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Antenna Plus Low-Profile Antenna

Have you ever wondered who came up with the idea of those hockey puck antennas that are on public safety vehicles? In 1988, Kevin Thill and Bill Liimatainen came up with the concept. These two engineers at Northrop Grumman were designing antennas for the military aerospace industry.  

The two were travelling on their way home when they saw a CHP patrol car with huge whip antennas on the trunk. Thill commented to Liimatainen, “Just look at those antennas. They must break all the time in a car wash, hitting obstructions and vandalism.” With that, the idea to invent something better was born and so too was Antenna Plus.  

Thill, an RF engineer came up with the idea of how to design a low-profile antenna and Liimatainen built up the manufacturing line. “Early on, we realized to have control over quality, we had to make this ourselves in the


. We looked into contract manufacturing in Asia, but the results were very poor and inconsistent,” Liimatainen said. “We set out to create a new standard for antenna performance, simplicity and product life—and I believe we did that. First responders have everything at stake. If critical data is not communicated, people’s lives are at stake.”

In a public safety wireless data solution there are a lot of different components to the equation, and a lot of places where problems can arise like the computer, docking station, modem, wireless network, application software, OS configurations and plenty more. The last thing anyone needs is a troublesome antenna. Nowadays some agencies have multiple wireless networks with the acceptance of WiFi and repurposed private spectrum for public safety.

Of course, the inside of a police vehicle is not the best location for an antenna. Vehicles are enclosed steel and laminated glass boxes allowing very poor RF penetration. Getting the wireless signal outside the vehicle on the roof as a ground plane provides the best possible antenna placement. Agencies that rely on the little stubby internal antenna inside the laptop or on the wireless card are seriously compromising their signal strength, to the point that having an external mounted antenna can add up to 10db gain. Not to mention the safety issues of radio frequency flying around inside the police vehicle.

When asked about lower priced antennas on the market, Thill responded, “It is a shame to see an agency spend all of that money on rugged computers, docking stations and modems, and then try to save a few dollars on the antenna. The whole solution is brought down to the lowest common denominator. In that case, it is the antenna.”

Today, Antenna Plus makes a wide range of antennas. Their most sophisticated product incorporates nine different frequencies in a single housing. Antenna Plus’ antennas provide a better quality of connection no matter what the network. Having better reception means faster speeds. This means your data gets through on the first attempt. This is a big deal for officers on the side of the road waiting for fingerprint or mugshot data to download.

Antenna Plus also has a solution for GPS.


There’s no need to purchase a standalone GPS module. With the AP Navigator, this will provide the entire GPS solution as well as the cellular and even WiFi antennas in one housing. It will provide all of the GPS information necessary for mapping and automatic vehicle locating (AVL) technologies all by itself with a 12-channel Trimble GPS receiver that is built inside the housing.


With the AP-Navigator family of antennas, you have a complete AVL hardware solution that works with all mapping solutions regardless of vendor. If an agency has a large area of responsibility that takes officers far and wide to outlying areas of wireless coverage, then Antenna Plus has the right antenna for you.


Sergeant Brad Brewer is a 22-year member of the Vancouver Police Department. He sits on the Ford Police Advisory Board and regularly gives presentations at law enforcement conferences on mobile computing, wireless technology and police vehicle ergonomics. He can be reached at

Published in Police Fleet Manager, May/Jun 2013

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