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Commercial Radio Antennas - Please keep discussion related to professional, commercially used antennas and antenna systems for the two-way radio industry. Topics for the use of these antennas on amateur bands are accepted here.

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Old 05-26-2017, 5:44 AM
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Default Looking for Antenna Suggestions for an ambulance

Good morning everyone!

I'm looking to see if the community can help me with some suggestions on decent NMO VHF and UHF antenna's to install on a new ambulance my department has acquired. We have 4 mounts center line of the box requiring two UHF and two VHF antennas.

Looking for high-quality products that are low profile and/or include a spring base (just like everyone else they tend to grab the door on the way out).

Considering Phantom antennas purely for that reason, however, I'm finding the consensus is they are junk.
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Old 05-26-2017, 11:11 AM
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Larsen makes good stuff. Quarter-waves will be pretty short on UHF and the VHF ones are very flexible, unless your clearance is extremely low they shouldn't require springs. We've had Larsen VHF stuff on our apparatus for years and years, and while the main offenders are tree limbs, we've never had one fail, though I've had to straighten out a couple.
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Old 05-26-2017, 12:06 PM
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I've been equipping ambulances with radios and antennas for over 40 years. Given the large ground plane offered by the roof of a modular type ambulance, quarter wave antennas are a good choice. They offer a good omni-directional pattern, and if a tree limb snags one, it's a quick and inexpensive replacement.
Even if the NMO is trashed, replacement is still easy because ambulances usually have access panels below or very near to each antenna.

We did try the railroad/bus style antennas once. They seemed to work fine in a suburban environment, and they're very resistant to damage by tree limb or even a garage door. But the cost is likely prohibitive these days. The VHF ones run over $300 and the UHF ones are around $162.

UHF:


VHF:
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Old 05-26-2017, 11:37 PM
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I'd stick with simple and inexpensive quarter-wave whips for the reasons already stated.

John
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Old 05-28-2017, 11:58 AM
   
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If you you want flexibility with your antennas, there are some great all band (VHF/UHF/7-800) antennas out there... They're short and can have springs, and cover enough bandwidth to do anything you want with them. Laird, Larsen, Browning etc all make them.

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Old 05-28-2017, 12:23 PM
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Checkout Panorama Antennas.

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Old 05-28-2017, 7:44 PM
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Agree with the cheap quarter wave suggestions.

Keep one spare VHF in the truck, a few spares of each bandwidth at the station.

Make sure that "count the antennas on the roof" is part of the daily truck check. Probably even list what they should look like "short, long, long short" on that checklist.

If they dont work out, consider the PCTEL MWB1320 for VHF. Rugged, under 25 inches on VHF including spring, and they last.
We beat the snot out of them on federal vehicles and they rarely fail. I believe that specific model can also be trimmed for UHF as well, so thats one part to order, but you need to know specifics on trimming.
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Old 05-29-2017, 12:42 AM
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Comtelco 1511. Thick whips, springs, wide banded. 100 mhz at UHF, 24 mhz at VHF.
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Old 05-29-2017, 2:40 AM
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Sti-Co 1/4 Wave. Tune it for the freq you need, then put the cap on it. I have one on my service van cut for 2m ham. It has been great. They can take the bashing of a emergency room overhang that for some reason just barely clears the ambulance *sigh*.

Flexi-Whip

Found a YouTube video from their website :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBoLIqI9g0Q

Last edited by R8000; 05-29-2017 at 2:52 AM.. Reason: Added link
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Old 05-29-2017, 3:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olzone66 View Post
Checkout Panorama Antennas.

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Good antennas. I've had a Sharkee on my POV for almost 2 years now. The trident whip isn't the best for knocking against obstacles though. The nitol whip is more flexible than the flexiwhip from Sti-Co though.
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Originally Posted by R8000 View Post
Sti-Co 1/4 Wave. Tune it for the freq you need, then put the cap on it. I have one on my service van cut for 2m ham. It has been great. They can take the bashing of a emergency room overhang that for some reason just barely clears the ambulance *sigh*.

