss and decrease bandwidth

Non-resonant – tuner required  Radiation patterns vary with frequency

Off-Center Fed Dipoles

Feedline attached 1/3 the length from the end
Same ½ wave overall size  Resonates at even harmonics, so 1 antenna can be used on 80m, 40m and 20m  6th harmonic (15m) has too high impedance  Asymmetric impedance may cause current “in the shack”  Requires 4:1 or 6:1 current-type balun

Other Multibanders

Random wire
Can be any length of wire  Requires tuner  Works against earth ground

“T” shape single wire feed attached 14% off center  Works against earth ground  “RF in the shack” is a potential problem

Wire Arrays

Half Square

Vertical polarization with up to 3.8dBd gain Horizontal polarization with ~3.5dBd gain Vertical polarization with bidirectional 5.8 dBd gain Horizontal polarization from multiple phased loops


Bobtail Curtain

Sterba Curtain

Lazy “H” – Four element broadside array

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½ wave dipole driven element Reflectors are 5% larger Directors are 5% smaller Number of elements and boom length determine gain SWR, bandwidth, gain, boom length and front/back ratios all have to be considered

Typical Yagi Gains

10m yagi with SWR <2:1 and Front/Back >20dB

Elemen Gain ts dBi 3 7.5 4 5 6 7 8 8.5 10 11.5 12.5 13.5

Gain dBd 5.5 6.5 8 9.5 10.5 11.5

Numbers are rounded to nearest 0.5 dB

Hybrid Yagis

1λ loop driven element, reflector and directors  Up to 3dBd gain over standard yagi  Wider bandwidth than standard yagi

Loop reflector and driven element  Simpler to feed and match at UHF


Entirely loop (generally circular) elements

Log Periodic

Constant characteristics over wide band (2:1) Several varieties but hams generally use dipole array (LPDA) All elements are driven Gain similar to 3 element yagi – 7dBi, 5dBd

Reflecting Antennas

Corner reflector
Practical size at 222 MHz and up  Simple to construct, broadbanded, gains 10-15dBd

Pyramidal Horn
Practical at 902 MHz and up  Sides of horn are fed for up to 15 dBi, 13dBd gain

Parabolic dish

Gain is a function of reflector diameter, surface accuracy and illumination

Parabolic Dish Gain
MHz 420 902 2’ 6.0d Bi 12.5 4’ 12.0 18.5 21.0 26.5 30.0 34.5 39.5 6’ 15.5 22.0 24.5 30.0 33.5 38.0 43.0 10’ 20.0 26.5 29.0 34.5 37.5 42.5 47.5 20’ 26.0 32.5 35.0 40.5 41.5 46.0 51.0 30’ 29.5 36.0 38.5 44.0 47.5 52.0 57.0

1215 15.0 2300 20.5 3300 24.0 5650 28.5 10Gh 33.5 z