Pitlab FPV tracker antenna mount (antenna tracking)

Pitlab Antenna Tracker

Written by Mariete

Apr 28, 2020

Updated: May 10, 2020 @ 8:00 am

When you talk about FPV Long Range, for real an antenna tracker is a must and the Pitlab Antenna Tracker It is a must for who decides to use this autopilot. Mounting the Pitlab tracker is very easy and allows the antenna tracking be much simpler.

What is an antenna tracker for?

In Long distance FPV, antennas are an element fundamental. They make the difference between power fly long distances (many kilometers) without any problems, making the plane receive our control signals and that we, on the ground, receive the video it emits, or begin to have video problems from a few meters.

To give the antennas more range, a type of antenna is used, called directional antenna, which concentrates all its capacity to emission and reception in a few degrees above the horizon.

Let's imagine a normal antenna, vertical, like that of a Walkie Talkie, and imagine that it has an X range. This vertical antenna is capable of transmitting and receiving 360º around of the Walkie Talkie.

Now suppose we connect that same Walkie Talkie to an antenna that only emits and receives on one side (180 degrees around). That means that when it emits (or receives) it will put all its energy at those 180º, so its apparent power will be double, X * 2. Just point it to where we want to send or receive.

For example, TV antennas, those horizontal ones that we use in houses, with a lot of "crossed sticks", only receive in a very narrow angle (maybe 15º or less) with what they can concentrate very much his «receiving power«.

The problem is that, of course, a model airplane is not like a TV station. The TV station is always in the same place, It does not move, so we only have to point the antenna of the receiver towards the station. However, a radio controlled model aircraft moves anywhere: it circles around us, it goes up, it goes down and it turns on its own axis in three dimensions).

If we want to use a directional antenna for model airplanes, we need an element that maintains the antenna that we have on the ground "Targeted" towards the plane. That element is the antenna tracker or antenna follower. and it is what the Pitlab tracker solves.

 

Pitlab Antenna Tracker

The Pitlab antenna tracker is a simple and inexpensive tracker, servo based.

It connects to the Pitlab Ground Station and moves the antenna so that it follows our plane, keeping the plane in the center of the antenna, where you have the maximum reception or gain.

This is achieved because the Pitlab autopilot on the plane "injects" the position of the GPS into the video and the Ground Station, on the ground, is capable of extracting that data from the video, interpreting it and moving the servos as necessary, so that the plane is always in the center of the antenna.

It is important to note that when we buy the tracker, it comes without an antenna, servos, or any type of electronics. We will choose these elements based on what we need.

Pitlab tracker mount

The assembly is simple, although entertaining. Although it may be a little scary when you receive it, since in the box you have only a few fiber inserts and various hardware, it should not be very difficult to mount with the help of the video and photos that you can find on this page.

It took me one afternoon to mount it, but keep in mind that, while I was mounting it, I was recording the video, taking photos, etc. Besides that, I didn't have this video to follow it ...

In order to make the process of assembling the tracker easier, I have decided to separate it into four phases. The first three consist of the assembly of the three structures of independent movement and the fourth part is the union of all of them.

 

2nd Phase: Pan (horizontal movement)

It is the central part (the one that joins the base and the upper part, where the antenna goes. And the horizontal movement of the antenna is allowed (this movement is usually called bread).

3rd Phase: Tilt (vertical movement)

It is the upper part of the tracker and the antenna (usually screwed or with velcro) is mounted on it. Allows vertical movement of the antenna (this movement is usually called tilt).

4th Phase: Union of the previous ones

Once we have assembled the three parts of which the tracker is composed, all that remains is to join them together and we will have finished.

The finished tracker

Here you can see the finished tracker and mounted on its tripod, with the antenna and receivers (diversity or dual receiver system) mounted.

If you look you will see that there is a 3D printed piece that I designed to make it easier to mount the receivers and another box, where the servos are connected, which facilitates the connections and includes a regulator to supply the servos (which operate at 5 volts) with the tripod battery (I leave you a photo of what is inside the box).

Tracker assembly video

Summary

This is all about mounting the mechanical part of the tracker.

If you found it interesting, I will appreciate that leave a comment below.

I will write more articles similar to this one. Don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss out on anything I publish.

Thank you and happy flights!

 

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