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Author Topic: Balloon antenna  (Read 3574 times)
AC2RC
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« on: August 11, 2010, 10:32:23 PM »

I was listening to an old time radio program about the Texas Rangers. The Ranger at one point sets up a balloon antenna by filling a balloon with gas to put up a 50' antenna from his car. Was that actually used ? Certainly would help in some areas as a portable antenna.
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W5DC
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« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2010, 10:42:12 PM »

http://www.qsl.net/g4vgo/
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KI4SDY
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« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2010, 10:50:16 PM »

I have never heard that story as a real situation in 25 years of public safety. It is a plot thought up by the story writers. What Texas Ranger, in those days, would have the knowledge and materials laying around to do that? Besides, that would have detuned his mobile antenna and made the signal weaker, not stronger. A smarter move would have been to drive to the top of a peak and transmit from there, but then again, I did not write the story. Wink
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AC2RC
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« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2010, 06:25:39 AM »

I've been aware of balloon antennas but my question was did the Rangers actually use them . The story must have been from the 1950s.The Ranger had in his trunk a balloon ,wire and gas tank to fill the balloon. He could reach the headquarters with normal radio but to go direct to another Ranger he needed the balloon antenna.

The show aired from 1950-1952 starring Joel McRae and contained much of the latest technical techniques used by police. The shows were from actual cases.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2010, 06:32:47 AM by Robert Cella » Logged
KI4SDY
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« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2010, 08:46:00 AM »

Why waste all that time, go to all that trouble and take up equipment space in the trunk for something that would not work in a supposed emergency. Again, using an extended wire and ballon would have detuned the antenna and limited their range. Did they have a random wire antenna tuner in the trunk too? If they had one, they wouldn't have known how to use it. Think man, think! All they had to do was drive up to a hill, ridge or bridge to do the something that would work, extend radio range. Any experienced cop knows that. The crime cases may have been from actual files, but I can assure you they took theatrical license with the episodes produced for broadcast. Just because you heard it on the radio doesn't make it true! Wink

Next week, I am going to start a radio program called Global Warming starring Al Gore, or is it Al Bore? He is going to send up a balloon with a thermometer attached to collect accurate temperature readings away from carbon dioxide fumes. Roll Eyes  
« Last Edit: August 24, 2010, 06:19:21 AM by Guy "Vern" Wells » Logged
KI4SDY
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« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2010, 08:49:19 AM »

Think a little further; if the Ranger could reach headquarters on his car radio, why couldn't they just relay the message to the other Ranger. Hadn't the very "advanced and technical" Rangers every heard of relaying a radio message? Roll Eyes
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AC2RC
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« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2010, 09:55:37 AM »

I just asked ! I know they do things differently in Texas !! Grin
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WB6BYU
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« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2010, 11:41:31 AM »

It's not that far-fetched.  The US Forest Service used long wire antennas on their VHF low band
portable radios in the 1960s or so, throwing one end over a tree branch when needed.

Given the expanses of flat terrain in Texas, there certainly would be times when hoisting an antenna up
50' could make the difference between being able to call for help or not, and I could imagine some sort
of kit being issued to the Rangers, though I suspect it wouldn't be used all that often.

Balloons can't lift much weight, so most likely it would have used a single wire rather than an elevated
antenna with coax feed.  How practical that is depends on their frequency band:  for low VHF adding
a half wave or full wave to the tip of a quarter wave whip with an alligator clip could make a difference,
but 50' of wire seems a bit much unless it was folded into a Franklin or similar (which might be too
technical for a TV show.)

Back when MF was still used for mobile operations adding wire to the vertical would improve efficiency
if it was done properly - you couldn't just attach to the top of the whip above a loading coil, for
example.  But I've added a quarter wave wire below the loading coil on my 80m mobile antenna to
greatly improve the performance when I'm parked, and it is possible that such an extension could
be made and hoisted by a balloon for lower bands.   Ground wave coverage is limited on the lower
bands, so it is possible that the stations he was trying to reach was too far out to reach the
dispatcher (or conditions were too noisy) so he needed a relay.  But I'd expect the missing station
to use a balloon in that case as well.


So I don't see any technical or practical reason why it couldn't have been done, even in the
1950's when radios were generally less reliable than today.  But that doesn't answer the question
of whether they were actually used.
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KJ4OBR
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« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2010, 09:27:17 PM »

For field day, the OCRA group used a balloon hoisted antenna. I never did hear how that worked for them.. I'll have to ask if I hear the perpetrators on the repeater.

73
Dave
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KB2WIG
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« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2010, 08:32:58 PM »

FWIW,,



http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.olive-drab.com/images/scr578_01_700.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.olive-drab.com/od_electronics_scr578.php&usg=__deEpz6ti6Fus5M0hIOnLDMcALJ4=&h=404&w=504&sz=56&hl=en&start=11&zoom=1&tbnid=CnUJ0rF-pvcVLM:&tbnh=104&tbnw=130&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dgibson%2Bgirl%2Bradio%2Bsystem%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Doff%26sa%3DN%26rls%3Dcom.microsoft:en-US%26biw%3D1259%26bih%3D852%26tbs%3Disch:1&um=1&itbs=1
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WA8FOZ
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« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2010, 09:18:27 PM »

We did this when I was in college for Field Day (W8UM; 1971, I think Shocked). We used a helium balloon to lift an end-fed half-wave for 75/80 meters. It worked very well overnight, when the propagation went long - untill the balloon broke!
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KI4SDY
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Posts: 1452




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« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2010, 11:44:38 PM »

A balloon antenna might have been used by the military or at a ham field day. Both organizations would have had access to and know how to use antenna tuners, either internal or external to their equipment. However, it was never done by a law enforcement agency, least possible of all, the Texas Rangers. If you think it was; I challenge you to provide one documented case, outside of radio or television fantasy land. Roll Eyes

As I brought up before:
First, all the police have to do is drive to a hill or bridge effect the same longer radio range capability.  
Second, if the officer could contact headquarters, they can simply relay the message to the other distant officer.
Third, the police radio equipment and frequency of the 1950s (low to high VHF bands) would have been difficult to convert.   

How phony was this show? Very! A publicity photograph of the actors show two "Rangers" wearing star badges never worn by the real Texas Rangers and a star badge emblem on their patrol car never used by the Texas Department of Public Safety, that employs Rangers.

So there was no need for a balloon antenna, except for drama in a radio show and Rangers did not have the equipment nor the knowledge of how to rig it up. I guess it makes for interesting conversation on eHam.net, but outside of this forum the "legend" is the same as the "Lost Dutchman Mine."  Wink
« Last Edit: August 23, 2010, 05:50:43 AM by Guy "Vern" Wells » Logged
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