Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review ElectronicaRC antenna tracker

INTRODUCTION sells this Antenna pan/tilt assembly kit designed to work with EagleEyes, the groundstation from EagleTree Systems. It is designed to hold patch antennas (2.4Ghz: 8dBi, 13dBi and 14dBi. 1.3Ghz: 8dBi and 5.8Ghz) and has direct mounting points for L-Com 2.4Ghz 14dBi and 1.3Ghz 8dBi Antenna. also claims it may work with other antennas on the market.

The antenna tracker is ready for mounting to any standard photography tripod.

This antenna tracker came neatly packed as always from I heard some parts moving around in the box, but nothing was broken.

• Plastic case w/ pre-drilled holes for EagleEyes (W: 118 mm, H: 61 mm, L: 190 mm)
• 4 pcs M3x40mm "pins"
• Aluminium rod w/ nuts to hold the pan/tilt mechanism
• 4 pcs zip tie 95mm
• Wooden plate w/ pre-drilled holes

• TowerPro SG-5010 double ball bearing - tilt
• GWS S125 1T/2BB - pan

Aluminium profiles:
• Large, pan (Base: 252 mm, H1: 140 mm, H2: 166 mm)
• Small, tilt (Base: 227 mm, H: 32 mm)

• 1 pc M3x16mm flat head
• 8 pcs M3x10mm flat head
• 2 pcs M3x12mm flat head
• 4 pcs M3x22mm flat head, Phillips
• 2 pcs 3x9mm self-tapping, Phillips

Nuts, washers:
• 10 pcs M3x2,1mm nuts
• 1 pc M3 nylon locknut
• 1 pc M3x5mm nut
• 22 pcs 3x7mm washers
Plastic case, front. The machined groove is uneven and looks a bit "homemade".

Inside of the case.

Pins for servo mount, pan servo.

Aluminium rod for pan mechanism. Bottom part is a servohorn glued to a thicker aluminium tube, which is possible to detach.

Wooden plate which is the base of the pan servo. It takes up all weight of pan/tilt mechanism including antennas and VRxs. This is the whole unit's Achilles heel or weak point.

Tilt servo, TowerPro SG-5010 double ball bearing.

Pan servo, GWS S125 1T/2BB. 1T = 360 degrees, i.e. it can rotate one turn. Commonly used as pan servo in the plane also.

Aluminium profiles. I painted my profiles light grey.

Flat head machine screws.

Screw for mounting front and back of the box together.

Screw for tilt mechanism.

Standard M3 nuts, used for fastening of the servos.

Long nut (left), and lock nut (right), part of the tilt mechanism.

Standard M3 washers.

It didn't take me longer than probably 2 hours to complete this kit. Even though there was no manual (at least I didn't have one, now you guys do...) it's not rocket science to build this antenna tracker. All parts fit together nicely and I didn't have to do any special fixing.

First, do a check that everything that's supposed to be included really is in your box. Since there is no documentation included I had to find out for myself.

Then, start with mounting the pan servo. Make sure you have the long pins/nuts (M3x40mm) turned with the pins down through the holes. Don't forget the washer before you mount the nuts. I didn't use any thread locker, but I might regret that. Main reason is I didn't have any while I did this build.

The wooden plate should be positioned like above when looking from the underside.

View from the top.

Before mounting any servos, I used the Turnigy 760LV-HV Dual Pulse Width Selectable Servo Tester to establish that servos are working, checking end points and locating neutral/centre position.

Pan servo ready for mounting in the box. Notice direction of the servo. The bottom part of the rod for the pan mechanism is also mounted, with the included screw that comes with the servo.

Now is a good time to mount the tripod shoe (not included). Everything gets much easier when you have the box mounted to your tripod during the build.

Pan servo installed.

Tilt servo mounted on the aluminium profile.

Servo horn installed with two self-tapping screws.

And a view from the other side

Tilt mechanism ready for action.

Another view of tilt servo.

The other side of the tilt aluminium profile is secured with the nylon lock nut.

Top of the antenna tracker.

Another view of the top.

The whole antenna tracker, ready for the EagleEyes.

Looks nice. I'm satisfied with the grey matte colour.

Overall I'm satisfied, but I can't help feeling a little bit cheated. It's a nice product which is easy to build but for the price of €118 / $165.20 I must say that should provide you with a manual, parts list and most of all more precise milling of the box. I feel like I could have done an equal good job with my Dremel.

The wooden plate which is base for the pan servo is, as said before in this review, the Achilles heel of the whole unit. Why? Because it takes up all weight of pan/tilt mechanism, antennas and VRxs. This should be thicker, have some carbon rods or be made of some type of laminate.

This kit should also include mounting equipment for the VRx since that's what it's made for. Now I'll have to come up with my own solution.

Nevertheless, this is a nice add-on to my "groundstation-to-be" and now when I'm done, I can't resist feeling a bit proud.