Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
The answer depends on which antenna you want to replace or upgrade in your drone. The antenna that works best in the drone controller isn’t the best choice for the drone itself. What is the best type of antenna for a drone controller? And what is the best type of antenna for your drone?
What Is the Best Antenna for a Drone Controller?
Yagi antennas are directional. Yagi antennas are usually better for the base station or control station. The Yagi antenna has better gain (and therefore range) over an omnidirectional antenna. This includes monopole antennas, the classic vertical antenna you’d see on a remote control for RC cars.
What are the pros and cons of yagi antennas? Yagi antennas are designed for a very narrow frequency range. That minimizes the possibility of interference; that yields a clearer image if the drone is relaying back pictures or video. You don’t need as much power to control a drone at a given distance than if you used an omnidirectional antenna, as well. The downsides include how much the performance can change if you alter the locations of the elements and you can’t hop frequencies if there is interference on the one you’re operating on.
What other antennas can be used in drone controllers? Wheel antennas and monopole antennas are most common, but you can find three lobed antennas. The circular polarized antennas like these are ideal if you’re going to be doing acrobatics with the drone or otherwise un-level flight. If you’re flying slow and steady such as capturing high resolution pictures and video from a drone, a yagi is fine. However, helical and patch antennas are only suitable in receiving antennas.
FPV Test with Horizontal-Polarized Antenna
What Is the Best Antenna for Use in a Drone?
The receiving antenna in the drone itself should be omni-directional. Dipole antennas are not omni-directional, so there could be nulls or drop outs as a drone maneuvers. In contrast, wheel antennas have slightly lower gain than wheel antennas, but there are no nulls. It is the nulls that cause the operator to lose control of the drone or have the drone go into automatic as it waits for a command.
Wheel antennas tend to be pretty durable, especially those made from printed circuit boards. They don’t take up much space. They won’t alter the aerodynamics of a drone, whether you mount it to a drone wing or put it inside a protected radome. As the drone goes up, the signal becomes cross-polarized – you get a donut effect. As long as the drone isn’t too high, it will receive commands.
Wheel antennas like yagi antennas only operate on a narrow frequency range. This limits interference, but it prevents you from using other frequencies if there is competition. If you want to run your drone at 5.8 GHz instead of 2.4 GHz, you have to switch out the antennas and end up with a very small one in its place. If you choose to go with a 900 MHz wheel antenna, the large size of the wheel antenna means it isn’t going to fit on small drones.
What other types of antennas can be used in drones? You can use quad patch antennas if they’re connected in a ring so that it has 360° reception. Given the complexity of this arrangement, most people opt for a wheel or other omni-directional antennas.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2019 Tamara Wilhite