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Paint-on Antennas for Mile-High Airships 77

Bravoc writes to tell us RTI International is reporting that a group of researchers are testing a "paint-on antenna" for high-altitude airships. From the article: "'The successful airship test flights demonstrate exciting possibilities for "paint-on" antenna technologies,' said David Myers, vice president of RTI's Engineering and Technology Unit. 'This new technology can be used to assist with hurricane disaster relief, provide enhanced security of ports and borders, perform science observation missions and improve military communications.'"
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Paint-on Antennas for Mile-High Airships

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  • by Timo_UK ( 762705 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @07:14AM (#15735440) Homepage
    My BMW 3 series (E46) has at least 2, on the rear windows
    • AFAIK, that's done with inlaid wires, not paint.
    • My BMW 3 series (E46) has at least 2, on the rear windows

      It wasn't such an uncommon practise to use the dope used on picture tubes or the metalic substance used to patch rear window defoggers on a sheet of plastic, plexiglass, cardboard, etc. for designing high frequency antennae. I've even seen examples where an antenna was etched on printed-circuit board.

      This isn't so much Slow News Day fodder as mundane

  • This sounds like that paint they used to use for security systems... paint a stripe around the perimeter of the window, then hook both ends of the stripe to a security box... if the connection (paint stripe) is broken, the alarm goes off. Read the article but it didn't mention that.

    I remember seeing that stuff waaay back when I was a kid, don't see it too much anymore.
    • Well, the paint they are talking about in the article is water-based. Much easier/cheaper to apply, dispose of, etc. IIRC, the paint-on metals from our youths were enamels.
    • by nevets429 ( 827656 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @08:47AM (#15735761)
      As a former alarm installer I can tell you that was foil, not paint. You don't see it anymore because it was hard to apply properly (more art than skill) and was prone to problems from things rubbing against it (blinds/drapes) or extreme sun cracking it. Motion detectors and glass break detectors spelled it's final demise.
    • Old or not, I want to become the first human antenna! Think of the possibilities of painting yourself and receiving crystal clear wifi signals all day.
      • In all seriousness, I know someone who's used themselves as an antenna. It's not particularly hard to do if you have a good transmatch/antenna tuner. That said, I definitely wouldn't recommend doing it. (Not sure what the health effects would be of ultra-QRP down in the HF bands, which is what I think the guy did; only a few hundred mW probably...still, I'm not going to try, thanks.)

        When it comes to "making an antenna out of x," where x is virtually any object that's even halfway conductive, someone somewhe
        • I use myself as an antenna whenever I adjust my TV set's rabbit ears. It's annoying, and if I want perfect reception need insulative gloves. Or I could just hold the rabbit ears while I watch my program.
          • This is true; probably everyone has used themselves as a receiving antenna at some point, intentionally or not. (Particularly when you stand next to your radio and adjust it, getting it just right, and then move away and it goes all to hell.)

            I was thinking more of a transmit antenna when I made my comment, since most intelligent folks don't intentionally do that very often, although I suspect whenever you hold a cell-phone close to your head, there's probably a certain amount of coupling between the antenna
            • An antenna is a tuned receiver, but everything and anything capable of carrying a current is a receiver none the less.

              It's just that you're not resonant.

              Just by being there, the materials of your body are already reacting to the electromagnetic radiation in the space around you. There is indeed coupling between any radiator and your body. It's just that the voltages are so low as to be irrelevant most of the time.

              By attaching a coil/cap to your body and tuning it, you can make the combination resonant to yo
  • What's the point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sam1am ( 753369 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @07:18AM (#15735449)
    The advantage I see in the article is basically that this is lighter than a regular antenna. While that's useful, is that it? Rapid deployment would still require an airship; wouldn't it make sense to outfit the airship with the appropriate antenna already (as an optional package)?
  • New? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Who235 ( 959706 )
    Don't they have Circuit Writer pens at Radio Shack?
  • Why not WLAN? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eebra82 ( 907996 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @07:59AM (#15735572) Homepage
    I believe that indoor paint with these features would be of even greater use. But instead, it would provide WLAN and so limited that only people from that room can access it. That's good security and a really cool feature if it's going to be cost effective in the future.
  • Of course any company they form should be called "ACME".
  • by jabberwock ( 10206 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @08:02AM (#15735580) Homepage
    Can I paint them on trees all the way out to my brother's cabin in a remote area of Maine, and create my own line-of-sight wireless?

    I know, it sounds like cartoon physics ...

    But I'm only half kidding ...

