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Latest page update: April-June 2020 (started complete overhaul & expansion of this page).

red-blue line


Clearly, the Luftwaffe Bernhard/Bernhardine radio navigation and command upload system that is described in great detail on this website, is a "rotating radio beam system" for fighter aircraft navigation and guidance. But where does this system fit within the domain of "Radio Direction Finding" (D/F), Radio Location, Radio Guidance and Navigation"? This page provides an overview of the history of this domain, through the end of World War 2. The purpose is not to add yet another survey or taxonomy without verifiable and publicly accessible references. Instead to present an historic overview of true and documented origins, unfiltered or otherwise distorted by the prevailing propagandistic or nationalistic versions of history, with some accents based on my personal interest as a user of such systems.

Berhard station

Fig. 173: The Luftwaffe rotating beacon ground station "Bernhard" Be-10 at Hundborg/Denmark

(source: www.gyges.dk, used with permission; US gov't = no ©)

"I don't trust those high-frequency thingies. One time I flew to southern Germany and landed inadvertently in northern Germany - all because of your high-frequency thingies!"

A. Hitler

"Radio-navigation requires boxes with coils, and I hate boxes with coils!"

H. Göring

Source: ref. 5


First, we need to introduce some basic terminology regarding air navigation (which, of course, is very similar to nautical navigation). Rather than describing this textually, I will let the figure below speak for itself:


Fig. 41: Some basic terminology of air navigation

Directional radio-frequency (RF) waves were discovered during the late 1880s. Starting in the early 1900s, concepts, techniques, and devices were invented and developed, to apply RF to direction-finding and navigation. So, we have to introduce some more terminology:

  • Radio direction finding (RDF). As the name suggests, this is a technique for determing the direction to or from a radio transmitter. I.e., determining Angle of Arrival (AoA) or Angle of Depature (AoD), respectively. The transmitter station can be fixed-base (stationary) or mobile, and cooperative or not ( = "enemy"). The direction is measured and expressed relative to a reference direction at the D/F station or at that transmitter station. The reference direction is typically True North, Magnetic North, or the longitudinal axis of the vehicle (ship, aircraft, land vehicle, surfaced submarine). A distinction is sometimes made between:
  • RDF ("Fremdpeilung"): RDF-ing of a mobile transmitter station by a receiver station with known position.
  • Reverse-RDF ("Eigenpeilung"): RDF-ing by a mobile receiver station of a fixed transmitter station with known position.
  • Radio location, a.k.a. radio positioning: determing the position (own or of a target) by radio means. This is also known as taking a "position fix", or "fix" for short. The position can be the absolute 2D position within some coordinate system on the face of the earth, or a relative 2D position ( = D/F direction + distance/range), or the 3D position of an aircraft ( = 2D position + altitude).
  • Radio navigation, in particular in-flight. One of the mantras that I remember well from my own pilot training, is about the top priorities of every pilot/navigator: always "aviate" ( = fly the airplane), "navigate" ( = figure out where you are, where you're going, and how to get there in 4D), "communicate" (with ATC) - in that specific order of importance. Radio navigation is pre-dated by the following other forms of navigation, even though those were/are also used by airplane navigators, in particular on trans-oceanic and trans-polar routes, out of range of radio nav stations:
  • Pilotage: visual navigation by reference to landmarks and man-made objects on the ground (or in the water).
  • Celestial navigation: based assessing the angle between one or more celestial bodies (stars, sun, moon, planets) and the horizon. This method has been used by mariners since ancient times. Most of these methods require the knowledge of time (e.g, local noon). In aircraft, navigators used periscopic sextants.
  • A related technique is Dead Reckoning (DR). It estimates the current position, based on a previous position fix (or known position), and an estimated position-change. The latter is based on estimated speed, direction, drift and elapsed time since that previous fix. The same approach can be used to estimate position at some time in the future, based on current position (known or estimated) and conditions.

Clearly, the above radio-based activities are of strategic and tactical importance during times of armed conflict, and preparation therefore. Which also explains why corresponding RF-based countermeasures (interference, jamming, locate-and-destroy, etc.) have a similar level of importance.

Note that "determining" is actually "estimating". Estimations always have an "accuracy" and a "precision". These terms are often confused, and even used interchangeably - which they are not! Simply put, "accuracy" expresses how close estimates are to the true value. "Precision" expresses how close multiple estimates of the same true value are to each other, i.e., "repeatability".

Note that with a single transmitter/DF-station pair, only a direction ( = angle) can be determined - not position. The result of D/F-ing is basically a continuous straight line of possible positions, emanating from the position of the D/F station, through the position of the transmitter, and beyond. This is a linear Line of Position (LoP). See the left-hand panel of Figure 42 below. Important: without further information, the position of the target on an LoP is not known! For a given position of the D/F or transmitter station, the LoP can be drawn on a map ("chart" in navigation parlance).

Line of Position

Fig. 42: Linear, circular, and hyperbolic Lines of Position

Some other RF methods do not determine direction, but rather the distance ( = range) between an observer/anchor station and the "target". All points with the same distance to the anchor station now lie on a circle that is centered on that station. That is, all these points combined form a circular LoP. See Figure 42. Again, without further information, the target's position on an LoP is not known. Through air and space, radio waves propagate at the speed of light: close to 300000 km/sec, or close to 30 cm ( = 1 foot) per nanosecond. Now you know how long a nanosecond is! This finite-speed property makes it possible to use radio waves for determing distance: speed x time = distance traveled. The standard methods are as follows:

  • An fixed or mobile anchor station transmits a radio-wave pulse. That pulse is scattered from, and reflected by, the surface of the target. The target may be a cooperative/friendly, or non-cooperative/enemy aircraft, ship, land vehicle, or surfaced submarine. A reflected pulse is received back at the anchor station. The pulse has made a round-trip. The total time-of-flight (ToF) to and back from the target covers twice the distance between station and target. By measuring the time-difference (delay) between transmitting a pulse and receiving the echo, that distance (a.k.a. "range") is known. This is the "ranging" ("Enfernungsmeßung") part of what is called "Radio Detection and Ranging" (a.k.a. "radar") since late-WW2. The range from a radar station on ground to an airborne aircraft is actually "slant range", which is not the same as "down range". The latter is distance-over-ground, measured along the earth's surface, to the point on that surface, directly below the aircraft.
  • Rather than bouncing a radio pulse of a target, an "interrogator" station can transmit a pulse (or coded sequence thereof), and a compatible mobile "transponder" station replies with another pulse (or sequence thereof) on the same or (usually) different radio frequency. Transponders typically apply a pre-defined reply-delay. Again, half the round-trip time (minus any reply-delay) is equivalent to slant range. Modern transponders are required to apply a 3.0 ± 0.5 μsec reply delay.
  • The interrogator and transponder roles can be reversed: an airborne interrogator and a ground-based transponder. The latter is often co-located with a radio navigation beacon. The common post-war implementation of this is called Distance Measuring Equipment (DME).
  • In the world's first transponder-based ranging system (in 1927 patent nr. 632304 by Koulikoff & Chilkowsky), there were two interrogator/transponder stations. One initiated a pulse, and from thereon, the two stations ping-ponged the pulse. The resulting beat-tone was a measure of the distance between them.
  • Instead of transmitting and replying with a pulse signal, it is also possible to transmit a tone-modulated continuous wave (CW) signal, have the transponder send this back (typ. with a reply-delay) on a different frequency, and measure the phase-difference between the two signals. This round-trip difference represents a time-shift, hence distance. To avoid distance ambiguity, the wavelength of the transmitted tone has to be longer than the round-trip distance. E.g., a 10 kHz modulation tone has a wavelength of about 33 km (≈20 statute miles).

