For Sale: Tune-A-Tenna

I was perusing eBay a few weeks ago and stumbled upon an interesting listing:

What is it? According to the listing, it’s a remote adjustable half-wave dipole antenna with an SWR of less than 1.5:1 from 1.8 MHz to 55 MHz. How does it work? From the listing:

By Extending or retracting the 2 Antenna elements until you have reached the point of Resonance for the desired operating frequency. There by providing maximum forward power and little if any reflected RF power.

You have effectively built a custom cut to frequency dipole antenna each and every time you change frequency with out leaving the equipment operating position.

The Antenna is controlled by the flip of a switch, or could possibly be controlled by the micro processor in most modern day transceivers and could possibly track the VFO as you move up and down in frequency so it would always be at its resonant point.

A little intrigued, I e-mailed the creator, Frank McGinley, WB4NWV, to inquire about it. I asked how he developed it and told him that I’d be interested in doing a little post on his antenna design.

THE TITLE OF THE THE STORY IS HOW FAR HAVE WE COME.

LOCATION FORT BRAGG NORTH CAROLINA, UNIT OF ASSIGNMENT,  50TH SIGNAL BATTALION ( AIRBORNE ), FIELD TRAINING EXERCISE.

IT WAS DARK EXCEPT FOR THE LIGHT FROM THE STARS, THAT SHOWN THROUGH THE CLOUDS , IT WAS BITTER COLD AND THE WIND WAS HOWLING , THE RAIN AND SLEET WAS INTENSE, AS I STUMBLED THROUGH THE BUSHES TRYING NOT TO GET THE DIPOLE ANTENNA ELEMENTS TANGLED UP IN THE SAME BUSHES, UNSUCCESSFULLY I MIGHT ADD,THE TIME 23:45 HOURS I HAD TO CHANGE THE LENGTH OF THE DIPOLE  FROM THE DAY FREQUENCY TO THE NIGHT FREQUENCY, AFTER A HECK OF A FIGHT TO LOWER THE ELEMENTS TO THE GROUND AND SPENDING 3 OR 4 MINUTES TRYING TO UNTANGLE THE HALYARDS, THE FLASH LIGHT WITH THE RED LENS HELD IN MY MOUTH AND MY GLOVES REMOVED, MY FINGERS  SO COLD THAT THEY DID NOT WANT TO COOPERATE  I WAS SHAKING SO BAD FROM THE COLD THAT THE LIGHT WAS HAVING A HARD TIME STAYING ON THE SPOT WHERE I NEEDED IT, MAKING IT EVEN MORE DIFFICULT TO UNTIE THE TANGLED MESS ALL THE TIME TRYING TO HURRY TO BE BACK UP ON THE AIR BY 24:00 HOURS

WELL AFTER WHAT SEEMED LIKE  FOREVER I GOT IT BACK UP,AND RETURNED TO THE WARMTH OF THE RADIO TELETYPE SHELTER, AND BEGAN THE PROCESS OF CHECKING THE SWR, ONLY TO FIND THAT IT WAS TOO HIGH, WELL BACK OUT INTO THE COLD AND RAIN I WENT, THE ANTENNA WAS TO SHORT, ROUND 2 WENT ABOUT LIKE ROUND 1 NOT VERY SMOOTH, AS THE WIND HAD BLOWN THE ANTENNA ELEMENTS INTO THE BUSHES, IT TOOK ME QUITE A WHILE TO UNTANGLE THEM,  LENGTHEN THEM  AND PULL THEM BACK UP, BACK TO THE RADIO VAN, CHECK THE SWR AGAIN, NOT FLAT BUT GOOD ENOUGH, I WAS SOAKED AND FROZEN AND WAS NOT GOING TO TRY IT A THIRD TIME, NOT TO MENTION THAT IT WAS 00:24 HOURS,AND TIME FOR ME TO CHECK IN WITH THE NET CONTROL STATION, I HAD NO TRAFFIC AND THE RADIO CHECK WENT WELL, IT WAS NOW TIME FOR ME TO GET OUT OF MY COLD WET UNIFORM AND INTO A DRY WARM ONE, WELL AS YOU CAN IMAGINE I WAS NOT A VERY HAPPY CAMPER, AND TO THIS DAY I DO NOT ENJOY CAMPING OUT, THERE WERE MANY DAYS  AND NIGHTS LIKE THESE THAT FOLLOWED , EXTREME HEAT,EXTREME COLD, WET AND SOGGY, BITING  FLY’S, MOSQUITOES,  YOU NAME IT AND ALWAYS THE SAME PROBLEM, TO LONG OR TO SHORT, KNEE DEEP IN MUD, UP AND DOWN BACK TO THE VAN, UP AND DOWN AND BACK TO THE VAN,AND NEVER COULD I GET THE SWR FLAT, CLOSE BUT NEVER FLAT.