  • Working on the model of aircraft carriers at sea, why not a "Mile-High Airstrip"? Makes a better story than Mile-High Airship might.
    • why not a "Mile-High Airstrip"?
      What does the Denver Airport need with a painted on antenna? I'm sure they've got plenty regular antennas to spare.
      • I wouldn't trust those. Based on past experiences with devices attached to them, I would expect the packets to bounce here, there and everywhere. You'd be lucky to route the signal to the proper receiver without degrading it to the point where the sender will request the contents of their packet be replaced.
    • Angelina Jolie [wikipedia.org] is on it.
    • done that. [wikipedia.org]
    • I'm sure Don Karnage agrees with you ... after all, he and his air pirates had the Iron Vulture [google.com] ... (more [wikipedia.org])
    • Actually, the US Navy did look into it. However, because the carrier would be so much more efficient in terms of manpower and other resources, the Navy scrapped the idea because even though it would carry equivalent firepower as a sea-borne carrier, it wouldn't rate an Admiral to command the "battle group".

      The sea-borne carrier is such a huge bomb- and torpedo-magnet that the support requirements of its "battle group" are remarkably expansive. The carrier is never out as "just the carrier".

      Personally, I've
      • I saw a show about this. They actually (in the 20s and early 30s) had a couple of working airship aircraft carriers. The big problem was that when they were at sea in a storm, they were disasters waiting to happen. And did happen. They also held fewer than 10 aircraft each, IIRC. The project literally scrapped itself.

        You may be talking of a more recent Navy project. I'm off to Google now, as you suggested.

    • Hell, why not go the whole hog, and have a Mile-High Stripclub?
  • When can I get this? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by basotl ( 808388 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @08:42AM (#15735747)
    Communication is pretty much line of sight in Iraq.
    When can we get a few of these out here?
    It would be great for tactical reasons. It would make it much easier to maintain radio como. It would also be cool if they could piggy back Radio and TV on it. There are still many blackout areas in this country.
  • by Rob Carr ( 780861 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @08:50AM (#15735783) Homepage Journal
    As an amateur radio operator, I've been doing this for years. I've used several metalic paints and circuit writers to create fractal antennas.

    Originally, I tried creating a fractal antenna out of bent wire, but it was a nightmare, even using a jig to form the fractal portions. Eventually I found that glass and paint that conducts and even liquid solder on fiberboard worked better. The only problem was, you had to change the size of the antenna -- the non-conductive material affects the resonatant frequency. Eventually, I did get a compact 6 m. antenna to work, but it was never worth the trouble. The problem with the stuffs I used: there's a limit to how much power it can take, and it's far less than wire. And, like Tim Taylor, I had to go for "more power." Oops.

    I never realized I was doing something unusual. Amateur radio operators will attempt to turn anything into an antenna. I've seen "dipoles" made of cars, doorknobs loaded, etc.

    • But can you paint a yagi? Maybe if I laid the right kind of stencil on my roof...
      • Yagi (Score:4, Informative)

        by Rob Carr ( 780861 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @11:18AM (#15736729) Homepage Journal
        If you think about a Yagi, the signal it received would be in the same plane as the roof. You'd get a tremendous amount of problems with that, given the nails as well as the effect of the material. That's the other reason why people spend so much money building towers -- not only are they trying to get altitude, but they're trying to get away from the ground, which distorts the antenna field.

        If you need to have a stealth antenna, you might be willing to put up with it. Otherwise, it's not that good.

    • Interesting, I had done a bit of searching on this topic a while ago, but wasn't able to come up with much regarding fractal antennas. I understand that printing the antennas will give you a more precise shape, and had wondered what neat and useful antennas could be printed in this way -- mostly for WiFi stuff, of course! What are you using for the design? How are you printing these? Do you have any patterns or guidelines you can share with us?
      • Re:Fractal Antennas (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Rob Carr ( 780861 )
        I got the basic information on fractal antennas from a small magazine in the "CQ" line of mags quite a few years ago. I did a quick look, but couldn't find it -- it was a magazine that specialized in the more theoretical aspects. Sorry there's no ref.

        I hilltop. For 2 and 4 meters, I use home-built 5 element quad antennas (based on designs in some issue of the ARRL mag -- again, sorry, no references).

        I wanted a similar 6m antenna, based on fractals. The fractal, if I remember right, was similar to the 6-

  • by techmuse ( 160085 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @09:21AM (#15735934)
    Most airships are probably 100-400 feet high at most. A 1 mile high airship would be rather large... :-)

    (Perhaps you meant "mile altitude airships"?)
    • *groans* I simply couldn't ignore this. 'High' refers to altitude in this instance. You are misusing the term. Airships are 'x' units *tall*, not *high*, when you speak about the size of the object. 'Mile high' airships is a perfectly valid term.
    • If you had RTFA, you would have read that these are designed to fly above the jet stream and much higher than commercial air traffic. This is not your ordinary airship as it's designed for high altitudes as a low cost alternative to satellite commuincations.