OK, just one more type of LoP to discuss! Above, we covered using the "time-difference = 2x round-trip distance" approach. It resulted in circular LoP's. This can be expanded to a system with not one but two anchor stations with known position. Of this station pair, one is referred to as the "master", the other a "slave". The master transmits an omnidirectional pulse. Upon receipt, the slave also transmits a pulse, on the same frequency. I.e., the slave is synchronized to the master. Both pulses are received by the target, where they arrive at slightly different times. Again, we have a time-difference (Time-Difference-of Arrival, TDoA). However, now this time-difference is equivalent not to a distance, but to a distance-difference! It is the difference between 1) the distance between the target and the master station, and 2) the distance between the target and the slave station. All points that have the same absolute distance difference, lie on two open curves. They are two branches of one hyperbola. The two anchor stations are the "foci" of the hyperbola. The two mirror-image curves of each hyperbola pass symmetrically between these foci. In fact, as with the linear and circular LoPs, there is an infinite family of LoP's. In this case, covering all possible distance-differences. Depending on the +/- sign of the distance difference, the target lies on one curve or on the other. So, we now have hyperbolic LoP's. See Figure 42.

In analogy with the various circular LoP methods, the same hyperbolic LoP's can also be created by pair of master-slave anchor stations that transmit a continuous-wave carier signal instead of pulses. Again, the slave is synchronized to the master. But now the LoP represents a fixed phase difference between their (continuous) transmissions, instead of a fixed time difference between pulse-pair receptions. But a phase difference between two sinewaves (audio or RF) of the same frequency is equivalent to a time difference.

As repeatedly mentioned above, without further information, the position of the target on an LoP is not known. It could be anywhere on the LoP - within the reception coverage area of the radio aids. How can this be resolved? By combining two or more independent lines of position into a point of position (PoP). For this approach to work, we need LoP's that intersect. I.e., LoPs that cross, or at least touch each other. This can be achieved with linear, circular, and hyperbolic LoP's, as illustrated in Figure 43:

Line of Position

Fig. 43: Combining Lines of Position to determine position

It should be intuitively obvious from this figure, that creating an accurate, clear and concise equivalent textual description is a rather tall order, and not necessarily more comprehensible or instructive. So, I will not attempt to do so. That said, a couple of words anyway...

The case of "crossing linear LoP's" is standard classical triangulation, used since many centuries, if not millenia. Note that it works both ways: two (or more) fixed D/F stations can determine the position of a mobile transmitter. This was also done in the early days of radio D/F, and the position estimated by the D/F stations was reported to the transmitter station (ship, airship) via radio. Conversely, a mobile D/F station can determine its own position by using two (or more) beacon stations with known position. Accuracy ( = uncertainty) of the position estimate depends primarily on the angle between intersection LoPs. I.e., distance between the beacon pair or D/F station pair, as wel as the distance from the target to the baseline between the beacon or D/F station pair.

We can also combine a linear LoP (bearing) and a circular LoP (range). These two LoP's can be obtained with two spatially separated anchor stations: one D/F station and one range-finding station. Once can also combine a linear LoP and a circular LoP into a single system, at a single anchor station. Radar is a prime example of this. Two independent and spatially separated range-finding stations generate two overlapping circular LoP's. Conversely, a mobile interrogator station may determine the range to two spatially separated transponder stations with known position. Generally, two overlapping circles intersect at two points, not one - unless the target is located exactly on the straight baseline between the two anchor stations. I.e., there generally is ambiguity as to which of these two points is the actual position of the target. Overlapping hyperbolic LoP's can also have two intersect points.

Of course, the concept of positioning by means of intersecting LoP's also applies to hyperbolic LoP's. This is done with a chain of (at least) three anchor stations, one of which is the master to which the remaining stations of the chain are synchronized. Early such systems used maps (charts) with a lattice of hyperbolic LoP's, like the pink and light blue lines in the right-hand panel of Fig. 43 above. Each line of the lattice was marked with the associated time-difference.

Note: all necessary basic methods for, and concepts of, radio D/F and radio location/positioning were patented by 1935! See the time-line diagram below:


Fig. 44: Time-line of primary radio direction-finding/location/navigation patents through 1935

(source: patent table-3)

Note: basically nothing fundamentally new has been added by subsequent radio D/F, positioning, and navigation methods, including those that are based on satellites, WiFi networks, mobile/cellular telephone networks, etc!


Directional radio beacons can be thought of as the radio equivalent of optical rotating beacons: nautical lighthouses. The Prussian Building Authority ("preußische Bauverwaltung") were part of the Royal Prussian Ministry of Public Works ("Königlich-Preußisches Ministerium der öffentlichen Arbeiten"). They considered coastal fog signalization to be of prime importance. Air-acoustics warning devices, such as fog horns, sirens, whistles, guns, and bells, do no allow determination of direction and distance. Around 1905, underwater (submarine) acoustic systems were introduced, to mark obstacles and lightships, and to avoid ship-to-ship collisions during fog. Sounds were generated with underwater bells, and received with hydrophones (one on each side of the ship's hull). While at sea, this enabled reasonable determination of the direction to the signal source. In coastal areas, their use was limited to lightships, as the sound waves must basically be received head-on. It was very expensive to install acoustic underwater systems fixed to the sea bed. Also, the high cost of on-board equipment and their maintenance was only affordable for large ships. Therefore, in 1906, the Building Authority started to investigate directional radio signals for fog signaling, under the direction of Privy Councillor ("Geheimrat") Walter Körte. Ref. 187A1, 187A6. The Government Secretary ("Regierungsbausekretär") of the Building Authority proposed that, at times of fog, lighthouses should transmit radio signals that could be received by small ship-board receivers, and an automatically rotating parabolic antenna that would stop turning and point in the direction of the transmitter. Körte contacted the Telefunken company mid-1906, who informed him that they had already been experimenting with directional radio waves - without satisfying results.

During 1906-1908, the Building Authority performed radio direction-finding tests. These initial lab and field tests were partly done with support from the physics department of the scientific institute Urania-Berlin and equipment from the Telefunken company. Field tests took place July-August 1906 near the then-Prussian Baltic port city of Swinemünde (about 160 km northeast of Berlin; since October 1945: Świnoujście, on the Polish side of the border). Ref. 187A5-187A7. Test signals from Swinemünde were received by a steamer at 16 nautical miles (≈30 km). The ship-board receiver used a directional parabolic antenna system (ref. 187A7). Possibly a wire antenna configured, e.g., per Fig. 2 in ref. 229E2 was used. During the 1920s, the British also experimented with rotating parabolic reflectors, but at VHF frequencies (≈50 MHz, wavelength ≈6 m), ref. 228A. Such parabolic systems were heavy, large, cumbersome, expensive, and therefore considered unsuitable for boats and small ships. To be effective, the focal length of the parabolic antenna had to be larger than a quarter wavelength! Ship-board direction-finding systems also required ship-specific calibration due to the metal hull and structures. At the same time, similar ship-board DF experiments by their French counterparts came to the same conclusions. In parallel, the Italians Artom, Bellini, and Tosi also pursued radio direction-finding (ref. 184E), but with a different antenna system arrangement. The latter approach was evaluated by the German Imperial Postal Administration ("Reichspostverwaltung"), and was deemed too large and complicated to be promising. These conclusions are not surprising for the large radio wavelengths that were practicable at the time. Also, receivers were still without electronic tube (valve) amplifiers.

Meanwhile, private industry had continued to improve the spark-gap transmitter. It is based on using high voltage pulses to generate an electrical spark, like the spark plugs of a automobile combustion engine. The final major improvement to the spark gap transmitter was proposed by Max Wien in 1906 (ref. 186C): the so-called “tonal” or "singing" quenched-spark transmitter ("Löschfunkensender", "transmetteur à étincelle musicale", "transmisores de chispa sonora"). He subsequently joined the Telefunken company, where his idea was developed and commercialized. See further below. In parallel, the C. Lorenz Company (ref. 263A) had bet on Valdemar Poulsen's "spark-less" light-arc transmitter ("Lichtbogensender") technology. Telefunken had unsucessfully attempted to bypass Poulsen's patent during 1906-1908, then rejected the light-arc transmitter as inferior (ref. 187B).