Flexi-Whip

Found a YouTube video from their website :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBoLIqI9g0Q
May not be the most cost effective but is definitely one of the more resistant to failure options out there.

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Old 05-29-2017, 5:23 PM
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Look at PCTEL Mosaic VHF. They have an elastic elastomer spring and can bend 90 degrees at six inches. I do not have any experience with the UHF version

Our rigs bang under an ER canopy with 14" clearance, and do so for years without fail.

I do recommend the daily antenna count. Once a year or so I get a call to 'come fix these junk radios' and bill for replacing a missing antenna. (Rubbing in the actual failure would not be professional, would it?)
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Old 05-29-2017, 5:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeatock View Post
I do recommend the daily antenna count. Once a year or so I get a call to 'come fix these junk radios' and bill for replacing a missing antenna. (Rubbing in the actual failure would not be professional, would it?)
After the first replacement, it would be very professional to point out the problem to the customer and suggest they include antenna count in the daily rig check.

After that, if they don't do the antenna count, then it's time for some fun.
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Old 05-30-2017, 4:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeatock View Post
Look at PCTEL Mosaic VHF. They have an elastic elastomer spring and can bend 90 degrees at six inches. I do not have any experience with the UHF version...
We are starting to use those on the federal side.
I've seen them, but the first experience i've had with them is on the new GSA leased rig at my current duty station.
I've hit it few times already, and im impressed.
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Old 05-30-2017, 4:56 PM
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This is the Sti-Co on my old POV...hit something like 19 objects in the video. When I was parking in that garage on a daily basis, I would have roughly 8 strikes a visit with an average of 2 visits a day. Still looks brand new sitting in a box in my garage (it's getting transferred to my XJ one of these days).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsQA8sLJiaU
But this also shows the flexibility capable of the antenna.
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Old 05-30-2017, 5:20 PM
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Default ambulance

Quote:
Originally Posted by kc1efx View Post
Good morning everyone!

I'm looking to see if the community can help me with some suggestions on decent NMO VHF and UHF antenna's to install on a new ambulance my department has acquired. We have 4 mounts center line of the box requiring two UHF and two VHF antennas.

Looking for high-quality products that are low profile and/or include a spring base (just like everyone else they tend to grab the door on the way out).

Considering Phantom antennas purely for that reason, however, I'm finding the consensus is they are junk.
Well you would think that your Ambulance would have the radio and antenna would install before delivery an ambulance is useless with out a radio. And the other thing is why would the community be reaching out to you to order or find these things. Unless you are the one that bought one on there own and trying to make it look like a real one. just my thoughts.
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Old 05-30-2017, 5:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lindsay34654 View Post
Well you would think that your Ambulance would have the radio and antenna would install before delivery an ambulance is useless with out a radio. And the other thing is why would the community be reaching out to you to order or find these things. Unless you are the one that bought one on there own and trying to make it look like a real one. just my thoughts.

You may want to think those thoughts thru again.

While i'm not going to call you an idiot, as that would be both against the rules and rude, i'm certainly thinking it in my mind.

Lets review the original post:

1. His department has acquired an ambulance.
2. It has 4 antenna mounts.
3. They are on the roof.
4. He would like our opinion on an ideal antenna model for the roof of said acquired ambulance's roof.
5. He correctly assumes that this particular mounting location would subject those antennas to stress and damage.
6. He apparently has not purchased antennas related to this situation in the past, and seeks opinion from those people who may have education and experience with this. This is both fiscally responsible, and a heck of a lot smarter then just buying crap and having to replace it.
7. He has heard that phantoms, while very low profile, are known to be poor performers, so what else would we think.

