No Dish? Try A Portable Weave Helix Antenna

When you think of satellite communications, you probably think of a dish. But that’s not the only option — a new device from the American University of Beruit and Stanford created a portable antenna made of woven materials that packs easily, weighs little, and can reconfigure for ground-to-space or ground-to-ground communications. The antenna reminded us of a finger trap and you can see it for yourself in the video below.

Because of the antenna’s construction, it can fold up and also adjust to different lengths for different purposes. The antenna collapses to a ring that is five inches across and 1 inch tall. The weight? Under two ounces. The actual paper in Nature Communications is available to read online.

Stretched out to about a foot, the antenna is omnidirectional. The size, of course, also changes the resonant frequency. Tuning is no problem, though, since you can easily change the size as needed. The antenna may also find use on satellites where it’s low weight, and compact storage would be a definite advantage.

The antenna’s weave is actually two separate helixes, one conductive and the other insulating. The antenna normally operates in a vertical configuration. It looks like it might be simple to make some version of this without anything exotic. Let us know if you try!

Helical antennas aren’t new, but this is an unusual construction. They are popular as satellite antennas because of their polarization characteristics among other things.

Continue reading “No Dish? Try A Portable Weave Helix Antenna”

Field Testing A Home Made WiFi Antenna

Most readers will be aware that a good way to extend WiFi range is to use a better antenna for those 2.4 GHz signals, but at the same time such high frequency hijinks have something of a reputation of being not for the faint-hearted. [Dereksgc] puts that reputation to the test by building a helical WiFi antenna — and if that weren’t enough — he also subjects it to a field test. In a real field, is there any other way?

We’ve put both videos below the break, and you can find his helical antenna calculator on his website and the parametric CAD file for the scaffold in his GitHub repository. He first delivers a crash course in the fundamentals of helical antennas before diving into the construction, and even soldering on an impedance matching strip. The field testing involves setting up a base station with an FTP server on a phone, and connecting to it with a variety of antennas over increasing distance across farmland. We’ve characterised antennas in this way before, and it really does give an immediate view of their performance.

In this case the helix comfortably outperforms a commercial patch antenna and a laptop’s internal antenna, making such an antenna a very worthwhile piece of work whether you’re making a fixed link or indulging in a bit of casual wardriving.

The tools mentioned here will make helical antennas a snap, but this isn’t the first time we’ve touched on the subject.

Continue reading “Field Testing A Home Made WiFi Antenna”

Fallen Radiosonde Reborn As Active L-band Antenna

If your hobby is chasing radiosondes across vast stretches of open country, and if you get good enough at it, you’ll eventually end up with a collection of the telemetry packages that once went up on weather balloons to record the conditions aloft. Once you’ve torn one or two down though, the novelty must wear off, which is where this radiosonde conversion to an active L-band antenna comes from.

As it happens, we recently discussed the details of radiosondes, so if you need a primer on these devices, check that out. But as Australian ham [Mark (VK5QI)] explains, radiosondes are a suite of weather instruments crammed into a lightweight package with a GPS receiver and a small transmitter. Lofted beneath a weather balloon into the stratosphere, a radiosonde transmits a wealth of data back to the ground before returning on a parachute after the balloon bursts. [Mark] had his eyes on the nice quadrifilar helical antenna used by the Vaisla R92 radiosonde’s GPS receiver, with the aim of repurposing them. He had a lot of components to remove while still retaining the low-noise amplifier (LNA), but in the end managed to get a working antenna with 40 dB gain in the L-band, and with the help of an RTL-SDR dongle he picked up solid signals from Iridium satellites.

Want to score your own radiosonde to play with? First, you have to know how to listen in so you can find them. Or, you know – there’s always eBay.