Early transmitter technology

Fig. 45: Simplified time-line of radio transmitter technology up to 1930

(source: ref. 186A-186Q)

In 1909, the Prussian Building Authority considered the quenched-spark transmitter to be sufficiently mature, and abandoned mobile radio direction-finding receivers. Instead, it decided to pursue a directional radio beacon on land, and a relatively simple standard receiver on-board. Mid-1909, it was proposed to build two transmitter stations on Müggelsee Lake (about 20 km southeast of the city center of Berlin), ref.187A5:

  • A 3-4 mast Bellini-Tosi system on the site of the Royal Inland Fisheries Institute ("königliches Institut für Binnenfischerei") at Friedrichshagen.
  • A directional transmitting station to the east of there, on higher terrain outside the nearby village of Rahnsdorf. The antenna system was to comprise 32 masts that supported 16 dipole antennas in a star configuration. The dipoles were to be aligned with compass directions. The dipoles were to be energized in sequence, to obtain a (stepwise) rotating radio beam - the world's first rotating radio navigation beacon! Per ref. 2, the switching mechanism was motorized. A separate Morse-code-like sequence of "dots" and "dashes" was to be transmitted by each dipole. Most likely, this was exactly the same scheme as used during follow-on tests around 1912 at Cape Arkona (see further below). The receiver station determined the direction from which the transmitted signals arrived ( = Angle of Arrival, AoA), based on identifying the dipole from which the smallest signal was received.


Fig. 46: Map of Müggelsee (ca. 4.3x2.6 km / 2.7x1.6 miles) with Friedrichshagen and Rahnsdorf

(source: "Pharus-Plan Berlin-Oberspree 1919" tourist map)

During 1912-1913, the offices and labs of the Maritime Navigation Markers Test Site ("Seezeichenversuchsfeld") of the Maritime Navigation Markers Office ("Seezeichenausschuss") of the Ministry of Public Works were built next to the Fisheries Institute (ref. 187A2-187A3, also right-hand image in Fig. 46 above), and their facilities moved there from Berlin-Tiergarten.

The mention of a Bellini-Tosi (B-T) system for transmitting is strange. Such systems (two crossing loop antennas with radio goniometer coupling) were still only used as DF receiving stations, not transmitter stations. Also, a 3-mast B-T would have been non-standard. Per ref. 187A7, only one small 16-dipole transmitting station was built on Müggelsee Lake. Per ref. 187C1-187C3 (Telefunken, 1912), there were actually two transmitter stations, one of which had a rather large 16-dipole antenna system: a diameter of 200 m (≈660 ft). Telegraphy engineer Franz Kiebitz (at that time working at the Imperial Postal Administration) participated in the receiving tests from a boat on the lake.

Per ref. 187A5, two medium-wave frequencies were proposed to be used: around 2.4 and 3 MHz (wavelength of 125 and 100 m, respectively). This coulds explain the simultaneous proposal for two transmitter stations. These frequencies were roughly the demonstrated practical upper limit of spark transmitters at the time. However, these two frequencies are actually too close together to warrant two separate installations, or even two test series. Per ref. 187A7, the actuall antenna system was small. However, per ref. 187C1-187C3 (Telefunken, 1912), the actual circular antenna installation had a diameter of about 200 m (≈660 ft). That would have been more appropriate for a standard ½ wavelength wire dipole, resonant on an operating frequency around 300/(2x200) ≈ 0.715 MHz = 715 kHz. Undoubtedly, small standard commercial quenched spark gap transmitters from Telefunken were used. They had an operating frequency of ca. 500-1000 kHz. However, there is no law of physics that states or implies that an antenna will not radiate efficiently unless it is dimensioned so as to be resonant at the operating frequency. Shorter dipoles could have been used, with proper impedance adaptation between the transmitter output and the antenna. Then again, "small" and "large" is relative, and unclear if no reference is provided, such as the electrical wavelength or the physical size of a human. Note that either way, even a diameter of 200 m was small compared to the wavelength of several km (!) of early transmitter systems.

You may wonder "16 does not divide nicely into the 360° of a compass. So, why 16 dipoles and not 18?" Astronomers already divided the circle into 360 degrees in antiquity. However, the magnetic compass came into use only about 1000 years ago. Initially, sailors referred to eight principal wind directions: north, northeast, east, etc. I.e., the four cardinal directions and the four intercardinal (= ordinal) directions. As nautical compasses improved, the compass rose ("scale") was further divided into eight "half winds", to form the 16-wind compass rose. A further split added 16 "quarter winds", for a total of 32 "compass points" ("nautische Strich", "Kompassstrich"). Each point of the 32-wind rose represents a compass sector of 360°/32=11¼°.

The Minister of Public Works explicitly stated in a letter of November of 1909, that the Prussian Building Authority went public with their system concept in order to make it "unpatentable" (ref. 187A1, 187A5). Per § 1 and §2 of the German patent law of 1891 (applicable in 1909): "Patents are only awarded for new inventions that have a commercial application" and "An invention is not considered new, if at the time of filing, the invention has already been published within the last 100 years, or has evidently been used within the country such that an other expert could use it." Therefore, the publication indeed effectively blocked such a patent.

The transmitter antenna system comprised dipole antennas, because 1) they have a clear directional radiation pattern, and 2) they are very simple. Note that in some old literature and patents, the term "dipole" is used for only a "dipole half", each "half" is considered and counted as a separate antenna, and "transmitter" ("Sender") is used for a radiating/transmitting antenna, not for the electronic device that energizes the antenna with radio-frequency energy. The next figure shows the doughnut (torus) shaped radiation pattern of a dipole antenna:

Dipole pattern

Fig. 47: Radiation pattern of a dipole in "free space"

Dipole pattern

Figure 48: 2D dipole pattern

The cross-section of the doughnut has a "figure-of-8" shape. This is very directional, with a sharp null direction along the two radiating elements. I.e., through the center of the doughnut hole. Note that the "null" minimum is much sharper than the flat maximum. Hence, the "null" is preferred for direction-finding.

However, this 3D pattern is only valid in so-called "free space". That is, very far away from ground, from reflective objects, and from objects that can electrically couple with it. Typically not stated in textbooks, is that doughnut represents "total gain" of the antenna. This is the combination of "vertical gain" (i.e., the relative strength of the radiated vertically polarized field) and "horizontal gain". These gains have quite different patterns!

The closer a dipole is to ground (or an equivalent horizontal ground plane), the more of its radiated energy will be reflected upward. The antenna becomes a "cloud warmer"! With decreasing installation height, the 3D total-gain pattern becomes oblong, shorter and higher. That is: less directive. For low angles (i.e., closer to the ground), the "total gain" radiation pattern becomes peanut shaped - still directive, but not as much as in free-space. The "vertical gain" and "horizontal gain" patterns remain quite directional. See Figure 48 below.

Some older literature (e.g., ref. 187C1-187C3 (Telefunken, 1912), 187E1-E2) only appears to consider "vertical gain", which has its maximum in the extended in-line direction of the dipole wires. However, the "horizontal gain" and "total gain have their (larger) maximum broadside to these wires, and a "null" in-line with the wires. This may explain some mixed test results with horizontal and vertical antennas on the receiver side...

Dipole pattern

Fig. 49: Radiation pattern of a dipole close(r) to ground

Clearly, the radiation pattern is symmetrical. It has a "null" or minimum direction in two opposite directions. Likewise, it has a maximum in two opposite directions. These bi-directional min and max directions are at right angles (90°, orthogonal). These symmetries pose a problem for direction-finding methods that are based on detection of the min or max direction. There are always two such opposite directions. I.e., there is always a 180° ambiguity! Note that this direction-finding ambiguity problem is exactly the same when using a rotating or rotable symmetrical pattern on the transmitter side, or on the receiver side. Such direction-finding systems provide a Linear Line of Position, as discussed in the previous section. The ambiguity can only be resolved by additional information: triangulation with another station, or being able to exclude one of the two LoP directions by other methods (e.g., one LoP direction is over land, whereas the receiver is at sea).

Due to delays and "adverse cirumstances", the Building Authority performed no further tests during 1909-1910. However, the tests at Müggelsee Lake had been successful enough to warrant construction in 1911 of a new antenna system, this time at the Fog Signal Test Station (“Funknebelsignalversuchsstation”) at Cape Arkona. Arkona (misspelled Arcona in some literature) is located 250 km due north of the center of Berlin, on the tip of the Baltic isle of Rügen, Germany´s largest island. This site was chosen to test under realistic operational conditions, and also such that in case of successful completion of the tests program, the system could be used to secure shipping traffic of the state rail ferry between Sassnitz (Saßnitz) on Rügen, and Trelleborg on the southern tip of Sweden (≈100 km).

Contrary to the installation at Friedrichshagen, this time it was a large antenna system. It comprised 32 short masts (2.6 m, ≈8.5 ft), evely spaced on a circle with a diameter of 115 m (≈377 ft), with a tall mast (2.6+43.8=46.4 m, ≈152 ft) at the center. Sixteen dipoles were strung from the central mast. Ref. 187C1-187C3. The dipoles were arranged radially, in a star configuration, i.e., one for every 11¼ degrees. The center of this star, the feedpoint of the dipoles, was raised more than the tips of the dipoles. Such dipoles are also called "inverted-V" dipoles. The span of the dipoles was about equal to the diameter of the circle. For standard half-wavelength dipoles, this implies a medium-wave operating frequency of about 300/(2x115) = 1.3 MHz = 1300 kHz. Due to the size of the installation, it was decided to involve the Telefunken company. To reduce cost and expedite construction, Telefunken recommended an antenna configuration that was different from the one used at Müggelsee Lake. The Müggelsee configuration turned out to be more suitable. So, the Building Authority decided to continue without Telefunken. Maybe this is why the 1912 Telefunken publications on this topic (ref. 187C1-187C3) mention Friedrichshagen but not Arkona!


Fig. 50: 1911 site plan for the Fog Signal test site at Arkona, with encoding of 16 dipole signals

(source: adapted from de.wikipedia.org, retrieved 15 April 2020)

During the summer of 1912, the Building Authority conducted a second series of tests, this time with an antenna arrangement "similar to that used at Müggelsee Lake, with minor modifications". Construction of this station was completed by October of 1912. It was a small system: eight 20 m tall wooden masts (≈66 ft), evenly spaced around a circle with a diameter of 40 m (≈130 ft), and a transmitter equipment shed near the center. See the photo below. There appears to be a support mast with a ball on top, just to the left of the shed. It is only about half as tall as the other masts, and is not at the center of the circle.


Fig. 51: The eight wooden antenna masts and small equipment shed of the Arkona test site - 1912

(source: 187K)

These antennas were installed within the earthen walls of the 12th century slavic Jarosmargburg hillfort. Remnants of the eight tripod masts and the associated tie down stakes were recorded in an archeologic site survey of 1921:


Fig. 52A: A 1921 archeological survey of the medieval Jarosmarburg site on Cape Arkona

(source: adapted from de.wikipedia.org; original 1921 survey drawn by Robert Koldewey)


Fig. 52B: The tip of Cape Arkona - approximate location of the antenna ring is marked with a yellow circle

(source original unedited photo: unknown)

A much larger antenna circle would not have fit within these earthen walls. The 1921 survey also did not record remnants of a larger circle of masts. So the large antenna system must have been installed somewhere else on the Cape, outside the walls. Note that the entire terrain inside these walls slopes upward towards the cliffs on the eastern side, with a rather steep 6% grade ( ≈3 m rise across the 40 m circle).

Tests were conducted through the end of 1912, using ship-board receivers on a passenger steamer and on one of the rail ferries. These were basically still simple, passive crystal sets ("Detektorempfänger"). Direction finding was possible out to 32 nautical miles (≈60 km), and signals could be distinginguished all the way to Trelleborg (≈100 km). Due to lack of funding, tests could not be repeated under various sorts of bad weather conditions and day/night variations in radio propagation. Possible improvements were considered in 1913 and planned to be implemented and tested at Arkona in 1914, with equipment of the Building Authority, Telefunken, and of the company “Dr. Huth-Berlin”. However, World War I interfered with this plan. War can indeed be quite a nuisance and a kill-joy...

Per ref. 187A7, tests with this small system showed that an accuracy of half a compass point (i.e., ≈6°) was feasible, based on averaging. But doesn't eight masts imply only four dipole antennas?! So, how was this demonstrated directivity obtained? Well, even in Germany, there was no law that dipoles had to be straight! Four dipoles in a star configuration gives you eight dipole halves, evenly spaced by 360°/8=45°. These halves can also be connected as horizontal-V dipoles (bent dipoles), instead of straight dipoles. This way, the "null beam" can be steered in twice as many fixed paired directions, thereby doubling the achievable bearing accuracy without changing the numebr of dipoles. See the figure below (c.f. the 3-dipole example on p. 421 in ref. 186A). The aformentioned Franz Kiebitz actually conceived the required "half angle" antenna switching arrangment:


Fig. 53: Sixteen "null" (or "maximum") directions obtainable with 8 dipoles

(the four possible straight dipoles are marked in green; source antenna switching arrangement: Fig. 1067 in ref. 187R)

Down to a V-angle of 45°, the general shape of the far-field dipole radiation pattern is not very sensitive to that angle. It is also not very sensitive to the sag of the dipole wires towards their feed-point at the center of the circle. But even so, there would still only be 16 paired "null/minimum" (or "maximum") directions spread out over 360°... Note that with 16 dipoles, the same technique would result in 16x2=32 paired "null" directions. Of course, this would have made the antenna switching system significantly more complicated! But that's not all! The system concept requires that the receiver station identify the dipole with the strongest or weakest signal in the direction of the receiver. For this to work, all dipoles must generate the same field strength. This was basically done by ensuring that all dipoles had close to the same antenna current when connected to the transmitter ("it is antenna current that radiates"). For identical dipoles and a homogeneous environment, this is relatively straightforward. This only required a single adjustment of the coupled coils at the output of the transmitter. However, when the dipole configuration is changed from "straight" to "shallow V" or "sharp V", the feed point impedance of the dipole changes significantly. This would then have required switcheable adjustment of the coupling coils, or switching between at least two sets of such coils. This was definitely a disadvantage with respect to simply doubling the number of dipoles. Note that the available literature does not mention how fast any of the above systems rotated. Of course, for proof-of-concept testing, this was not of prime importance.

As mentioned above, the Prussian Building Authority first contacted the Telefunken company in 1906 (at which time the company was already investigating directional radio transmissions, without much success), and engaged them in 1911 for the activities at Arkona. In 1907, Austrian-born Alexander Meißner (also spelled Meissner) joined Telefunken in Berlin, where he worked on radio direction-finding, radio location, directional radio transmission, and associated antenna technology. Ref. 187G, 187L. Meißner (also) pioneered transmitters using radio tubes/valves, and conceived a vacuum-tube feedback oscillator around the same time (1911-1913) as F. Lowenstein, L. de Forest, E. Reisz, C.S. Franklin, H.J. Round, E.H. Armstrong, I. Langmuir, O. Nussbaumer, S. Strauss, A. Sinding-Larsen, and others. Due to near-insuppressible worldwide nationalism (at least regarding inventions), rather lax patent criteria notably in the USA, general ignorance regarding "invention" vs. "patent", and limited understanding of foreign languages, typically only one of these names is recognized in any country.

But anyway, in 1911, Meißner developed what became known as the "Telefunken Kompass Sender" (radio compass, lit. "compass transmitter"). Ref. 184AE, 187C-187H. As is clear from his 1912 US patent 1135604, it makes several important practical improvements to the rotating dipole-beam system of the Prussian Building Authority:

  • Sequentially transmitting an identical signal (e.g., a short pulse) via the dipoles, instead of a dipole-specific pulse-sequence or tone.
  • Using a timing signal to announce the start of the rotation sequence. This could be a single pulse or a station identifcation code, distinct from the signal transmitted via the dipoles. Of course, this signal now had to be transmitted in a non-directional/omni-directional manner, as it had to be received throughout the entire coverage area of the beacon. A natural choice would be to start the dipole sequence with the dipole that has its null in the north-south direction. The the timing signal would then be equivalent to a North-signal.
  • Patent text page 1 (numbered lines 94-96) proposes to create the required non-directional pattern by simultaneously connecting all dipoles in parallel. From a switching point of view, this not as easy as it sounds. Possibly, this was the configuration tried by Telefunken at Arkona and deemed problematic by the Building Authority... However, the patent also proposes a separate omni-directional "umbrella" antenna (lines 99-101 on text page 1, lines 16, 19, 20 on page 2, and in patent figure 2 shown in Fig. 54 below). Consistent with this, the commutator/distributor in the patent figure connects to the dipoles as well as to an omni-antenna. The latter is accommodated just like an additional dipole would have been, by simply adding two contacts to the commutator.
  • Note that the same transmitter is used for the non-directional transmission as for the directional transmissions. During non-directional transmssion, the radio energy is spread out evenly in all 360° directions, instead of being concentrated in the figure-of-8 beam of single dipole. Hence, the received omni-signal is always weaker than the strongest dipole signal.
  • As shown in patent figure 2, the omni and dipole antennas would share a central mast. The dipole legs are no longer straight: each leg is bent into an inverted-V, and the dipole feed point is near ground level. This is not to be confused with an inverted-V dipole: it has straight legs, and the feed point is higher than the tips of the dipole.
  • The dipoles switching part of the Building Authority system was motorized. A rotary contact arrangement would have been the logical choice. That system also had secondary motorized switching mechanism for creating the dipole-specific "dot" and "dash" pulse sequences. In the patent diagram, this is implemented as an interupter disk in series with the signal from the transmitter. Unfortunately, there are no details available of the Building Authority system that allow us to determine if, or to what extent, Meißner's commutator was different.
  • Significantly simplifying the telegraphist's job at the receiver station. It was no longer needed to interpret the various dot/dash dipole signals. Instead, he simply had to measure the time between the north/time-signal and passage of the weakest dipole signal. The patent proposes a special stopwatch for this purpose. Its needle rotates at the same speed as the antenna commutator.

Interestingly, Meißner's patent was filed in August of 1912, after Telefunken 1912 publications such as ref. 187C1-187C3, and after Telefunken demonstrated a working scale model at the April 1912 Allgemeine Luftfahrzeug-Ausstellung (ALA) aviation exhibit in Berlin, ref. 187M! The patent obviously lists Meissner as inventor. For some reason, it does not list any assignee, even though he was working at Telefunken. There is no equivalent German patent, and elsewhere, there only appears to be one in The Netherlands (octrooi nr. 981, filed July 1912).

Telefunken Kompass-Sender

Fig. 54: Cross-section of the antenna system, the transmitter/commutator, and the Telefunken stopwatch

(source: diagram adapted from Meißner's 1912 US patent 1135604; also Fig. 3 in ref. 187C1-C3; stopwatch adapted from Fig. 2 in ref. 187D)

The face of the Telefunken stopwatch shows a circle with 34 tick marks, see Fig. 54. The ticks at the 12 and 6 o'clock position are marked "z" (probably for "zurück" = reset). There is one tick mark pair for each dipole antenna. I.e., 32 ticks in total. They are counted from 0 to 31, where "North" = 0 and "South" = 16. The ticks for the cardinal and intercardinal points of the compass are marked with the standard corresponding German letters N, O, S, W, and NO, SO, SW, NW, respectively. Note that the stopwatch does not have a conventional hand (needle), but a double one - across the entire watch face. It represents the two null-directions of a dipole antenna, and the associated 180° ambiguity.

According to ref. 187C1-187C3, the Telefunken Compass transmitted the north/timing signal after each half revolution of the commutator. This makes perfect sense. During a full commutator revolution, each of the 16 dipoles is energized twice, and the receiver station observes two null-passages. If the north/time signal were only sent once, then the second of these null passages would normally be wasted, and double the time between measurements. Note that with a single north-time-signal, using the second null instead of the first, does not change the measured bearing angle, with its 180° ambiguity. The antenna commutator turned at 2 rpm, i.e., one full revolution every 30 sec (though ref. 187F2 states 1 rpm). Hence, half a revolution took 15 sec.

The principle of the Telefunken Compass system is illustrated in the animation below. In this animation, the audio pulse tone is 1000 Hz, the standard for Telefunken quenched spark transmitters, see futher below. The tone is not sinusoidal, but a "spark" spike with a decaying tail (see top left-hand corner of Fig. 45 above). This replicates the rough sound of a quenched spark tone. Some background static noise was also included, for added realism.:

One cycle of the "Telefunken Kompass Sender" system

(move mouse/cursor over image to show player controls)

Reports that the system achieved an accuracy of about 3-4° (e.g., ref. 187C1-187C3, 1912), may refer to accuracy of reading the angle on the stopwatch (ref. 2) or after averaging multiple "null" passages. The average human reaction time for aural stimuli is about 0.25 sec, which would correspond to 6°/sec x 0.25 sec ≈ 1.5°. A significantly improvement the system accuracy would have required an impractical number of dipoles (ref. 184L, 1921).

A prototype of Meißner's Kompaßstation was built and tested at a Telefunken test site in Berlin-Gartenfeld (spelled Gartenfelde in old Telefunken publications). This is an 800 m (≈½ mi) wide triangular area, surrounded by canals. It is located between Berlin-Spandau and what had been canon and rifle shooting ranges of the Imperial Artillery ("kaiserliche Artillerie") and home of the 1st Prussian Airship Battalion ("1. preußische Luftschiffer-Batalion") at Reinickendorf. The ranges were closed after near-misses with boats in the area and a granade hitting a residential house in 1908. The former shooting range and airship area became Berlin-Tegel airport in 1948. Gartenfeld was acquired by the Siemens company late 1910 and was appended to Siemensstadt ("Siemens Town"), adjacent to the south. These Gartenfeld Cable Works ("Kabelwerk Gartenfeld") closed in 2002.

Telefunken Kompass-Sender

Fig. 55: Section of a 1912 map of greater Berlin - the Gartenfeld island is marked by the blue triangle

(source: adapted from wikipedia.org)

Per ref. 187C1-187C3, the central mast was about 20 m tall. This is consistent with the roof ridge of the equipment shed in the photo below being about 2.5 m above ground.


Fig. 56: The Telefunken Compass test site at Gartenfeld near Berlin-Spandau

(source: ref. 187C2)

The figure below shows three photos of Meißner's antenna commutator system. The photo at the center was taken inside the equipment shed in Fig. 56 above. The photo on the right was taken at Telefunken's equipment exhibition at the June 1912 International Radiotelegraph Conference in London (ref. 187D). It was decided at this same conference to relegate transmissions of telegraphy signals used exclusively for direction-finding and location of ships to wavelengths up to 150 m (i.e., frequencies above 2 MHz).

Let's first look at the left-hand photo. It corresponds to Meissner's 1912 US patent 1135604. At the top is a ring with porcelain insulators: one pair for each of the 16 connected dipole antennas and one omni-antenna), each with a ball-shaped contact at the bottom. It appears that these balls could "swing" to and from the central support. The antenna feed-line wires were connected just above the ball contacts. Below this ring are the two rotating arms of the commutator. There is a porcelain insulators at the end of each arm, again with a ball-shaped contact, now pointing upward. Just below the rotating arms are two slip rings that rotate with the arms. Each of the associated sliding contacts is mounted on a vertical rod, with a porcelain insulator at the base. Just above these insulators, the rods are connected to a quenched spark transmitter.

Telefunken Kompass-Sender

Fig. 57: The "Meißner" motorized transmitter distributor / antenna commutator

(source: (left) ref. 187C2 (also in 187C1 & C3); (center) ref. 187C2; (right) ref. 187D)

Also note the vertical disk between the motor and one of these two insulators. The motor is down-geared, and drives the disk and the rotating arms in synchrony. The disk has a series of cams/notches that actuate a normally-closed switch contact. One of the two connections to the transmitter is passed through this contact. This allowed a short Morse-code station identification to be transmitted instead of the start/North pulse signal, while the commutator was connected to an omni-directional antenna. Note that there is no such disk near the commutator-motor in the center and right-hand photos. In the center photo, it appears to be mounted on a small shelf against the outside wall, below a set of eight porcelain insulator disks. This disk has its own motor, so it was not synchronized to the commutator.

In the center and right-hand photo above, the transmitter is mounted directly below the base plate of the commutator. See the next figure. It is a Telefunken model "0,5 T.K." quenched-spark gap transmitter. As the model designator suggests, it had an output power of 0.5 kW. It dissipated over 1 kW. There is a large spiral inductor on the front side of the transmitter. It is made of copper tape. Behind this coil, there are three "Leyden jar" capacitors, connected in parallel. Combined, the inductor and capacitors determine the operating frequency of the transmitter. The frequency was adjustable by selecting taps on the front of the coil. Standard frequency range of the "0,5 TK" was ca. 500-1000 kHz, equivalent to a "medium wave" wavelength of 300-600 m. This could be customized down to 330 kHz (900 m, longwave). Next to the antenna-current meter, there is a frame in which a stack of porcelain insulators and copper electrode disks (with 0.2-0.3 mm mica insulating spacer rings) is compressed. This is a 10-section series spark gap "Funkenlöschstrecke": the actual quenched spark gap device! The copper disks were partially silver plated. They had a large diameter, to increase cooling and thereby improve "quenching" of the sparks. In the center and right-hand photos above, three additional copper-tape coils are visible below the transmitter. They are part of an adjustable antenna tuning circuit.

Telefunken Kompass-Sender

Fig. 58: Telefunken quenched-spark transmitter model "0,5 T.K." used in the early model "Kompass Sender"

(source: (left) ref. 187C; color photos adapted from ref. 186D)

The transmitter was powered by an AC motor-generator. It converted standard 220 V / 50 Hz AC power to 220 V / 500 Hz. A step-up transformer increased the latter to the required high voltage: ca. 8000 volt. The number of spark gaps depended on the desired transmitter power, e.g., 60 gaps for 35 kW. The rpm of the motor-generator was adjustable. This allowed ±30% variation of the nominal tone of the transmitted amplitude-modulated radio signal: 500 Hz AC power generated a 1000 Hz tone, as the transmitter "fires" each half-wave of the AC power (i.e., twice per 500 Hz cycle).

The Telefunken "0,5 TK" sales brochure mentions a range of 100-150 km over land (200 km at night), and 200-300 km over open sea (400 km at night), when using 20-30 m tall T-antennas at both the transmitter and receiver. The 1.5 kW model "1,5 TK" also operated on 500-1000 kHz and had an advertised range of 700 km. Ref. 186D, 186J1.

The Telefunken "Kompass Sender" was used for long-range navigation of dirigibles built by the Zeppelin, Parseval, Schütte-Lanz, and Basenach companies (ref. 1, 2, 185G, 185H, 235L). In 1912, a complete network of 33 of such beacons was proposed, spaced 50 - 100 km along the entire "political border" of Germany (ref. 187C1-187C3, 187H):

Telefunken Kompass-Sender

Fig. 59: Map of Telefunken Compass beacons along the border of the German Reich, as proposed in 1912

(source: ref. 187H)

The beacon stations were to have used Telefunken ½ kW transmitters, powered by the local electricity grid, and be fully automated: no need for operating staff/personnel.

In 1914, the US Navy began to evaluate radio direction finding systems on Fire Island, a narrow barrier island along the south side of Long Island, New York. The Navy Bureau of Equipment purchased a Bellini-Tosi directional receiver system and a Telefunken Compass transmitter system. Construction drawings of the foundations of the "Telefunken Aerial" and the "Telefunken Compass Building" are dated July 1914 - June 1915 (ref. 187P). Actual testing probably took place in 1916 (ref. 187E1). Per ref. 187N, the central mast was about 30 m tall (100 ft) and the dipole antennas spaced 20°. This spacing implies eight dipoles, so the spacing was actually two compass points, i.e., 2 x 11¼° = 22½°. That same reference states that the commutator shorted out all dipoles, except the one being used to transmit. It also states that a different code letter was transmitted via each dipole. I.e., Telefunken had "borrowed" the scheme from the original system of the Prussian Building Authority! Demonstrated bearing accuracy was about 5 - 10°, which was deemed acceptable for rough navigation of commercial vessels, but not for war-time military vessels.

In the end, only two "Telefunken Compass" stations were built in Germany. They were operational through the end of WW1 (November 1918). One station was built at the village of Bedburg-Hau, on the southeast side of Cleve in Germany, close to where the river Rhine crosses into The Netherlands. These days, the "Funkturmstraße" (lit. "Radio Tower Street") in Hau is a reminder of exactly where the station was located. Cleve is spelled Kleve since a German spelling reform in July of 1935, and is spelled Cleves in English. In 1939, a large "Knickebein" fixed-beam station was built in Materborn, on the west side of Cleve. The second Compass station was built at Tönder (Tønder/Denmark before 1864 and after World War I), with its airship base of the German Imperial Navy ("kaiserliche Marine"). Obviously, the beacons were deactivated at the end of WW1. The station at Cleve was dismantled in 1926, on orders of the Belgian occupational forces in that area (ref. 187J).

According to ref. 187R, the main wooden antenna mast stood 75 m tall (≈245 ft). Per ref. 187J, the trellis mast was made of American pitch pine, a dense high-strength hard wood. Thirty (!) dipoles were suspended from the top of the main mast, down to sixty support masts (standard "Telegraphenstangen", i.e., telegraph/telephone poles) that were spaced evenly on a circle with a diameter of 2x125=250 m (≈820 ft). Note: ref. 187R mentions both 125 and 130 m as diameter. The support masts were 12 m (≈40 ft) tall. There were five evenly spaced "crow's nest" platforms on the main mast, see Fig. 60 below. The dipole wires were strung from each support mast to an insulator on the outside the upper platform (i.e., several meters below the top of the mast), and from there all the way straight down, attached to an isolator at each platform. This implies that there was no separate omni-directional antenna, and that omni-directional transmission was done via all dipoles simultaneously, as confirmed by the schematic in Fig. 61 below.

Telefunken Kompass-Sender

Fig. 60: The wooden central mast of the Telefunken "Kompass Sender" near Cleve (left) and Tönder (center)

(source: ref. 187J (left), Fig. 1090 and Fig. 1085 in ref. 187R)

Per ref. 187R, there was no Meißner-commutator between the transmitter and the dipoles. Instead, there was a very large toroidal coil ("Trommelspule", "Ringspule") with a diameter of 2 m (6.6 ft)! This coil comprised 720 wire-turns with 60 evenly spaced taps for the 30 dipole antennas. Inside the coil, similar to the Meißner-commutator, an arm rotated. There was a sliding brush at both ends of the arm that connected via slip rings to a 4 kW Telefunken quenched spark transmitter. Compared to the standard radio goniometer, this toroidal coil had a more homogeneous coil field and rotation did not cause undesirable capacitance variation (ref. 184B).

This final implementation of the Telefunken Compass was in fact not longer a step-wise rotating beam system, but the very first operational continously rotating beacon!

Telefunken Kompass-Sender

Fig. 61: The transmission control system of the Telefunken Kompass stations at Kleve and Tönder

(source: adapted from Fig. 1091 in ref. 187R)

A large number of cam disks was used to transmit the various Morse-code identifier and timing signals, and to switch between the directional and the omni-directional antenna configuration. At the center of the diagram above, there is a cam disk marked "Flimmerzeichen" , i.e., blinker. Its purpose is to transmit rapid short pulses instead of a constant signal, to improve accurate detection by the receiver station of the signal null/minimum.

The shafts of the cam disks were driven by a system made by the company Carl Zeiss (renowned for its lenses and scientific instruments) in the city of Jena, about 225 km southwest of Berlin. The drive system was regulated by an accurate clock (±0.2 sec/day), made by the Riefler precision-clock company in Munich. For omni-directional transmission, all dipole wires were connected together by bridging the two sliding brushes, and one side of the transmitter was connected to ground/earth.

Per ref. 187R, the Telefunken Kompass stations at Cleve and Tönder used the following transmision sequence, see Fig. 63:

  • First, the station at Cleve ("Station C") repeatedly transmitted its identifier ("Stationszeichen"), the Morse-code letters "ccc", during 42 sec. This was an omni-directional transmission.
  • This was followed by the "start" sequence ("Loszeichen"): the Mors-code punctuation character "=" (dash-dot-dot-dot-dash), followed by the letters "o" (dash-dash-dash) and "s" (dot-dot-dot). The last "dot" of this sequence was the actual start signal. This sequence was also transmitted omni-directionally.
  • Then a constant tone signal ("Peilungsstrich") was transmitted with rotating directivity for 80 sec, at two rpm. So, receiving stations would observe a signal null/minimum every 15 sec.
  • Finally, a termination signal ("Schlußzeichen") was sent, again omni-directionaly: the Morse-code procedure sign (prosign) AR (for the Morse procedure word "new page"), followed by the punctuation character ":" (dash-dash-dash-dot-dot-dot). The final "dot" coincided with "north" passage of the null-direction, exactly 90 sec after the last "dot" of the "start" sequence.
  • Ten second laters, the station at Tönder ("Station B") would start its 90 sec sequence, but use the Morse-code letters "bbb" as station identifier.
  • Both stations transmitted on the same radio frequency, around 165 kHz (1800 m, long-wave).

Telefunken Kompass-Sender

Fig. 62: Relative timing of the Cleve and Tönder Telefunken Kompass stations

(source: Fig. 1088 in ref. 187R)

During 1918, civilian radio listeners in The Netherlands (a neutral country during WW1) became aware of regular transmissions by "mysterious" directional radio stations in Germany, with cyclically varying signal strength. Their observations, conjectures, and conclusions were discussed in several issues of the monthly magazine of the Netherlands Telegraphy Association, ref. 187Q1-187Q9. These private observations were supplemented with measurements by several direction-finding and listening stations of the Navy, Army, and schools. For example, for the "c" station, the following was observed:

  • Transmission sequences started at 4 minutes past the full and half hour.
  • Each sequence started with omni-directional transmission that consisted of:
  • five groups of three letters "c",
  • then the Morse-code prosign AS (used for both "wait" and for ampersand, i.e., the character "&"),
  • and finally the group "eee", i.e., three "dots". The last "dot" would have signified the "start stopwatch" signal.
  • On other occasions, the "c" station sent its sequences every 15 minutes:
  • the c-series,
  • followed by the "double dash" punctuation character "=" (dash-dot-dot-dot-dash)
  • and finally the punctuation character ":". The latter character is "dash-dash-dash-dot-dot-dot". Again, the last "dot" signified the "start stopwatch" signal.
  • Some observations only mention gradually increasing and decreasing signal strength, i.e., not stepwise. Others reported that the directional transmission sequence comprised long dashes of about three seconds each (ref. 187Q1).
  • Note that for an antenna system with 16 dipoles, this implies one revolution in 60 seconds, with a 0.75 sec pause between dashes. I.e., as if there was a commutator switches between consecutive dipoles.
  • Some observations mention passage of 5 or 6 minimums during a 90 sec cycle. I.e., 15 sec between minimums. This is consistent with the 2 rpm rotational speed.
  • Based on the received sound, it had to be a "fluitvonkstation", literally a whistling spark station, i.e., a quenched spark transmitter.

By triangulation, listeners determined that the "c" station was the Telefunken Radio Compass at Cleve, and "b" the station at Tönder. All participating receiving stations were within 100-200 km (≈ 60-125 mi) from beacon "c". Signals received from that beacon never disappeared completely during the minimums. I.e., the minimums of the radiation pattern are not true "nulls". The receivers were 175-500 km (≈ 110-310 mi) from beacon "b". During the long (wide) minimum, no signal was received. Only one listener ever claimed to have heard the "é" ("dot-dot-dash-dot-dot") station.

The 1919 Reichs patent nr. 328279 of Leo Pungs and Hans Harbich (both of Telefunken's competitor C. Lorenz AG) proposes to replace the toroidal coil with an arrangement of two concentric cylindrical coils, the outer one being a stationary non-contact drum armature ("Trommelspule") with a special winding scheme, the inner one rotating, and coupled to the transmitter (see Fig. 1083 in ref. 187R). Mr. Pungs (author of ref. 187R) also patented a special stop-clock for use with a Radio Compass (RP 328274, May 1917), to accurately measure the time between two successive null/minimum signal passages, instead of between the North/Start-signal and the first null/minium passage.

Of course, the original Telefunken "Kompass Uhr" stopwatch could still be used, with its nautical "compass points" scale (see Fig. 54). However, a special high-resolution direction-finding stop-clock "Peiluhr" was developed, see Fig. 62 below. Its single-hand made a step every 0.1 sec, making its rotation seem continuous. This, combined with the high number of dipoles (30 vs. 16) and the goniometer instead of a commutator, the obtainable accuracy was improved to about 1° (ref. 187R).

Telefunken Kompass-Sender

Fig. 62: "Peiluhr" direction-finding clock for use with the Telefunken Kompass

(source: Fig. 1089 in ref. 187R)

As Meissner mentions in his 1928 German patent 529891, the accuracy that could be obtained with the Telefunken Compass system depended on the stopwatch operator and the relatively low rotational speed of the beacon. This required averaging of several consecutive bearing measurements, a rather time-consuming process that was only acceptable for slowly moving boats, and ships. His patent proposes to replace the stopwatch with an optical indicator that rotates synchronously with the beam of the beacon, rotating at very high speed (e.g., 20 rps = 1200 rpm!). The pulses received from sweep-by of the rotating beam would be converted to two near-stationary light spots (spaced 180°) at the corresponding positions on a compass scale.

Clearly, the concept of the "rotating beam" radio compass is completely independent of transmitter technology. Spark, arc, and machine transmitters were doomed by the advent of vacuum tube transmitters around 1910 (see Fig. 45 above). The demise of spark transmissions was also caused not just by their inefficiency, but primarily by their very large occupied bandwidth. This often caused interference, and severely limited the number of operating frequencies ("tunes") that could be used simultaneously. Therefore, the International Radiotelegraph Conference of 1927 (ref. 186H) decided to immediately forbid new spark transmitter installations on land, and per 1 January 1930 in ships and aircraft (except low power). Not only installation of new stations, but also the use of undamped wave "spark" transmissions was phased out: first forbidden below 375 kHz as of 1 January 1930, then forbidden from land-based stations per 1 January 1935, and completely by 1 January of 1940 (except with less than 300 W power supply consumption, i.e., no more than about 150 watt transmitted power). §2 of article 4 of the adopted regulations also implied an immediate ban on all amateur radio use of spark transmitters. But by that time, simple vacuum tube telegraphy transmitters had already become inexpensive and very efficient compared to sparkers.

This was basically the end of the line for this first generation of rotating-beam radio navigation beacons - until the latter half of the 1920s...


During first decades of the 20th century, there was a lot of experimentation going on in the field of directional antenna systems (ref. 185U), the use of directional radio reception and transmission, in particular for maritime navigation. Most of it contributed to knowledge and experience, but did not lead to long lived applications. An interesting British example of this is the large rotating beam system constructed in 1920 on the small isle of Inchkeith in the Firth of Forth, some 10 km northeast of downtown Edinburg. It was a cooperation of the Marconi company (designed and developed by Charles Samuel Franklin) and Trinity House, in its role as General Lighthouse Authority. A second such beacon was erected at South Foreland/England. The antenna system was about 10 m tall (≈33 ft), with arms of similar length (ref. 185F, p. 34). It comprised two back-to-back parabolic reflector "curtain" screens, each made up of about two dozen parallel vertical wires, spaced about one foot. Also see the 1919 US Marconi/Franklin "reflectors" patent nr. 1301473. A vertical monopole transmitter antenna was placed on the axis of symmetry of each parabola, typically about ¼ wavelength in front of it. This configuration generated two sharp radio beams in opposite directions, sweeping at a constant speed of ½ rpm (one revolution in 2 minutes = one beam passage per minute), very much like an optical lighthouse. Ship-board, only a simple receiver installation was required. A bearing accuracy of a quarter compass point was obtained (≈2.8°). Ref. 228U, 228V. The spark transmitter operated on a wavelength around 4 m (ref. 228U; ≈ 6 m per ref. 228A), i.e., a frequency around 70 MHz (VHF). A distinct Morse signal was sent every half compass point ( = every 5.625°). I.e., the same approach as pioneered by the stepwise rotating beam system of the Prussian Building Authority ten years earlier.

