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The BatBeam Project

Rick - W5FCX
Rick - W5FCX Member ✭✭
edited November 2019 in New Ideas
As I have met so many great amateur radio operators here on the Flex forum, I would like to put forth an idea for a software-defined antenna system that I have been working on and share it with the community.  The goal is to make resonant, multi-band wire Yagi and dipole antennas that auto-tune using microcontrollers.  It's not a totally new concept, but there are some advances being proposed, including being open source.

There are many multi-band antennas available to choose from today, but most of them suffer as compromises that result in less than optimal performance. The concept here is to create an self-tuning wire Yagi for HF with more elements than typical HF Yagi's and do so at a lower cost, drastically lower weight and wind load.

I realize there are a lot of folks in this community who have decades more experience than I do with antenna design and ham radio in general. Any feedback, concerns and ideas would be greatly appreciated.  The intent here is to move the state of the art forward, which is why I'm giving this information away freely vs. attempting to commercialize it as one might have otherwise done.

Details are available on my blog for anyone interested in learning more about "The BatBeam" concept.

If this type of community service post is unsuitable or inappropriate to share here for any reason, please accept my apologies in advance.  Otherwise, I hope this is helpful for us all.

Rick, W5FCX

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  • KY6LA_Howard
    KY6LA_Howard La Jolla, CA. Paris and Sablet FranceMember ✭✭✭
    edited February 2017
    Interesting concept However it sure looks like a blatant copy of a SteppIR antenna except that you are proposing more modern micro controllers rather than the discrete components that SteppIR uses and a slight variation using wire rather than tape. Albeit the portable SteppIR uses wire. I would suggest that before you ge too far into this that you do a patent search as I am pretty sure that the SteepIR Ham Antenna US patents cover your proposed design.
  • Rick - W5FCX
    Rick - W5FCX Member ✭✭
    edited January 2017
    Howard - it is sort of a hybrid of Spiderbeam and SteppIR designs.  I wasn't aware SteppIR have a portable wire antenna - will check that out.

    I looked at the SteppIR patent and it appears to rely upon a conductor that's inside of a tube as its basis. I can see the advantage of protecting the conductor inside of a tube as SteppIR does, but that's not what's being contemplated here.  I'm no patent expert but as you suggest might be good to consult with one.

    Thanks!
    Rick
  • Rick - W5FCX
    Rick - W5FCX Member ✭✭
    edited January 2017
    I just did a more comprehensive search and found this:

    https://www.google.com/patents/US9105963

    SteppIR founder has another patent that covers spools of wire, as proposed by the BatBeam concept, so this does indeed look like a non-starter, at least from a commercial perspective, which wasn't really my intention.  However, given the potential legal entanglements that it could pose down the line, it's probably best not to pursue this.

    As always, thanks Howard for your experienced guidance!

    Rick

  • Rick - W5FCX
    Rick - W5FCX Member ✭✭
    edited February 2017
    This idea, the video and blog post have been withdrawn. Recommend this thread be deleted as no longer useful or relevant.
  • SteveM
    SteveM Member
    edited July 2019

    Rick,

    I wouldn't give up so soon. Patent infringement is a consideration only when there is commerce involved with the method or apparatus that is patented. I can sit in my basement and make exact copies of SteppIR antennas and give them away to others as long as they, or I, do not profit in any way from the antennas.

    So if your goal is only to "move the state of the art forward", then by all means, press ahead. If, however, you solicit donations from the same website that hosts this project, then maybe you should have a conversation with a lawyer.

  • Rick - W5FCX
    Rick - W5FCX Member ✭✭
    edited January 2017
    I understand. My goal was to move the state of the art ahead, combined with making it cheaper and easier to build or acquire self-resonant antennas, and have a fun open source, community project where we all learn together.  For those who have the funds to acquire a SteppIR, God Bless you.  Not everyone is so fortunate, nor is everyone so inclined...

    Given the complexity involved to build these antennas, not having an option to buy kits is a pretty big limitation. For example, the envisioned design would require some custom circuitry for SWR and frequency tracking to feed into the analog inputs of Arduino or Raspberry Pi. That's a pretty big barrier to have to build those kinds of custom components yourself, which would greatly limit adoption.  

    Clearly the open source community can develop and publish anything it wants, regardless of patents.

    Your guidance on consulting a lawyer is helpful.

    Thank you.
  • SteveM
    SteveM Member
    edited January 2017

    I am certainly disappointed that I arrived too late to see your blog-post.

  • Rick - W5FCX
    Rick - W5FCX Member ✭✭
    edited January 2017
    Seems pretty clear to me now:

    http://ask.metafilter.com/216885/What-happens-if-an-opensource-app-intentionally-violates-a-software...

    I am an IP attorney, but I am not your IP attorney. This is not legal advice. I assume you are asking purely hypothetically and are not planning or considering writing such a program. If you are, you should consult a competent attorney in your jurisdiction.

    An open source program can infringe a patent just the same as a commercial one. There is no requirement that the infringement be for profit, since infringement may consist of making, using, selling, offering to sell, or importing the invention. 35 U.S.C. § 271. Infringement may be direct (i.e. the author making the software) or indirect (e.g. the author distributing it to others intending that they use it in an infringing manner). 

    What's more, by copying a program knowing that it likely infringes a patent, the open source author may be liable for willful patent infringement. That carries with it the possibility of treble damages and an award of attorney's fees and costs. 35 U.S.C. § 284.

    Given this, I will not be proceeding with this project.

    Rick
  • Kevin
    Kevin Member
    edited January 2017
    Wow. Just wow.

    I got to see the video and thought it was real interesting. Kind of makes a person afraid to share ideas. I wouldn't want to pay treble damages and attorney's fees and costs for thinking out loud.

    Kev
  • Rick - W5FCX
    Rick - W5FCX Member ✭✭
    edited January 2017
    Well, SteppIR have been granted their patents, so it appears there is now  a legal monopoly on resonant auto tuning antennas.  My objective wasn't to compete commercially, but to advance the state of the art well beyond what's available today, even from SteppIR.

    The BatBeam concept does exactly that, by reducing wind load and weight by at least 60%, providing a self-contained self-tuning capability with no remote controller device required in the shack and (theoretically) much higher gains being possible than any commercial Yagi today, due to the ability to have more lightweight wire director/reflector elements.

    As Howard is fond of saying, "No good deed goes unpunished", and on the surface it appears my good intentions for the community may well go unrewarded.

    Clearly I don't want to get myself and others into any kind of legal trouble... still, amateur radio operators being blocked from innovating, building antennas and advancing the state of the art flies in the face of the essence of The Amateur Creed as I understand it. It just doesn't feel quite right.

    I have one more idea here... patent owners have the ability to "license" their inventions to others.  I will reach out to the SteppIR folks, share the BatBeam concept, and see if they would be open to some kind of non-commercial experimentation license that enables us to advance the technology, which would benefit everyone, including SteppIR, who would hold all the cards around commercialization.  Then any commercial antennas would also have to be licensed. The one caveat I would want to see is the ability for "kits" to be produced (even if they require licensing - not sure they would).  If that were possible, then everyone wins.

    I'm very passionate about the potential for this project. Perhaps it's a hail mary, but one that's worth throwing to see what may be possible before just giving up and walking away.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    Rick
  • Walt
    Walt Member ✭✭
    edited July 2017
    I am not sure I would just call the other company and lay out your ideas.  I think you need to document what you have, sketch it out in a format that would serve well if YOU decided to apply for a patent (like bound-notebooks with concepts, hand-drawings every page dated and signed sort of stuff) and spend a few dollars talking to a patent attorney and see what they think of it.  You can show your documentation, tell them how the other guy does their stuff, maybe save a few bucks by giving them the other guys patent numbers to research, and then let them talk to you about the ups and downs of your idea.

    You will want to be picky about selecting a firm that can do a good job, and not just give you lip service in order to get billable hours.  But if you are really passionate about this idea, why not see if you can make it your own and YOU can get rich off of it.  Start your own company - sell YOUR patent to another and take the money and run.  Build a prototype and see how it works - maybe pay some software house to make code for your controller so it will be independent.