      I'd also like to know about the navigational capabilities of these things since they're designed to fly at very high altitudes. I wonder how much energy is expended getting them aloft and getting them to remain stationary. Is there relative calm above
    • Winds aloft. (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      An airship is awfully difficult to hold a position when there are significant winds aloft... which there are more times that it's windy than when it is calm up there in the sky.

      Also, while takeoffs are optional.... landings are always mandatory in any type of aircraft. Using a ballon, blimp or rigid LTA airship as a communications relay system can only be a very temporary solution at best, and a fairly expensive one at that.
  • Conducive Paint (Score:2, Informative)

    by darcling ( 987237 )
    There are already electrically conducive paints available, what else is needed? Possibly higher quality... but still, the technology appears readily available.

    Here's an article (referenced on Slashdot long ago) where it is used:
    http://graffitiresearchlab.com/?page_id=13#video [graffitiresearchlab.com]
  • Didn't I hear a lot of talk about high-altitude super-endurance gliders that could go up hundreds of thousands of feet in the air for months at a time, that could act as a communications hub like a satellite, but much easier to launch and maintain? I'm pretty sure I saw a PBS special about this sort of plane, it was an ultralight plane that used solar panels all along its one very large wing to power its propellers. It was unmanned, of course.

  • What is this? Final Fantasy?

    Just a thought...
  • Application (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jmv ( 93421 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @09:51AM (#15736098) Homepage
    This new technology can be used to assist with hurricane disaster relief, provide enhanced security of ports and borders, perform science observation missions and improve military communications.

    Who wants to bet which of these applications we'll see first?
    • Uh,(cough)heh,heh
      I can't insinuate that I worked for an institution that manufactured this paint for the very same reason for military purposes 15 yrs ago.I also would be out of line to say it makes pretty good shielding for electric guitars and can make an old clothesline into hella radio antennae.So I won't say it and you won't hear it.No you can't have any of it.I certainly wouldn't provide it if I did.So there.Nothing to see here,move along please.

    • Re:Application (Score:3, Interesting)

      Military, on account of they don't have to show a profit.

      In addition to being a national defense and a beatings-delivery system, the military is also a giant R&D playground for all sorts of useful future civilian technology.

      It actually works out really well this way: Civilian contractors score government R&D contracts to research applications for a new technology. When the R&D is done, the military may get a new weapon system. But even if the military doesn't get a new weapon system, the civil
      • Sure, that very nice, except that 1) the military are uninterested in great research that doesn't happen to have civilian applications 2) there's lots of stuff (e.g. supersonic stealth bomber type) that cost a huge amount of money and has at best little civilian use (not enough for the price) and 3) yes, it gets used to kill people (even "defensive" stuff means that you can attack more).

        Wouldn't it be great if only 10% of the US military budget was spent on useful, non-military research. I bet there's be a

    • Yes, and isn't it strange how "current projects" are always applicable to the last 5 years worth of news items.

  • Mile high? (Score:5, Funny)

    by crmartin ( 98227 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @10:19AM (#15736290)
    Um, actually, a mile high would be a pretty low altitude airship.

    Hell, here in Boulder, a mile high would be an underground airship.
    • No a mile high in Boulder would still be a mile high. The height an airship travles at isn't measured by sea level but ground level. Otherwise the Boulder airport wouldn't exist. yes I know I am being pretentious and now ask me if I care.
    • Well here on the Planet Earth, a mile high would be a molten airship.

      Why anyone would build an airship to operate at less than 3960 miles is beyond me.
  • Mile-High Airships? Sign me up!

    (read: Mile-High Club)
  • Mile-high WiFi (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zeke-o ( 595753 )
    would be ever so nice ... Whatever happened to the Halo project? Satellite sucks, fiber is scheduled to be installed here in 2050 .. a mile high access point, just point your antenna up, fly one over the areas between metro (easy access) regions ..
    • These guys [sanswire.com] are still working on it. Their "stratellite" airships are designed to operate at much higher altitudes where they won't be bothered by annoying things like the weather.

      They've had a couple of promising tests so far, but looks like they still have a way to go. Wouldn't be surprised if they're having a look at the paint on antennas too.
  • ...it's an antenna!

    Quack quack quack....
  • by 6Yankee ( 597075 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @05:42PM (#15739805)
    This new technology can be used to [...] provide enhanced security of ports and borders
    I've got some new technology here, and if you gave me a billion dollars of Government funding I could plant examples of it all round our ports. Then, when Uncle Al (Qaeda) tries to sneak in, he'll get a spike in his foot and yell out. Yes, it looks like a regular thumb-tack, but this is an anti-terrorist thumbtack.

    Can we dispense with the it's-anti-terrorism-honest-give-me-money bullshit, please? It's getting rather tiresome.

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan