Friday, July 30, 2010

I’m just getting started in low-power (QRP) operating and I have two questions ...

Q Mark Schoonover, KA6WKE, asks, “I’m just getting started in low-power (QRP) operating and I have two questions. How do you establish an RF ground while out in the field? In the Army we pounded in ground rods for field operations. Most of my QRP will involve hiking to various sites and the thought of dragging along a ground rod and hammer is not too exciting.”

A Depending on the type of antenna system you use, grounding in the field may not be all that important. Many antennas, such as dipoles, Yagis, and so on, do not require ground connections for proper operation. Consider the space shuttle; it is nowhere near a ground, but it works just fine! 

Other antennas do require grounds—end-fed wires, most verticals, etc. In those cases, you establish the best ground possible with a counterpoise, which can consist of one or more 1/4-wavelength wires connected to the “ground” point such as a short ground rod. Counterpoise radials work best if they are a few inches above the soil.

RF notwithstanding, don’t forget the role grounding plays in lightning protection. If you are truly in the field, however, you shouldn’t be anywhere near the antenna if lightning is about.

From QST August 2000