    Yeah !   Go for it !    There are a few guys in Seattle and San Francisco that wrote some code, maybe grab some belonging to others and now they have quite a few dollars in the bank.  Its your turn !

    Cheers - and have a few pints to get started . . .
    Have fun,
  • Marc Lalonde
    Marc Lalonde Member
    edited February 2017
    HI rick  if you need something for the hardware side e-mail me   [email protected]
    i have exactly what you need , i run my stepIR whit my own electronic / software  ;-)
    that arduino compatible whit Spare GPIO and ADC input ,and of course opensource
    use only 4 wire GND +24V  and 2wire for RS485 , mat daisy chain up to 64 device
    now on my shack i have a StepIR ,3 rotator and a antenna switch all on same 4 wire

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eP8hGX4AMn0   lot less noise that original box


    image

    image
  • Rick - W5FCX
    Rick - W5FCX Member ✭✭
    edited January 2017
    Thanks Walt. Yeah, I already decided that I don't want to pursue this as a commercial venture - just trying to have fun, learn some new things and build some antennas.  I'm beginning to think I enjoy working on antennas as much as talking on the radio :)

  • Rick - W5FCX
    Rick - W5FCX Member ✭✭
    edited January 2017
    Thanks Marc. Will keep this in mind once we have green light to proceed.  Very nice!

    Rick
  • Chris Tate  - N6WM
    Chris Tate - N6WM Member ✭✭
    edited November 2019
    Patent did not stop EU company Ultrabeam(from completely ripping it off it seems)..  Mertel's patent is available for plain viewing on google complete with diagrams.  UB seem to have added a couple versions SteppIR did not, including a 40m adjustable resonance shortened rotateable dipole.
  • Rick - W5FCX
    Rick - W5FCX Member ✭✭
    edited February 2017
    The proposal I intend to make to SteppIR is now posted and available for all to see.

    http://www.w5fcx.net/2017/01/18/the-batbeam-proposal/

    Once I get a response and decision, will update.

    Thanks for everyone's perspectives.  We will see if this turns out to be a go/no-go soon enough.


  • Ria
    Ria Member ✭✭
    edited January 2017
    While that is correct, they do not have a US dealer. I have heard of a few US hams who directly imported it but patent issues would likely prevent them from marketing them here. 

    There have been at least two copies of the SteppIR design - one is ultrabeam. The other is Antenna Dinamica, another Italian company. I believe the latter one shut down sometime in 2016. 

    I own a SteppIR and while I love the concept it is a high maintenance antenna. Next set of antennas I own is probably going to be aluminum rather than SteppIR. 
  • Marc Lalonde
    Marc Lalonde Member
    edited January 2017
    i have always think that Ultrabeam was only the brand name of StepIR outside USA ?

    EHU of both look really the same even inside
  • Chris Tate  - N6WM
    Chris Tate - N6WM Member ✭✭
    edited January 2017
    They may have struck some kind of deal with SteppIR but one would think they would promote that..  They do look quite similar but also have product and versions that SteppIR has not marketed.  they also have a digital touch controller that is some eye candy for the shack... 
  • Ria
    Ria Member ✭✭
    edited January 2017
    No, as far as I know, they have not struck a deal. They are relying on the fact that SteppIR only has patents in the United States. 
  • KY6LA_Howard
    KY6LA_Howard La Jolla, CA. Paris and Sablet FranceMember ✭✭✭
    edited January 2017

    SteppIR failed to protect their invention with an EU patent so Ultrabeam and a couple of others in the EU stole the SteppIR designs (only Untrabeam seems to have survived) and made their own product.

    If you import an Ultrabeam into the USA - it is clearly in violation of the US Patent.  I SteppIR becomes aware of your illegal beam, SteppIR could ask US Customs to seize your antenna and/or SteppIR Could sue you directly...

