Over on YouTube user Adam Alicajic (creator of the popular LNA4ALL low noise amplifier) has uploaded a video showing the performance of a home made wideband helix antenna that he has created for receiving signals such as ones from L-Band Inmarsat satellites. See our tutorial for more information on receiving Inmarsat signals.
Adams helix antenna is built out of an old used can and is based on a 1.1 turn design. In the first of three videos he shows that the SWR of the antenna is all well below 2.0 from 1.5 GHz to 3 GHz. In the second video Adam shows the performance of the helix antenna on actual L-band signals being received with an RTL-SDR dongle. In the final video Adam compares the helix again a patch antenna and finds that the two receive with very similar performance.
Previously in August of this year we wrote an article showing how to decode Inmarsat satellite STD-C NCS EGC messages with an RTL-SDR. Inspired by this article, RTL-SDR.com reader Mario Filippi, N2HUN has written in to show us how he built an L-band helical antenna to receive these signals. A helical antenna is one of the better choices for receiving Inmarsat signals as it will provide higher gain when compared to a patch antenna, however the disadvantage is that it is much larger. Of related interest, Adam 9A4QV also recently showed us a video detailing the correct dimensions for building an air gap patch antenna.
Mario’s Inmarsat antenna consists of a 90cm Ku band dish, a homebrew L-band LHCP helical antenna and an inline amplifier. He used the assembly instructions found on UHF Satcom’s page at http://www.uhf-satcom.com/lband and scavenged most of the parts from his junk box. To help others with the construction of a similar antenna Mario has also created a document detailing the construction of the antenna with several useful build images (.docx file).
Mario has also recently given a presentation about the RTL-SDR to the Mid Atlantic States VHF Conference entitled “SDR Dongle for VHF/UHF Reception”. The presentation is an overview of the RTL-SDR dongle and many of its interesting applications, including several screenshots of software in action (dropbox) (mega mirror).