Q: What is an antenna ground plane?

A: The antenna system is crucial to getting the best performance from your radio devices. The antenna system is not just the antenna itself but also the coaxial cable and connectors. All parts need to be selected and installed correctly to achieve a good radio performance.

If you are using a simple rubberised whip or helical antenna, it is probably what is called a 1/4wave antenna. A common mistake made with these simple antennas is failing to provide an adequate metal ‘ground plane’.

For example, if you are using a short coaxial patch cable between your radio device and the antenna, you will probably need to provide a ground plane for the antenna to work. Without a metalised ground plane, these antennas cannot radiate their signals correctly and most of your transmit power is reflected back into the transmitter and wasted as dissipated heat.

The ground plane needs to be mechanically in contact with the outer shield of the coax. This is usually achieved by using a bulkhead antenna socket that screws down on to the ground plane.

A useful way of providing a ground plane for plastic enclosures is to use self-adhesive aluminium tape which is available for RS Components, Farnell etc.

Note: some larger antennas are ½ wave type. These do not need a ground plane. Feel free to ask W&D sales for advice.


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