  • Ria
    Ria Member ✭✭
    edited January 2017
    Part of it is borne out of frustration that acquiring a SteppIR could take MONTHS from order to delivery. 
  • Chris Tate  - N6WM
    Chris Tate - N6WM Member ✭✭
    edited January 2017
    Well then there is nothing stopping Steppir from borrowing some of their better ideas then.  They are not apple.  Although the amazon.com instant gratification fulfillment cycle has made folks impatient, the folks at steppir have always been very nice to work with. but it does take a while to get goods.
  • Ria
    Ria Member ✭✭
    edited January 2017
    I've been dealing with the company since 2007. I've met and spoken to Mike and others a few times. Good people. Unfortunately in the beginning they had a lot of issues they could have solved easy with manufacturing and inventory. They hired professionals (a manufacturing manager for one) to fix a lot of the workflow that just wasn't working out and drove some customers away. They still have issues to deal with, especially QC but they've come a long way since the old days. 
  • SteveM
    SteveM Member
    edited January 2017
    I am surprised the attorney made absolutely no reference to the Research Exemption to patent infringement. Maybe it was the way you asked the question. His answer reminds me of the various attitudes of lawyers toward copyrighted material, some would like to sue you if you're found humming a tune you heard on the radio. Others have a much more balanced attitude by arguing the artist allowed the broadcast of his music, got paid for its use, and has, ipso facto, granted limited recording rights to the public for personal use.
  • Rick - W5FCX
    Rick - W5FCX Member ✭✭
    edited January 2017
    I didn't speak with an attorney. I found the link and quote from one via Google. Today I found prior art to the cited patent from another patent for airplane antennas, where the first spool was used to unwind HF wires to reach resonance. This isn't an entirely new concept at all.
  • Rick - W5FCX
    Rick - W5FCX Member ✭✭
    edited February 2017
    Haven't heard back from Mike or SteppIR yet... left a message yesterday.


    I'm already working on alternatives to physically changing the wire length and have come up with two alternatives already. Parts are on order to build prototypes. It will take more that some patents to **** this idea. Once I have a functioning prototype and have filed provisionals, will share with everyone.

    Thanks again for the feedback and encouragement. Email me to discuss details ... rick at W5FCX dot net.
  • Marc Lalonde
    Marc Lalonde Member
    edited January 2017
    i really not a layer  ,but canon  deposit over 4,000 patents a year about lens and camera 
    that not stop Nikon /Sony and all other to make camera   ,same for smart-phone

    so if you do dipole/vertical whit perforated copper berilium tape and stepper motor  that may bad idea

    but if you do something else example : loop antenna whit round wire  wly not ?
    if you look StepIR was also not the first to make electric tunable antenna ,so that limit claim about that   ,so remain how SpepIR actually do this

    this remember a friend that learn hard-way  that dime a LED whit a PWM was patent of colorkinetic
    that have bigger legal dep that R&D   ,but end to change it design for drive let whit switching power supply chip ,since pulse train was result of chip load regulation it no more technically a "PWM" 

    but as said i really not a layer  
     

  • Rick - W5FCX
    Rick - W5FCX Member ✭✭
    edited February 2017
    UPDATE 1-20-17

    Given the potential patent-related issues and prior art associated with physically lengthening/shortening the antenna elements to achieve multi-band resonance, I was forced to head down a different path...

    They say "necessity is the mother of invention".  So instead of doing the obvious and manipulating the physical antenna element lengths, I decided to shift focus onto methods to electrically alter the lengths to achieve resonance - boy am I glad that I did, as it helped me break through.

    The new, Rev 1 design employs "J-Boxes", little nodes that sit between each segment of conductor (e.g., wire) that carriers the RF signal. To switch between bands, the antenna length is altered by simply switching the proper conductive segments on/off (open/closed).  This means it should be possible to retune the antenna in a matter of milliseconds, with no moving parts!  The switching will be done with either relays or PIN diodes.  I hope the PIN diodes work out, because that's the most elegant and lightest design.

    The Rev 1 proposal is now available:

    http://www.w5fcx.net/2017/01/18/the-batbeam-proposal/

    As promised, the BatBeam invention and related Relay-switched Antenna invention have both been released into the public domain as of today, so we can all benefit from whatever advances this may lead us toward in the future.

    Over the coming weeks, I will be constructing the prototypes and will share the results on my blog.

    Thanks again for the encouragement and support.  Very glad I didn't give up!

    73's,
    Rick / W5FCX

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