Firstly, we will not be discussing dipole antennae in this article. Dipole antennae have superior durability over almost any other antenna. However, when racing with 8 people, they can leak RF noise over a large part of the 5.8 Ghz spectrum, which can knock other pilots out of the sky, especially when using cheaper VTX modules which already don’t output the most clean signal. Granted, when using a VTX like the TBS Unify Pro (our VTX of choice at Drone Insider), these effects are minimized, but we still feel that using dipoles in a racing situation can be unfair on other pilots, and the decreased range can be a problem when freestyle flying.
FPV antennae are often the most exposed item on a miniquad, and therefore, can be quite prone to being knocked about and hit in crashes and when hitting ghost branches. Therefore, is it worth spending 15 to 20 pounds on an expensive antenna such as a TBS triumph or a lumenier axii, or should you go for the budget antennae such as cheap pagoda antennae such as the spedix pagoda for £6.50 or the cheap aomway antennae which can be priced as inexpensively as £11 for 2.
Firstly, lets talk about the advantages, and disadvantages of expensive antennae. At Drone Insider, we believe that the only disadvantage of expensive antennae, are the price. When you think that you could buy 8 pagoda antennae for the price of 2 TBS triumph antennae, why would you even consider buying a TBS triumph, or equivalent high end antenna. Well, in our experiances, we have never broken a TBS triumph. We have had TBS triumphs on some of our quads for over 1 year now, and they are still going strong. The plastic casing seems to be impenetrable, and even the Coax cable is holding strong. The high axial ratio of these expensive antennae also gives superior performance. The Db rating for these antennae is often low, which makes them often also less appealing. However, it also makes the performance more reliable, as the highly spherical radiation pattern from expensive antennae makes the connection with your goggles or groundstation better, as the strength of signal output is high, even if the top of the antenna is pointing straight at the receiver, the signal is still reasonable strong. Its capabilities of rejecting multipathing are also very high, making it much easier to fly in areas with lots of concrete and metal.
Next, lets talk about the budget options. Firstly, lets talk about the advantages. Often, the less expensive antennae have a high Db rating. This can often mean better penetration in areas with lots of trees, and a larger range if you are flying in large open areas. Secondly, they are less expensive, and you can buy large amounts of less expensive antennae, and the performance of pagoda antennae has been proven to be very good, especially for the price. However, is a cheap antenna really cheap. Some of us at Drone insider have had the same TBS triumph on our quad for over a year, and in the last month, one of us has gone through a stubby foxeer thor antenna, a spedix pagoda, and a rubber ducky antenna. After going through all of those antennae, finally they decided that they would invest in some lumenier axii antennae, and have not managed to break one of those yet.
So you really have to ask yourself, is it really beneficial and less expensive buying inexpensive antennae. Our answer is no. We feel that for FPV antennae, it is worth spending the extra few pounds, as the added strength and performance from the higher quality antennae is very noticeable. It may feel like a large investment when you buy them, but when you are going into your local hobby store every other week to pick up another cheap antenna because you’ve already broken the last 3 that you bought, ask yourself, was buying a cheap antenna a solid investment, or was it a waste of money?
However, we want to know what you think. We probably have different views to the rest of the community. So therefore, you can express your opinion by going to this survey https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/7XKVBNL and voice your opinion.