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A simple DIY antenna - an amplified dipole

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  • abcd567
    replied
    Originally posted by Kato View Post
    .......As for an amplifier, I suspect that you would see little to no improvement from using one, due to your short (2-3 metre) feed cable. The main function of an amplifier is to compensate for signal loss in a long cable run, i.e. if the antenna picks up a weak, distant signal, that signal may not reach the receiver if it has to travel down 20 metres of lossy co-ax - in such circumstances, an amp at the mast-head can boost the weak signal so it can reach the receiver. On the other hand, if the signal is just not being picked up due to a poorly constructed or badly sited antenna, then amplification will be no help at all.
    Originally posted by eastons View Post
    ........not sure how much improvement amplification would bring.
    Originally posted by peterhr View Post
    Amplifier adds little to the range (maybe 5%) but does bring in more planes from within the range ... possibly they're putting out less signal in your direction.
    I have tried the half-wavelength dipole + 3 meter coax to receiver, first without amplifier, and then with amplifier. Range without amplifier was 200 km, which jumped to 450 km when I added amplifier.

    This simple experiment proved the same conclusion by theory, as follows:

    (1) Strength of received signal is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between transmitter & receiver. Hence the strength of a signal from a plane when at 400 km as compred to when same plane was at 100 km, will be squre of 100/400 = square of 1/4 = 1/16 !

    (2) All receivers have a cut-off level of input signal below which planes are not shown in the output of receiver. Weak signals from distance planes do get picked up by antenna, travel down to receiver through a very short piece of coax (i.e. negligible loss in coax), but being below the cutoff level of receiver, will not be shown in receiver's output. In this situation, the gain of antenna plays a significant role.

    High gain antennas boost the distant weak signal above receiver's cutoff level, and hence distant planes are also shown, resulting in increase in range.

    If antenna is not high gain, same result is achieved by adding an amplifier.
    Last edited by abcd567; 2014-12-18, 04:06.

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  • abcd567
    replied
    Originally posted by peterhr View Post
    The real attraction of the dipole is the simplicity of making an effective antenna.......
    The simplicity & effectiveness of half-wavelength dipole originates from it's following unique characteristics:

    (1) The impedance of half-wavelength dipole is 75 ohms, which gives full signal power transfer from antenna to receiver**.

    (2) It's length does not depend on insulation's velocity factor. A fixed length of 69mm (center to tip) each limb for 1090 mhz, irrespective whether it is bare conductor or insulated with any insulation.

    (3) It's impedance & gain is relatively insensitive to error in length. Hence if the limbs are not cut precisely to 69 mm, but say 67, or 68 or 70, or 71 mm, there will be no noticeable affect on it's performance.

    It's only drawback is its low gain (2.2 dBi), which cannot handle long cable runs (mine is 50 feet). This problem I solved by adding a low cost satellite in line amplifier 950-2050Mhz, 13-20 dB.

    Realizing these characteristics of half-wavelength dipole, it was the first antenna I decided to make, and after it's successful trial, posted it in FR24 'best antenna' forum.

    My design was indoor type (see peterhr's very first post above, the second photo, one with a hand). This design is not useful for most hobbyists who use outdoor installation. It was very wise and thoughtful of peterhr to develop an outdoor design, which can be used by most hobbyists.


    **When a 75 ohms antenna is connected to 75 ohm coax and 75 ohms usb receiver, the SWR = 1 (100% transfer of signal power from antenna to receiver). Even if 75 ohm antenna is used with 50 ohm coax and 50 ohm receiver, the SWR=1.5 (97% transfer of signal power from antenna to receiver), a very decent value
    Last edited by abcd567; 2014-12-18, 23:58.

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  • abcd567
    replied
    Originally posted by eastons View Post
    I did actually have the antenna up higher (i.e. 1 or 2 metres above the UHF yagi) previously, but my reception/range actually worsened in all directions. I surmise it's because the longer 5-metre cable I used resulted in more cable loss than was gained by the extra metre or two of elevation. I suspect if I had a low-noise amplifier near the aerial (like in peterhr's photos), I'd be able to raise it and increase my range also, but I'm on quite a tight budget at the moment. When I did have it up higher, the extra elevation didn't really change the antenna's view much - the high-rises near me are also on a hill/ridge, so there's no chance of me being able to out-elevate them. I've also tried lower - that also reduces the range due to being below peaks of the immediate neighbours' roofs. So strangely enough, being in the middle of the UHF aerial gives me the best range.

    The ADS-B signals seem very sensitive to cable loss - i.e. even just 2 extra metres caused maybe a 50 km loss of range. But I suppose that makes sense, since I'm focusing on the distant signals that are already on the edge of decodability. My ADS-B antenna is also right next to the TV aerials' diplexer/masthead amplifier (since that does have a long 20-metre+ run to the TV sets) and I wonder if being that close to the masthead amplifier has any significant/noticeable impact on the ADS-B signals.
    Increasing length of coax from 3 meters to 5 meters has no affect on range. I have used 3 meters, then 5 meters coax with this dipole (no amplifier) without any change in number of planes or range.

    (2) Your yagi (uhf) aerial has corner reflector (two rectangular shaped wire mesh one 45 degrees above & other 45 degrees below the boom) at one end of the boom. This corner reflector does two things to your dipole:

    (a) blocks signals behind it, giving the semi circular range.

    (b) Intercepts a large amount of signal from the direction to which boom's tip is pointing, and reflects it back to the dipole, hence greatly enhanced range in that direction.

    By putting you dipole near the boom of your yagi (uhf) aerial, you have effectively converted your dipole into a high gain, directional yagi
    Last edited by abcd567; 2014-12-18, 19:54.

