Saturday, July 3, 2021

Tripod for Satellite Antenna

Davidson Star D

This is the one you want, the Fairfax tilt function is what I started with

Davidson Swing Tilt Head on a Fairfax Tripod

The handle on the right allows me to rotate the Arrow for polarity.

The set up minus the radio.

First use on AO-27

This page will serve as my efforts to create a tripod to hold my Arrow II antenna for satellite communications. Previously I had been using my Arrow antenna in the hand held mode for what it was designed for. I enjoy the ease of use, portability, especially with the purpose made roll up bag. But as I get into Sat Comms, I will need to take notes and adjust frequencies as well as take pictures. I want to be able to move the antenna in the plane that the satellite takes as it sweeps across the sky and also to be able to rotate the antenna to adjust polarity.

*I now use a Davidson Star D tripod. I do not use one with an elevating head. I use a fixed head height with one leg extension when I am sitting down. If I am standing and using a hand held, I will use legs at full extension. The Fairfax tripod that I was using below works however the tilt function on the tripod head is not secure in that it will handle heavy handed sweep. I'm still learning the adjustments and the Davidson Star D tilt is much more secure. 

I suggest you find what works for you.


I have a vintage Fairfax photography tripod that I use for my iPhone time lapse images so I decided to try to use that. It only rotated in a single plane and the head would tilt, the tripod head did not have the capability to rotate the antenna in axis as it sweeps across the sky. I thought about it and started searching eBay for a "sweep and tilt" camera head and came up with many types. The vintage Davidson seemed like it would be ergonomic with it's sweep long and handle to use to pan and rotate and lock.

I bought it for $15 dollars (delivered) and I also bought another Fairfax tripod for $20 delivered. Total cost for my experiment was $35 dollars.

I do not know how old the Davidson head was but the mechanism was slow. I took it apart, it being old usually meant it was serviceable and this one certainly was. Cleaning all the pieces with gun cleaning solvent, I put it back together with a light coat of lithium grease on the moving part surfaces and now the head moves in all axis and locks down with very little effort.

The Arrow II has a threaded 1/4 hole that is common in the photography world so my antenna was tripod ready.

I am also putting together a Kenwood TM-D710GA mobile/base station housed in a Pelican case. I have a few other projects going but as indicated, this page will serve as my focus on my efforts to make a tripod worthy of satellite antenna usage.

Handle on the left sets angle, middle lever locks pan, right handle is for pan and rotate.

The Arrow II antenna mounted on the Davidson head.

K7TEJ operating his system at the recent ARRL 2021 Field Day