Now. Do I need to color code the original post, or did this review help you process it less obtusely?
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Old 05-30-2017, 6:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lindsay34654 View Post
Well you would think that your Ambulance would have the radio and antenna would install before delivery an ambulance is useless with out a radio. And the other thing is why would the community be reaching out to you to order or find these things. Unless you are the one that bought one on there own and trying to make it look like a real one. just my thoughts.
As an experienced buyer of new ambulances and outfitting of the same, I can tell you that ambulances come from the factory EMPTY. No bandaids, no oxygen, no radios, no meds. Those items are purchased and installed after receipt of the vehicle OR they're transferred from an ambulance being replaced.

I have a new rig on order right now for my local squad. I specified antenna mounts and coax to be installed during production. I supplied weather caps for 6 NMO's to the manufacturer. We'll install antennas and radios when the truck gets here. We are transferring radio equipment from the old unit into the new truck rather than purchase new radios at this time. This is COMMON practice throughout the ambulance industry.

Secondly, most small ambulance squads rely on a knowledgeable member for some in-house radio support just like they rely on others for rig maintenance, training staff, inventory, and so on. The OP came here looking for real world suggestions about antennas for an ambulance and he's gotten a lot of good information and suggestions. Quite a few of us are actually professionals in the communications field and EMS and are willing to share our experiences with each other in a constructive manner. Others have most certainly benefited from the conversation as well as the OP.

Your thoughts, while possibly well meaning, are really way off base here and show that you don't have any knowledge about the subject at hand. This has been a very constructive and useful thread up until your post.
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Old 05-30-2017, 7:09 PM
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Just as an example of the flexibility of antennas, I have a Laird VHF 1/4 wave whip (18.25 inches) mounted on the roof of my truck (a 2007 Silverado 2500HD). The top of the roof of the truck measures just about 76 inches, and my garage door opening is 83 inches. This truck has been in and out of the garage countless times and the antenna is just fine. Unless you have some REALLY close clearance issues, 1/4 waves should do the trick.
Just my 2 cents.
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Old 05-30-2017, 7:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kc1efx View Post
Good morning everyone!

I'm looking to see if the community can help me with some suggestions on decent NMO VHF and UHF antenna's to install on a new ambulance my department has acquired. We have 4 mounts center line of the box requiring two UHF and two VHF antennas.

Looking for high-quality products that are low profile and/or include a spring base (just like everyone else they tend to grab the door on the way out).

Considering Phantom antennas purely for that reason, however, I'm finding the consensus is they are junk.

Your agency should be licensed for a set power level on the mobiles. Depending on the license, that my be shown as ERP (unlikely) or transmitter output power.
If, on the off chance ERP is used, you'll need to consider the total gain/losses of your system. You'd need to keep the ERP at or under what the license allows.
But, like I said, that's unlikely for the mobiles under the license.

Depending on how the repeaters are set up, your other system users should be able to provide a good idea of what works and what doesn't. If your system was designed well and has good coverage, high gain antennas may not be needed. On the other hand, if coverage is spotty, the higher gain antennas might be a better choice.

So, question would be, what do the other systems users have? Do they work satisfactorily, or are there issues?

Tall antennas on top of an ambulance might be an issue.
On the other hand, "phantom" style antennas are usually OK performers on UHF, but just downright awful on VHF.

If you don't know what you need and need to buy antennas first to figure it out, don't spend money on the phantom antennas. Instead, start with the basic 1/4 wave antennas and go from there. A name brand 1/4 wave antenna will be about $10 at the most. They may be all you need, and are an inexpensive solution.

VHF phantom antennas are almost -always- a disappointment. Not usually a good solution for public safety applications.
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Old 05-30-2017, 7:35 PM
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Just another thought.... If you were to contact an object with your 1/4 wave whip antenna that is hanging low enough to distort it and bend it over as to where it needs to be physically straightened out, it may completely destroy a phantom type antenna. The whip can be straightened. A cracked plastic housing may not be noticed, especially due the low profile of the antenna and the high profile of the ambulance.
Damage to a whip may be more noticeable as to a need for some maintenance.
Just another 2 cents....
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