Yesterday I finally got my two C-Pole phased array up and on the air. In fact, after tuning it a little I easily made two QRP contacts, one with N2UGB in NY and the other with CT4RL/1 in Portugal.
My journey from idea to an antenna was based on Chapter 13.3, "A Steerable C-Pole Array" in Brian Cake's book, "Antenna Designer's Notebook". Here Brian presented a design based on phased array theory and modeling. Brian was not aware of anyone that had actually built one.
The C-Poles themselves are made from Radio Shack 18 gauge stranded hookup wire. 1/2" PVC pipe is used for the top and bottom 40" spreaders. For easy supporting, the two C-Poles are in the same plane and aligned with the rope joining the two antennas. The upper inside corners of the antennas are connected by a 33.5' length of rope. This insures correct spacing. Support ropes are tied to the two top outside corners. Instead of a relay I used a coax T connector. L3 was added/removed as needed to change the radiation pattern.
Without L3 the array is endfire and, according to Brian's modeling, good for 1.18dBi gain. By adding L3 into the short/L2 side both sides become 3/4 wavelength long and the array has 3.5 dBi gain broadside.
I learned a little along the way about...
- Baluns and phasing lines...The phasing lengths include the phase delay introduced by the required choke baluns. I had planned to use air core baluns consisting of RG-8X wound around 4" plastic coffee "cans". What I found was that each balun takes about 1/4 wavelength (electrically) of coax. By the time I added the baluns to L1 and L2 in the accompanying diagram I couldn't separate the antenna by a physical half wave. I was forced to use more expensive ferrite toroid baluns that require less coax.
- Adding/removing L3...The switch/relay proposed by Brian in his design introduced its own challenges. The relay/switch is part of the phasing network. I found that my DPDT toggle switch with the needed connectors introduced more phase delay to the point that I was again in trouble with the physical separation of the two antennas. I eventually used a T connector instead.
- Supports...Finding trees with the right separation, orientation, height and limb placement can be a problem...especially for a temporary installation in the park.
- Measuring the electrical length of coax...My MFJ Antenna Analyzer gave a broad X=0 reading. My grip dip meter gave a sharp dip but not on the same frequency as the MFJ (The ARRL Antenna Book recommends against using a dip meter). Eventually I averaged the two MFJ endpoint/X=0 readings to get a center/single frequency and then calculated the coax electrical length based on that frequency.
- Gain...1 to 3.5 dBi of gain is hard to notice when asking for signal strength comparisons under real band conditions.