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What Is an Arrow Antenna?

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.

What Is an Arrow Antenna?

Arrow antennas have elements made from aluminum arrow shafts. Many of the most popular arrow antennas are yagis, though arrow shafts are occasionally used as monopole antennas. Their ideal application is building large ham radio antennas for amateur radio satellites and long distance communications.

Arrow antennas regularly refer to the brand name “Arrow” antennas, but that isn’t the subject of this article. Nor is this article discussing antennas made to look like archery arrows which are periodically put on cars to improve reception of radio signals.

What are the pros and cons of arrow antennas? What are the advantages and disadvantages of arrow antennas?

What Are the Strengths of the Arrow Antenna?

Being made from hollow metal "arrow shafts" makes the elements very light individually, though an assembled antenna array may be heavy.

The threaded inserts for broad heads on arrow shafts makes assembly of these into homemade antenna arrays much easier if you drill the right holes into the main boom like ¾” conduit, creating an antenna array that is quite sturdy. And unlike those that are welded together, you can disassemble it and store it. You don’t normally have this option with a large, welded or glued antenna array.

The aluminum shafts made for archery allows you to build them to some very strict specifications. For example, aluminum arrows have a four digit number system that lets you select shaft diameter and wall thickness. This is far more precise than using generic aluminum rods.

The arrow antennas are weather resistant. That is the logical result of building an antenna out of components made to withstand impact with a target.

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What Are the Weaknesses of the Arrow Antenna?

The cost of arrow shafts compared to standard aluminum tubing you find at the hardware store is off-putting for many hobbyists.

Building an antenna by hand may be satisfying but takes more time and effort than if you bought one for your desired application, and the purchased antenna is built to specification to receive the frequency range you want. Then there’s the fact that you don’t have to connect the coax and figure out the wiring.

Most ham radio applications don’t require elements with very precise thicknesses, while cutting the tubes to specific lengths can be done with any type of metal tubing. Whether building yagi antennas or a monopole antenna, a standard 6 mm x 1 meter hollow aluminum rod will be sufficient unless you truly value being able to screw together and take apart the antenna array.

It can be much cheaper and easier to buy a PCB antenna for use than try to build one out of arrow shafts.

It can be much cheaper and easier to buy a PCB antenna for use than try to build one out of arrow shafts.

Observations about Arrow Antennas

In the case of backpackers to remote peaks or sailing to an island to make contact, the ability to quickly and easily collapse and carry the antenna made from these arrow shafts is worth the extra cost.

In these few situations, the arrow antenna is a good solution for backpacking ham radio operators. For example, there are backpack yagi antenna designs that weigh only a few ounces and collapse to fit in a pack pocket like a tent pole. For these ham radio operators, an arrow antenna lets you easily pack an antenna for 2 meter ham radio and extend the range of your walkie talkie.

© 2017 Tamara Wilhite

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