TIME FLY’S WHEN YOU ARE HAVING FUN,  SOON 20 YEARS OF FUN TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE  HAD COME TO AND END,  AND IT WAS TIME TO ENJOY H. F. RADIO AS A SERVICE,  WELL THE MORE THINGS CHANGE THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME,  MY DIPOLE ANTENNA CUT FOR THE HIGH END OF THE BAND WITH A CLIP LEAD EXTENSION TO MAKE IT RESONANT AT THE LOW END OF THE BAND, WELL YOU GUESSED IT, BACK OUT INTO THE NIGHT IN THE SNOW IN MY BEDROOM SLIPPERS  P.J.’S AND HOUSECOAT, NOT A GOOD THING,  I KNOW I COULD HAVE USED AN ANTENNA TUNER OR COUPLER AS IT IS CALLED,  BUT ALAS I AM A PURIST, AND DO NOT LIKE THEM, EVERY TIME I HAD TO DO THIS,  I KEPT HAVING FLASH BACKS OF MY MANY FIELD TRAINING EXERCISES , THAT WAS WHEN IT STRUCK ME THERE, HAS GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY.

WELL I TRIED EVERY THING, G5RV’S, OFF CENTER FED DIPOLES, YOU NAME IT I TRIED IT,  WAS I HAPPY, TO PUT IT MILDLY,  HECK NO,  SO IT WAS TIME TO PUT ON MY THINKING CAP,  MY MIND WANDERED BACK TO WHEN I WAS THE NONCOMMISSIONED  OFFICER IN CHARGE OF THE MARS RADIO STATION AT FORT BRAGG, WE HAD A DIPOLE MADE FOR COLLINS BY HYGAIN THE TD-1 IT WAS MADE OUT OF TAPE MEASURE TAPES, IT WAS A POOR DESIGN,  IF YOU USED MORE THEN 100 WATTS IT WOULD ARC INTERNALLY , BUT THE CONCEPT WAS THERE,  CHANGE THE DESIGN SOME ADD A 13.8 VOLT D.C. MOTOR, SOME LIMIT SWITCHES AND A CONTROL BOX AND , YOU HAVE A MOTORIZED ONE HALF WAVELENGTH DIPOLE THAT CAN BE REMOTELY ADJUSTED FROM INSIDE THE RADIO OPERATOR’S  LOCATION, WITH NO NEED TO SEE  IT OR GO OUTSIDE TO ADJUST THE ANTENNA.

YES 1.8 MEGAHERTZ TO 55 MEGAHERTZ AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN WITHOUT COMPROMISING,  PERFECTLY FLAT SWR 1 TO 1, AND NO NEED FOR THE INFAMOUS ANTENNA TUNER,  IN THIS AGE OF ALL MODE ALL FREQUENCY  H.F. TRANSCEIVERS, THERE WAS A NEED FOR AN ANTENNA THAT WOULD COVER THE ENTIRE H,F, SPECTRUM WITHOUT COMPROMISE,  MANY THOUGHT THAT DAY WOULD NEVER COME, ARE YOU SICK OF DUMMY LOAD ANTENNAS AND ANTENNA TUNERS,  GENERAL COVERAGE TRANSCEIVER MEET GENERAL COVERAGE ANTENNA,  I GIVE YOU THE AMAZING TUNE-A-TENNA.

Frank has a fascinating story and I salute his service to our country.

Pretty neat. But… well, $25,000 is a lot of money for an antenna.  What do you get? A patent (7,286,100B1), trademark (3,336,489), domain names, and a few prototypes. According to the eBay listing, Mr. McGinley believes that the right buyer could base a business around this antenna design and manufacture them for about $300 each:

Our best estimate, the cost to produce the final product for sale should be around $300, Possibly lower.

Our best Estimate of the retail price of the semi-auto version would be $825, which equates to $525 per unit. If you advertise wisely on Ebay, Qrz.com and QST Magazine you should have no problem netting $500 per unit profit, possible more?

Our best estimate of the retail price of the auto version would be $1,225 which equates to $700 net per unit possibly more?

What do you think?  Is there a market for such an antenna?  If you think so, check out the eBay listing or contact Frank. I’m sure he’d like to hear from you.

Matt Thomas, W1MST, is the managing editor of AmateurRadio.com. Contact him at [email protected].

