Antenna launchers

Discussion in 'Antennas, Feedlines, Towers & Rotors' started by KY4GD, Jun 16, 2021.

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  1. KY4GD

    KY4GD XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    This gets discussed every now and then, but I am wondering if there are any new(ish) developments. There are tennis ball type launchers, lead sinker type launchers ("Air Boss" etc) and potato gun ("Quarter Mile) type launchers that will toss an antenna wire into a tree or whatever well over 100 feet. Does anyone have a current preference, or is it entirely dependent on situation? I have a cabin in the middle of BFE and it doesn't matter if it looks like I am practice firing an ISIS bazooka, nobody is going to notice, so what is likely the best and safest tool to use?

    If I were younger, I would be excited by the opportunity to tinker with options like model rockets and drones, but I kinda just want something that will work effectively the first time. Scary what age does to us, right?

    I am not averse to using a .12 gauge or something to accomplish this, but I will have to do it 3 or 4 times a year, so my preference is to do it once and be done with it.

    Thanks for any thoughts or advice, best wishes to all and God Bless.
  2. K1LH

    K1LH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Personally I got the tennis ball type from since I live in a residential area I didn't like the idea of lead/weights flying through the air. Well made and works - shoots the ball exactly where you point it. Down side is the wind can blow a tennis ball off course (much?) more easily than a weight, that's the trade-off for reducing the chances of accidentally putting holes in things I guess :)
    KY4GD likes this.
  3. KY4GD

    KY4GD XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yup, I can see that, and thank you for sharing your experience. I have a nice racing drone and a couple shotguns, but am strongly leaning toward tennis balls, just for safety reasons. At home, loud reports and lead weights would likely be considered a terrorist attack, and even at the cabin, local law enforcement are close friends, but would nonetheless most likely frown on shooting lead towards neighbors, so I am thinking tennis balls are best. Also, the thought of a misfire or inclimate weather causing problems and, say, killing a neighbor's pet is unacceptable, so again, the safety of a softer projectile wins bonus points.

    But it also seems like lead would be more accurate and predictable, so I am still torn.
  4. KG7WGX

    KG7WGX XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I just started using a Big Shot arborist slingshot and I think it works fine. 50 ft is easy.

    I solved the problem of aging muscles by making a release mechanism for it, with a 2:1 mechanical advantage and a standard bowstring release. This lets you pull the rubber bands back further and aim more easily, instead of making every launch a "snap shot".

    You should use the special slippery throw line and a standard arborist's "throw bag", so there is enough weight to pull the line down against the friction of some branches. A throwline "cube" helps if you don't have perfectly clean ground to flake out the throwing line.

    I first saw one of these a few years ago, when I hired arborists to trim some broken branches from a fir tree. They let the junior crew member try it, and he missed. The "lead" crew member did it first try.

    It took me around 6 practice shots to figure out how far to pull the rubber bands back for different heights. I saw a YouTube video which showed white tape at intervals on the pole, so I copied that idea.

    While they sell a "Big Shot Trigger", that only works at one pull length and offers no mechanical advantage in "cocking" it. In my opinion, the combination of a Rope Ratchet and bowstring release works better.

    See picture of release detail -

    Big Shot release 2 sm.jpg
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2021
    KY4GD likes this.
  5. K1VW

    K1VW Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have the airboss with lead sinker. You can’t buy them now, Bill KR4LO has shut down his business, but you could make one. I find the sinkers do not fly too far... they clear the top of every tree I’ve shot, but once the fishing line starts dragging on the tree top, it comes down on the back side of that tree. I can see where people would be concerned it would fly too far and do damage, I’ll just say it’s not as scary in real life as it sounds. But I’ve got lots of woods between my sites and my neighbors.
    KY4GD likes this.
  6. KY4GD

    KY4GD XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I didn't know sales had stopped, thanks for that. I might have sent money, Lol. But a lead projectile - while potentially more accurate - just seems dangerous, even out in BFE.

    I may just end up using a drone to drop a fishing line, and leaving a rope up for when we visit, that may be safest. There are SO many trees tho, so much opportunity to experiment, that it almost physically hurts to make a single call...
  7. N3RYB

    N3RYB Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    This is the cannon I built for launching antennas up. I pretty much designed much of it in my head with parts I could find in the Home Depression plumbing section. They kept looking at me like I was a very unusual man that day.

    Anyways, so you'd ideally want an open face fishing reel so that the line is mostly unrestricted. Perhaps the most unusual part of it is the trigger valve. It's a lawn sprinkler valve modified for pneumatic operation. You can just use a ball valve though, you'll just need to be quick about opening it.


    The barrel itself is 2.5" PVC pipe. You can find miniature tennis balls at pet stores that fit a the barrel pretty much perfectly.

    What I do with the tennis balls is cut two holes in them, enough so that I can stuff a bunch of lead sinkers in them. This ball weighs about 6 ounces. Then put a zip tie through so I have something to tie off of. Keeps them on course and has enough way to pull the line down the trees.


    Then with the tennis ball attached to the fishing line and into the fishing reel. Load up about 25psi of air into the cannon and launch. Once you've got it over the tree in question and the weighted ball has landed on the ground somewhere, you untie the ball and attach your antenna rope. Then you use that handy fishing reel to pull up the rope. This is of course the difficult part(that often ends in frustration and a couple of do-overs.

    This is how I got both my zs6bkw up about 80 feet and my 160m inverted L up about 100 feet. I'm pretty certain the zs6bkw has increased in height in the 10 years its been up there. :)
    KY4GD likes this.
  8. KY4GD

    KY4GD XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Beautiful device, man. This is the exact kind of advice that I need.

    Look, since we are all adults, I will admit that in my youth, I walked through a few sections of Home Depot looking at the ingredients of things like adhesives and paint removers, to decide what I could easily derive from them via simple distillation, etc. If law enforcement knew what I was thinking when I walked down the paint aisle reading ingredients, I would still be in jail. SWAT would have rappelled down from the ceiling as I browsed.

    Luckily for me (and everyone), I grew up and started respecting life. Now, the most crazy thing in my life is wanting to fire an antenna wire as high as I can get it. And an 80' antenna line sounds like a win to me :)
    N3RYB likes this.
  9. W2AAT

    W2AAT XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have one similar to this with the exception that I used smaller diameter PVC with PVC projectiles. I have different weight projectiles that are used depending on the task. Correct on the open faced reel.

    Good luck.... corky w2aat
    N3RYB likes this.
  10. NE2I

    NE2I Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Drones were mentioned but watch what drone you get. I use a DJI phantom 3 because the motors are not current limited. It will lift 200ft of paracord, one ounce drop weight plus the bucket its kept in. Added to that is a toy parachute drop remote device. The beauty with this is that you can pinpoint exactly what branch you want to get over. However it takes some skill to fly but the practice is fun.

    George NE2I
    KC3PBI and N3RYB like this.

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