Building a Pneumatic Antenna Launcher

In the Summer of 2012, WSSM members built pneumatic antenna launchers, under the direction of Steve Freeman K1MV, who built the original prototype. The launchers are constructed using 3" and 1-1/2" pvc piping, and air gage, schrader valve, and a fishing reel. With about 40 pounds of air, they are capable of launching a weighted plastic slug several hundred feet - perfect for putting up that next wire antenna!

Parts List

3" PVC pipe X 13" long
3" PVC pipe dome cap
Step flange (3" down to 1 1/2" pipe)
Total of 24" long X 1 1/2" rigid non-metal conduit
valve for 1 1/2" pipe
Fishing reel
2 hose clamps
1 Schrader valve
6" of 3/4" PVC pipe (to be cut in half for slugs)
4 3/4" dome caps (for slugs)
Eyelet (for attaching fishing line to slug)
Fly line

Tools required

PVC cement
Tape measure
Black indelible marker
Metal file
Electric drill
Flat blade screw driver or 5/16 inch nut driver (to tighten hose clamps)

parts looking over the launchers keeping it reel

Begin by cutting your pipe to the sizes shown below, then file rough edges and prefit. The open/close valve should be located about 4 - 1/2" from the air chamber. Be sure to prep the areas to be glued, and allow adequate drying time before applying any air pressure. I mounted the shrader valve in the small pipe section, between the open/close valve and the flange, and the pressure gage (optional) was mounted on the air chamber section itself. Its a good idea to add a pressure gage, unless you have an accurate one on your compressor or air tank, because this is what determines distance when firing the slug. It is not necessary or recommended that you fill it with any more than 40 pounds.

antenna launcher blueprint
Mounting the fishing reel is relatively simple. Any open reel will do, and its personal preference whether to mount it on the top or bottom of the pipe. As far as the slug goes, its just 3/4" PVC pipe, cut to about 6" long and capped on both ends. Before assembling it, cut a small piece of scrap wood for the inside for the eyelet to screw onto, and its a good idea to fill the slug with sand so that it has enough weigh to drop down the other side of that tree you'll be firing at. Another good practice is to either paint it a bright or flourescent color, or wrap it in a bright tape to make it easier to locate.

Firing the antenna launcher is pretty easy, but it takes a steady hand. Once air is pumped into the chamber, be sure not to point it at yourself or anyone else as the projectile comes out very quickly. Its also a good idea to wear safety glasses. The idea is to point it just slightly above the tree that you're aiming at and quickly open the valve, to release all the air in the chamber at once.