13 Responses to “For Sale: Tune-A-Tenna”

  • KB3VCQ:

    Always be wary of people/emails that write in all CAPS. They aren’t detail-oriented people, or spammers from Nigeria who want your money.

  • Charles (AD7UF):

    …or they’ve spent way too much time on a Baudot teletype. 🙂

  • Matt W1MST:

    While I don’t know whether Frank is detail-oriented or not (my suspicion based on looking at his prototypes is that he is) — but I can almost guarantee you that he isn’t a Nigerian spammer.

  • Eric, AJ4LN:

    The technology idea looks very similar to StepIR and UltraBeam, except this is an Inverted V instead of a flat dipole. And you might have issues selling these in the US because I think I heard that StepIR prevented UltraBeam from selling in the US, so I would think they would prevent this from selling in the US also.

    And, those are some wild market potential claims.

  • Jim Tripp, WA6DIJ:

    $800 is a big investment for a dipole antenna. I would rather invest a little more and get an antenna with some gain and one that is rotatable.

    BTW, my first antenna was a rotatable 15 meter dipole. It was made of metal tubing and mounted on a metal mast. To rotate it I opened the bedroom window, reached out to grab the mast, and then turned it until the signal came in loud and clear….hahaha. Maybe I should have patented it!

  • Jeff N1KDO:

    Hmmm. The concept is very similar to the SteppIR, reels to wind in antenna elements. IMHO the difference is that the SteppIR uses some kind of beryllium copper tapes and this thing winds wire. I don’t know if SteppIR has any patents. If I were SteppIR, I’d buy this defensively…

  • Fred W0FMS:

    The sad thing about UltraBeam, SteppIR and this is that the patents probably should have never been allowed for ANY of them. Look at the ARRL wire antenna book (I think vol 2) and there is a folded dipole with an open wire feed that is on rollers that was in QST in the ’40s. It’s prior art just screaming at you.

    SteppIR really only has the mechanism (the berylium copper roll) as the “innovation” here. I don’t know if they ever claimed the adjustable antenna idea, tho. I guess if not, I’d give them that.. although even that is fairly obvious and had uses similar to it prior.

    I built a vertical wire on a reel years before anyone ever heard of a SteppIR. Fed against 32 radials it worked okay. Tuned great. I think it was even before the “screwdriver” antenna craze too.. Late 1980s…

    Fred W0FMS

  • Goody K3NG:

    It’s not a bad idea, but compared to an alternative like a 60m dipole fed with ladder line and a tuner on the ground, there isn’t really much more of a benefit with this antenna. Sure, you’ll be able to get 1:1 SWR across the entire HF spectrum, but a great antenna is not made with good SWR alone. This invention uses a mechanical device in the air, and mechanical devices are prone to failure. It’s a dipole so for most installations it’s probably not going to have any directionality, especially on low bands. The upside is that it will have a cleaner pattern on higher bands than loading up a long dipole. If this had some directional properties (like a StepIR) that would create a value proposition. But you can create a multi-band dipole with reasonable SWR and similar performance for a lot less than $525.

    Furthermore, a patent doesn’t automatically keep others from building and selling a similar product. It does give you the ability to sue someone else if they start making such units. Unless you’re willing and financially capable to defend the patent, it’s a piece of paper. This cost has to be worked into the business model.

    I question the potential market claims as well. This antenna is kind of like selling a high performance economy car. If you want high performance you’re probably going to invest in a more capable car. With antennas you’ll likely want some gain and directivity if going to the extra trouble and expense.

  • FRANK MCGINLEY WB4NWV:

    Well at least Charles AD7UF figured out that i learned to type on a teletype and attempted to use that theme in my story, in hopes that other military teletype operators could go back in there minds to that time.

    As far as SteppIR goes, my concept dates predates his on the patent application.

    73’s

    Frank

  • Frank WB4NWV:

    Almost forgot, many thanks to Matt for the compliment he gave me about the attention to detail on the building of the
    TUNE-A-TENNA.

    Frank

  • Chester KB8GFL:

    I went looking for your device once I decieded to build one, and I see you already have one. Would please tell me where you got the motor pulleys and gear assembly.
    Please give me the part numbers if you can.

    Thank’s Chester Plaiss Cincinnati, OHIO USA

  • Bob White W5BW:

    KB3VCQ is full of dog squeeze!
    In the military everything is in caps!
    TRUSTING OR NOT TRUSTING SOMEONE BECAUSE THEY WRITE IN CAPS IS ASININE!
    Another General Class know it all Genius!

  • Will fitzpatrick:

    I’m a friend of Frank mcguinly trying to get in touch with him. [email protected] thank you.william Fitzpatrick.

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