Just want to share with you how I did the Taranis X9D antenna mod – replacing the original 2dB antenna with a RP-SMA pigtail, making the antenna removable so I can use a 5dB dipole antenna, or 2dB whenever I want.
Beware that this is a risky mod, some have reported damages to their Taranis after doing the antenna mod.
I removed the antenna and soldered it back when I was swapping the housing 18 months ago, and it’s been working fine since. So that tells me that if you do it correctly, it’s fine. But still, try to avoid messing with delicate electronics.
The reason I am doing this is because the original 2dB antenna is broken. Rather than replacing it, I might as well go a step further and put an RP-SMA pigtail in there.
If your Taranis is working fine, maybe it’s not worth the risk :) Anyway if you are interested in doing so, follow along and I will show you how :)
The Benefit of 5dB Antenna
This is what the radiation pattern of a 2dB antenna would look like. It’s almost omni-directional, covering the space relatively evenly around the antenna. That’s great if you fly mini quads and micro quads normally just around yourself.
The higher gain of a 5dB antenna changes the shape of radiation pattern to be more directional, giving you more range on the sides and less range on top and bottom. This allows you to fly longer range assuming you are placing the antenna in the upright position. But signal is going to be much worse than the 2dB if your antenna is pointing directly at the model.
Anyway with the RP-SMA connector, you can remove your antenna for easier transportation. And you can also use 2dB or 5dB antenna, whichever you prefer.
Here are the parts I bought, only $10 bucks.
Some reported issue with the 5dB antenna, but works fine with 2dB. So maybe it’s best to grab both antennas when you are doing this mod just in case. Anyway my unit works fine on both antennas after the mod.
Anti-Static Wrist Strap: https://amzn.to/2Z5D1IC
Not necessary but recommended, it helps protect your Taranis during the mod. If you don’t use this, make sure to “ground yourself” to discharge static electricity by touching grounded conductive surface.
RP-SMA Male to Female Adapter: https://amzn.to/318tym7
Note that SMA connectors have a finite mating cycle of about 500 times. It won’t just suddenly stop working at the 500th time you plug it in, but the RF performance will decrease over time the more often you remove/install the antenna. Over-tighten the antenna can also reduce the lifespan.
Therefore some people get an RP-SMA adapter between the antenna and pigtail, so it will only wear out the $2 adapter and not the pigtail. However the adapter will result in a slight signal loss, so that’s your call.
Remove Hot Glue
Ground yourself before continuing.
Open the Taranis housing. Find where the original antenna is soldered to. Remove hot glue – isopropyl alcohol is great for removing hot glue.
Desolder Original Antenna
Now you can desolder the original coax cable. Take a picture of what the solder joint looks like for reference. Avoid overheating the pads.
Remove Original Antenna
Once the antenna is desoldered, you can pull it out of the top socket. There are two clips holding the antenna in place, you just need to squeeze them with a pair of pliers and push it out of the socket.
Install & Solder RP-SMA Pigtail
Install the RP-SMA pigtail in the socket like so before soldering it to the PCB.
Add Hot Glue
Finally add hot glue to these places.
Check SWR (RAS)
To find out whether you’ve done the antenna mod successfully, check SWR (standing wave ratio). It’s a measurement that indicates the amount of signal being transmitted versus reflected back from the antenna.
It’s a good way to determine if you have a problem with the antenna, or if the antenna mod was done incorrectly. A lot of energy will get bounced back and the SWR would be higher than usual.
The lower SWR the better, ideally it should be around 0 to 1. You can put your hand around the antenna and the reading may increase slightly, and if you put the antenna in something like a metal box or foil paper it may even go up to something like 16 or higher. That’s showing its normal operation.
Since OpenTX 2.2, SWR has been renamed to RAS (Relative Antenna Status) in the Taranis, and moved from Telemetry Page to the Analog Test Page in Radio Setup (hold down menu button, and go to page 7).
Note that sometimes crappy antenna can give you high SWR value. If this happens to you, don’t panic, try a different antenna first!