A Yagi–Uda antenna, commonly known as a Yagi antenna, is a directional antenna consisting of multiple parallel elements in a line, usually half-wave dipoles made of metal rods.] Yagi–Uda antennas consist of a single driven element connected to the transmitter or receiver with a transmission line, and additional “parasitic elements” which are not connected to the transmitter or receiver: a so-called reflector and one or more directors. It was invented in 1926 by Shintaro Uda of Tohoku Imperial University, Japan, with a lesser role played by his colleague Hidetsugu Yagi. 

The reflector element is slightly longer than the driven dipole, whereas the directors are a little shorter.  The parasitic elements absorb and reradiate the radio waves from the driven element with a different phase, modifying the dipole’s radiation pattern. The waves from the multiple elements superpose and interfere to enhance radiation in a single direction, achieving a substantial increase in the antenna’s gain compared to a simple dipole.

Also called a “beam antenna”, or “parasitic array”, the Yagi is very widely used as a high-gain antenna on the HF, VHF and UHF bands. It has moderate to high gain which depends on the number of elements used, typically limited to about 20 dBi, linear polarization, unidirectional (end-fire) beam pattern with high front-to-back ratio of up to 20 dB. and is lightweight, inexpensive and simple to construct. The bandwidth of a Yagi antenna, the frequency range over which it has high gain, is narrow, a few percent of the center frequency, and decreases with increasing gain, so it is often used in fixed-frequency applications. The largest and best-known use is as rooftop terrestrial television antennas,  but it is also used for point-to-point fixed communication links, in radar antennas, and for long distance shortwave communication by shortwave broadcasting stations and radio amateurs.

Theory of operation

Consider a Yagi–Uda consisting of a reflector, driven element and a single director as shown here. The driven element is typically a ½ λ dipole or folded dipole and is the only member of the structure that is directly excited (electrically connected to the feedline). All the other elements are considered parasitic. That is, they reradiate power which they receive from the driven element (they also interact with each other).

One way of thinking about the operation of such an antenna is to consider a parasitic element to be a normal dipole element of finite diameter fed at its centre, with a short circuit across its feed point. As is well known in transmission line theory, a short circuit reflects all of the incident power 180 degrees out of phase. So one could as well model the operation of the parasitic element as the superposition of a dipole element receiving power and sending it down a transmission line to a matched load, and a transmitter sending the same amount of power up the transmission line back toward the antenna element. If the transmitted voltage wave were 180 degrees out of phase with the received wave at that point, the superposition of the two voltage waves would give zero voltage, equivalent to shorting out the dipole at the feedpoint (making it a solid element, as it is). Thus a half-wave parasitic element radiates a wave 180° out of phase with the incident wave.

The fact that the parasitic element involved is not exactly resonant but is somewhat shorter (or longer) than ½ λ modifies the phase of the element’s current with respect to its excitation from the driven element. The so-called reflector element, being longer than ½ λ , has an inductive reactance which means the phase of its current lags the phase of the open-circuit voltage that would be induced by the received field. The director element, on the other hand, being shorter than ½ λ , has a capacitive reactance with the voltage phase lagging that of the current.

The elements are given the correct lengths and spacings so that the radio waves radiated by the driven element and those re-radiated by the parasitic elements all arrive at the front of the antenna in-phase, so they superpose and add, increasing signal strength in the forward direction. In other words, the crest of the forward wave from the reflector element reaches the driven element just as the crest of the wave is emitted from that element. These waves reach the first director element just as the crest of the wave is emitted from that element, and so on. The waves in the reverse direction interfere destructively, cancelling out, so the signal strength radiated in the reverse direction is small. Thus the antenna radiates a unidirectional beam of radio waves from the front (director end) of the antenna.


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