[amsat-bb] Regular Arrow vs. Alaskan Arrow
dave at druidnetworks.com
Sat Jan 9 19:10:06 UTC 2016
Hello Satellites friends and colleagues,
Since I started making videos a few months back of my portable satellite
operating, a lot of folks have picked up on the fact that I seem to use
the 'Alaskan' Arrow (AKA) pretty often. I also tend to use the AKA for
DX contacts and very long distance QSOs which always make it into my
movies. Questions about the AKA versus the regular arrow have become by
far the most asked topic of me from other operators. Clayton, W5PFG,
wrote an outstanding piece on his blog (
) with his thoughts on the AKA, after his experience with one this fall,
that I'd recommend that anyone interested in this topic also go read.
Since I don't have a blog though, this is the best forum I have to
express thoughts on the matter. If you have no intention of ever
operating portable, or are convinced some other design is superior, then
feel free to skip the rest of this thread. I'm not trying to make this
into anything other than an answer to frequently asked questions I get,
concerning the differences between the Regular Arrow and the Alaskan
Arrow, and to try and address the 'is it worth it' question that
inevitably follows the 'which one should I get' question.
So, to start, the regular arrow is great antenna. I have one, and I use
it for 95% of the passes I work. I used my regular arrow for my first
QSOs with Brazil, Alaska, Hawaii, Northern Ireland, and England, all of
which are between 5000km and 7200km from my home operating spots. It is
lightweight, effective, and will suit the needs of nearly every
satellite operator out there that seeks a portable antenna. If (and this
is a huge if, that's outside the scope of this post, but so so
important) you have a nice operating spot that has a clear view of the
horizon with nothing in the way. You can easily work all birds in the
sky AOS til LOS with the regular arrow, and be wildly successful. If I'm
not chasing 7000km+ DX, I'll be on my regular arrow. If I'm hanging my
arm out the window while /P in another grid? I'll be on my regular
arrow. Backyard 45° SO50 pass in the evening? Regular Arrow. Most of the
time, I'm on my regular Arrow. It probably doesn't look that way from
pictures and video, but I typically don't document my routine
operating.. no one wants to see that, they only wanna see the cool stuff.
So, why do I own and use an AKA with everything I just wrote in mind?
First, I do operate terrestrial VHF/UHF, as well as satellites, from
mountain tops. For this type of work I'll physically attach the AKA with
only one set of elements installed to my mast, pop it up in the air, and
work folks in other grids on 2m or 70cm. If I'm Jeepin' to the mountain
top, my equipment has to break down into small enough pieces I can fit
it inside, or if I'm hiking, it needs to be small and lightweight enough
to carry up on my back. The AKA represents the highest gain, lightest
weight, most portable solution that I could find for my style of
Second, the AKA does have more gain, which is useful for working
satellites. It's not a lot more gain, and it's not required on most
passes, but I routinely work at < 0.5° in max elevation from elevated
positions while portable, and so every db counts. Most people are
probably not doing this... and judging by the considerable lack of
activity I hear in the birds on these passes, I think there's a fair
amount of evidence to support this theory. If you're routinely working
exceptionally low passes at and near the horizon portable, then an AKA
might be for you. If not, I wouldn't worry about it.
Third, as mentioned many times by others, the AKA is big and heavy. As
Jeff, NI3B, said a while back in a post "Holding one of those things up
in the air for fourteen minutes and your arms will look like Popeye the
Sailor Man at LOS." Combine this with my distaste for tripods, and you
can see where we've got an issue. While I don't care much for canned
spinach, I am a six-foot, 250 pound man, I split firewood by hand, and I
try to keep myself pretty strong and in shape. I can hold the AKA for an
entire pass without a huge issue, even thought my arms get pretty sore
after. I absolutely understand that others may not be capable, or simply
may not want to subject themselves to this kind of punishment. That's
fine, you don't have too. Get a regular arrow, and save your biceps..
you'll be just fine.
So in summary, If you're a mountain-top, multidisciplinary operator,
that wants superior portable performance, weight and muscle fatigue be
damned, then the AKA might be for you. If you're not, get the regular
arrow, you won't be sorry.
Feel free to ask questions, provide critiques.
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