How to rapidly deploy & remove antenna radials
At our contest station ED1R we have no space for permanent Lowband Verticals. Each Contest, the verticals have to be installed temporarily in a field nearly. Especially the deployment and removal of the antenna radials are very time-consuming. Over time we optimized our system which reduced the required time from 2 hours down to 30 minutes.
Fastron is key
Screws & nuts are a bad choice when things have to be done fast. Changing to Fastron terminals improved significantly the speed of deployment. We mounted on the ends of each radial a male and female terminal.
We also added male Fastron Terminals on each position of the radials plates.
The female connector of the radials is plugged into the male connectors on the plate. No screwdriver is needed. Just rapid Plug & Play.
When we started using Vertical antennas at 160m and 80m, especially the removal and storage of the radials was extremely time intensive. We had to roll up each radial individually, fix it with a piece of tape or a tie-wrap. The picture below gives you an idea of how much work it was.
During my stay in Qatar, where I was invited to operate CQWW SSB 2011 as A73A Dave, K5GN showed me a smart & inexpensive way to deploy & store coax cable: Garden hose carts!
They are available in all DIY stores for less than 20€ a piece. At ED1R we applied this to the radials. Look how they are stored now:
Now you might get an idea why we crimp beside the female Fastron connector, also a male connecter. Whenever the radials are removed from the plate, they are connected in a chain to form one single long wire on the cart.
Deployment & Removal
Radials are now very easy to deploy. In practice, we found that radials are fastest deployed with a team of 3-4 persons. While one person stays at the cart and connects the ends of the radials to the plate, the other 2-3 deploy the radials in the field, directly from the cart.
Radial removal is best done by two persons. One disconnecting the radials from the plate and connecting them into a consecutive chain on the cart, while the other person turns the winch of the radial cart.
The time needed for deployment and removal of radials (approx 40 – 60 radials per Vertical) could be reduced from 2 hours to less than 30 minutes with this technique. It takes some initial time to crimp the fastron terminals on the cables, but once the solution is in place, significant time is saved whenever the radials have to be deployed.