Antenna Solutions for VHF and UHF Ground-to-Air Communication

12 January 2021 (Last Updated January 13th, 2021 09:56)

We talk with Jeff Kunkle, Head of Global Busines Development, and Jon Barton, European Business Development Manager, about TACO’s bestselling MULDIPOL™ series of antennas.

Sponsored by TACO Antenna Sponsored by Visit Company

TACO Antenna (a Division of Wade Antenna Inc.) introduced its initial range of antenna products nearly 40 years ago, but the company’s original roots date back almost 90 years. Following various acquisitions over recent years, the company established itself as one of the industry’s leading VHF/UHF ground-to-air antenna manufacturers for the civil and military aviation sectors.

MULDIPOL™ Multiple Dipole

For the last three decades, TACO’s key product line has been their MULDIPOL™ (multiple dipole) ground-to-air communication antennas. They operate primarily in the frequency bands of 108MHz to 174MHz for VHF and 225MHz to 400 MHz for UHF, but other ranges are available.

“Even though we have our core frequency bands of operation, we are always pleased to listen to our customer requirements, even if the frequencies fall outside our typical ground to air bands,” Jon confirms.

All models are designed to withstand hostile environments where reliability and performance is essential. Applications range from installations on fixed lattice or mobile towers, to specialized solutions for shipboard platforms, to tactical field-deployable mast and antenna systems. Jeff explains that what makes MULDIPOL™ antennas exceptional is their performance.

“Our focus is technological improvements on the antennas performance. The technology itself has been used by airports for ground-to-air communications for many years.”

Civil and Military Environments

Working closely with Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) such as the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), NAV Canada, and National Air Transportation Systems (NATS) has made TACO a global presence as a vital communications system component in a diverse range of commercial air traffic control environments.

TACO’s success extends beyond the civil to an ever-growing portfolio of specialized military applications, so much so that sales in this sector have surpassed those from the commercial market.

“The majority of our business in the United States involves close collaboration with the US Air Force,” says Jeff, who has been with the company for the last 15 years.

“Our track record of satisfying the requirements of most USAF applications has led to an association extending to all branches of the military, such as the Army, Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard.”

Meeting Client Requirements

Also contributing to the MULDIPOL™ antenna’s success has been the addition of a variety of new models over the years to suit different installations and platforms. No matter what modifications are made though, the primary aim is always the same; to deliver solutions that effectively reduce the number of antennas in restrictive areas while maintaining exceptional performance.

Jeff says: “TACO is known for building the MULDIPOL™, where we can accommodate up to six radios/channels, VHF or UHF, through one single antenna structure.”

TACO’s mission to find solutions that meet or exceed expectations is driven by the ever-changing demands of their clients. This means not only delivering a high-quality product, but also offering additional options stemming from client requests, such as lightning finials and LED obstruction lights for increased safety, colour changes etc.

“Our products have evolved over the years based upon us listening to our customer needs. It’s not always the case we have something to offer off the shelf.” Jon says.

Perhaps their most unique solution to evolve was the series of sectional MULDIPOL™ models. Built to be lightweight and easy to transport reduces the need for unnecessary manpower while ensuring high performance, making them suitable for tactical military clients.

“We now have several VHF/UHF two-piece models for those who need something portable, lightweight, easy to install,” Jon says.

“We’re the only ground-to-air antenna manufacturer offering such a varied range of antenna product.”

Jeff agrees, adding: “Many of our antennas may require two individuals to install them, whereas, with our two-piece version, my main customer chooses us because they can install it with one person so they’re saving on manpower.”

For another application, TACO designed an Arctic VHF antenna specifically for adverse weather conditions in response to customer needs in Alaska and Iceland.

“We had a customer that had ice build-up and wind loading issues in locations with severe weather conditions, so we created an antenna to meet that need,” Jeff says.

“We developed a new radome to withstand extreme wind loading and a special paint to reduce ice build-up by 18%.”

Quality Assurance

Both Jeff and Jon agree the capacity to reduce the number of antennas in any given location is probably the most important selling feature to get across to potential customers.

“It’s new to most people that for example, 12 radios on a given site could be operational by only a few antennas and also greatly reduce the antenna footprint,” explains Jon. Jeff adds that educating customers is key.

“It’s very appealing to people when they understand that you’re not going to suffer performance issues.”

Those accustomed to using one individual antenna for each frequency may have concerns that decreasing antennas will mean a decrease in signal quality as well. TACO MULDIPOL™ models achieve a minimum isolation target of 30dB between each element, thus eliminating most cross talk and interference.

TACO offers a three-year warranty on all MULDIPOL™ antennas. Noting this high product confidence and the company’s commitment to a client-orientated approach, Jeff and Jon end the interview expressing their excitement for the company’s future. The benefits they enjoy from selling a proven brand with a solid foundation, laid through decades of experience have convinced me too that TACO and its MULDIPOL are well-positioned and on the right track, with their best days yet to come.