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  • peterhr
    replied
    It's good to avoid tight bends in the coax since they cost signal - a curve is better.

    Do earth the braid of the co-ax - this isn't just about lightening but also to help with static build-up when it's hot and dry ... the first thing you know you have a problem is when the network port on your pi sacrifices itself to protect the dongle.

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  • dogzbody
    replied
    Thank you, Peter, for the idea and the example.

    I'm so new to the world of radio that I didn't even know what a dipole antenna was, but I followed your instructions and the diagrams that ABCD posted, and I have better range and quite a big jump in traffic volumes here in Johannesburg, South Africa.

    I haven't gotten to an amplifier yet, but I probably should put one in sometime.

    I'm worried about lightning in the frequent thunderstorms we get here. But that's another issue.

    IMG_5644.jpg

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  • peterhr
    replied
    The real attraction of the dipole is the simplicity of making an effective antenna. To reduce the downlead length - try moving your dongle closer to the dipole using a 3m usb extender from the pound / dollar store

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  • trigger
    replied
    Hi eastons, many thanks for the images. Great coverage. I can't answer any of your technical questions as I'm new to all this.

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  • eastons
    replied
    I did actually have the antenna up higher (i.e. 1 or 2 metres above the UHF yagi) previously, but my reception/range actually worsened in all directions. I surmise it's because the longer 5-metre cable I used resulted in more cable loss than was gained by the extra metre or two of elevation. I suspect if I had a low-noise amplifier near the aerial (like in peterhr's photos), I'd be able to raise it and increase my range also, but I'm on quite a tight budget at the moment. When I did have it up higher, the extra elevation didn't really change the antenna's view much - the high-rises near me are also on a hill/ridge, so there's no chance of me being able to out-elevate them. I've also tried lower - that also reduces the range due to being below peaks of the immediate neighbours' roofs. So strangely enough, being in the middle of the UHF aerial gives me the best range.

    The ADS-B signals seem very sensitive to cable loss - i.e. even just 2 extra metres caused maybe a 50 km loss of range. But I suppose that makes sense, since I'm focusing on the distant signals that are already on the edge of decodability. My ADS-B antenna is also right next to the TV aerials' diplexer/masthead amplifier (since that does have a long 20-metre+ run to the TV sets) and I wonder if being that close to the masthead amplifier has any significant/noticeable impact on the ADS-B signals.

    Kind of off-topic to the dipole, but there are some pretty strong NFM signals around the 400/500 MHz range being broadcast from near my location and when looking at the 1090 MHz spectrum in SDR#, the images of those transmission are right in the middle of the ADS-B transmissions. I'm surprised I still get the range I do and that the ADS-B signals don't just all freeze up when they're talking on those NFM transmissions. I know a band-pass filter would help with the issue, but again, out of my budget, unfortunately.

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  • Kato
    replied
    From the photo it looks like your TV antenna reflector grid is blocking your signal from that direction - I would expect that you would see a significant improvement in area of coverage if you could mount your ADS-B antenna well clear of the TV antenna - perhaps lower on the mast.
    As for an amplifier, I suspect that you would see little to no improvement from using one, due to your short (2-3 metre) feed cable. The main function of an amplifier is to compensate for signal loss in a long cable run, i.e. if the antenna picks up a weak, distant signal, that signal may not reach the receiver if it has to travel down 20 metres of lossy co-ax - in such circumstances, an amp at the mast-head can boost the weak signal so it can reach the receiver. On the other hand, if the signal is just not being picked up due to a poorly constructed or badly sited antenna, then amplification will be no help at all.

    Leave a comment:


  • eastons
    replied
    Hi trigger,

    It's essentially the same as peterhr/abcd567's specifications - but without the protective elements and amplification. Nevertheless, since you're interested, I've attached a picture of it and my range diagram for the past week (circles are 50 km apart - the outermost being 450 km). I have many hills and high-rises blocking my line of sight in many directions, so that's why my range is compromised in many directions.
    Attached Files

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  • peterhr
    replied
    Originally posted by eastons View Post
    I've built a simpler version of this antenna (i.e. without amplifier, insulator or waterproofing/gluing) and can confirm it works very well given its simplicity. On the roof of my two-storey house next to my UHF TV antenna, my current maximum distance is about 430 km, with reliable/consistent reception up to around 350 km. Cable run is about 2 or 3 metres unamplified, connected to a laptop and Realtek dongle in the attic - not sure how much improvement amplification would bring.
    Amplifier adds little to the range (maybe 5%) but does bring in more planes from within the range ... possibly they're putting out less signal in your direction.

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  • trigger
    replied
    Hi eastons, any chance of a picture or a diagram? Thanks

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  • eastons
    replied
    I've built a simpler version of this antenna (i.e. without amplifier, insulator or waterproofing/gluing) and can confirm it works very well given its simplicity. On the roof of my two-storey house next to my UHF TV antenna, my current maximum distance is about 430 km, with reliable/consistent reception up to around 350 km. Cable run is about 2 or 3 metres unamplified, connected to a laptop and Realtek dongle in the attic - not sure how much improvement amplification would bring.

    Leave a comment:


  • peterhr
    replied
    If this is going to be mounted externally do what you can to prevent water being drawn into the assembly

    use a sealing blob of hot-melt glue where the 'T' joins.

    Put a blob of hot melt glue on the ends of part 'B'

    if the insulator on the vertical parts is foam ... waterproof it with spray varnish or something.

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  • abcd567
    replied
    .
    I am adding a sketch to graphically elaborate some of the steps in peterhr's post above:

    Last edited by abcd567; 2014-10-06, 03:14.

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