Inchkeith beacon

Fig. 64: The Rotating Beam System on Inchkeith.

(source: adapted from ref. 228T)

Inchkeith beacon

Fig. 65: The Inchkeith antenna system under construction

(source: Marconi International Marine Communications Company Ltd.)

The British government established the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) in 1916. The Department formed the Radio Research Board (RRB) in January of 1920. In 1925, (Sub-)Committee "C" (Directional Wireless) of the Board initiated preliminary tests of a radio beacon system with a loop antenna that rotated through 360°. Loop antennas have radiation pattern similar to dipole antennas, i.e., a figure-of-eight shape, with two null/minimum directions that are spaced by 180°, and two flat maximum directions. See Fig.48 above and Fig. 64 below. Using rotating loops for direction-finding reception was common practice, and based on reciprocity, the same directional pattern applies to transmission. This was not a novelty at that time (ref. 228A). These tests were performed by the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) based at Farnborough airfield, located about 50 km (≈33 miles) southwest of downtown London. The test installation was set up at Gosport's WW1 RAF airfield (at nearby Ft. Monckton per ref. 228B, 228D, 228S2), located on the Channel coast near Portsmouth, about 60 km southwest of Farnborough. This beacon operated on a wavelength of 707 m (424 kHz) and the loop antenna was a 5x5 ft (≈1.5x1.5 m) square with six turns of wire. To reduce the wire's loss resistance (important, as the antenna was extremely small compared to the wavelength), the wire comprised 1458 insulated strands of SWG 40 wire ( = 0.1118 mm diam). Ref. 228R, 228S1. Experiments showed that for open-sea ranges up to 50-60 miles, all observed bearings agreed to within 5° of bearing estimated with other methods (themselves typ. with 1-2° accuracy), and about 70% of all cases agreed within 2°. During subsequent experiments with ships anchored at 90-100 miles, the bearings agreed within 4°. At distances beyond 60 miles, noticeable night-effects were observed, as with other DF methods. These effects were more serious beyond 90 miles. Ref. 228C, 228D.

Early 1928, it was concluded that these experiments were promising enough to warrant full-scale trials with a more permanent beacon. The decision to proceed was taken shortly thereafter. The costs and the work were to be shared by the Air Ministry and Trinity House. Ref. 228K. In November of 1928, the cost was estimated to amount to GB£5k, ref. 228J. Based simply on the inflation rate data for general goods and services, this would be equivalent to about £316 thousand in 2019 (≈€360k). The site selected for these trials was the Orford Ness, for its coastline location and for financial reasons. The ness had been acquired by the British War Department in 1913/14, and a military airfield became operational there in 1915. As the name suggests, Orford Ness is a headland, or "ness". There are no records of monstrous beings having been sighted here - at least not of the aquatic kind and not more than in the general population. This narrow peninsula is some 15 km (≈9 miles) long, and is separated from the Suffolk/England mainland by the Alde-Ore estuary. The widest part of the ness is off the village of Orford, about 130 km (≈80 miles) northeast of downtown London. The ness became the site of the first Royal Flying Corps (RFC) air research station in 1913. The associated military airfield became operational in 1915. The Ness remained a restricted military site through 1982, including WW2 radar development, atomic and conventional weapons research, and over-the-horizon radar trials.

Formal purpose of the trials with the Orfordness (one word!) Beacon was to test practical utility for various classes of ships and for aviation, investigate transmitter power requirements vs. operating frequency [for some desired operating range], investigate limitations regarding siting, and estimate operating and maintenance cost for full-scale operation. However, per communications from the Air Ministry to the Treasury, the Ministry's actual motivation was the importance to RAF aerial navigation, in particular at night, and for direction-finding simply with standard on-board radio equipment. Ref. 228F2, 228K. Construction of the building for supporting the rotating-loop antenna and to install associated radio equipment started in January of 1929. The beacon building is located 475 m west of the 1792 Orford Lighthouse, also located on the ness. The beacon officially entered into service on 20 June 1929, after some initial test flights by the RAF.

Orfordness Beacon

Fig. 66: The Orfordness Black Beacon with barracks to the left and electrical "power house" to the right

(source: adapted from Orford_Ness_23.jpg, © 2008 Simon James, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

The ground level of the beacon building is an octagonal concrete box with an external buttress at each corner. This concrete base is close to 3 m heigh (≈10 ft), ref. 228Q. Applying this dimension as a reference to available photos, the pointed roof of the beacon building is about 5 m across and the tip of the roof at about 10.5 m (≈35 ft) above ground. The upper structure housed the transmitter and motor drive for the antenna. It is timber framed and covered with tarred wooden clapboard (weatherboard) siding. Hence the name "black" beacon. Entry to the upper levels is via external stairs. The delapidated beacon building was restored in 1994. The original timber central drive shaft of the loop antenna is still inside the building. The beacon was powered via cables by large (30 kW) WW1-vintage generators at the airfield site on the ness. The brick powerhouse in the photo above (about 6x8 m in size) housed a much smaller generator. It was built early 1933, to reduce operating costs and also to serve a new bombing range that was under construction at the time.

The loop antenna was a small multi-turn "frame coil" loop of about 10x10 ft square (ref. 228M3). The vertically oriented loop was mounted on a vertical wooden shaft that poked through the roof of the beacon. No other technical details are available regarding the antenna. It rotated with a speed of 1 rpm, i.e., 6° per sec. To ensure accuracy of the system, this speed had to be constant and precise. A "phonic motor" was used to achieve this (ref. 228K). Its concept was invented by Poul la Cour in Denmark in 1885 and patented by him in Britain in 1887. Ref. 228P. It was originally used to synchronize telegraphy and teleprinter systems, as well as J.L. Baird's television system. In essence, it uses a stable electric oscillator to drive a synchronous motor. Since the 1920s, this was implented with a simple electronic audio tone generator. Its signal drives an electromagnet that is coupled to a mechanical tuning fork and continuously excites the fork. Tuning forks can only oscillate at a specific audible frequency (hence "phonic"). The resulting precise, constant fork vibration is captured via capacitive coupling. This signal is then amplified to the required power level for the synchronous AC motor. The fork's frequency was based on the rpm set point and the number of poles per phase of the AC motor. Deriving an audio frequency from a highly stable and precise source like a high frequency quarz crystal oscillator was neither practicable, nor were such oscillators and the necessary frequency dividers available at the time. With this drive system, the beacon could hold its 1 rpm to within 0.01 sec per rev. (ref. 228L). "North" was aligned with True North, not Magnetic North (ref. 228N). In modern aviation, beacons such as VOR (VHF Omi-directional Range) are referenced to Magnetic North, not True North, as Magnetic North is the only reference direction that can still be determined when the aircraft's electrical and vacuum systems have failed. I.e., when only the magnetic "whisk(e)y" compass remains.

Orfordness Beacon

Fig. 67: The Black Beacon - with what the antenna might have looked like, and the loop radiation pattern

(source: adapted from Orford_Ness_23.jpg, © 2008 Simon James, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

The beacon transmitted on a long-wave frequency of 288.5 kHz, i.e., a wavelength of about 1040 m. There are no clear references regarding the output power of the transmitter, of which only a small fraction was actually radiated, given the very small size of the loop compared to the wavelength. When operational (ref. 228H1-228H11), the beacon repeated a fixed transmission sequence, starting at the full hour. During the first minute of each sequence, the station call sign (GFP) was repeatedly sent in slow Morse code. Then a continuous tone-modulated carrier signal was sent for five minutes. This was followed by five minutes of silence. Ref. 228H1-228H11, 228K, 228N.

In April of 1930, it was decided to build a second such beacon, at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) site at Cove near Farnborough/Hampshire (ref. 228H4, 228K). The RAE had a Radio & Navigation Department at Cove. The stated objective was "to test the general utility of this system of direction finding and to ascertain in particular, whether by obtaining bearings from the two beacons [ = triangulation], aircraft can fix their position with sufficient accuracy for practical purposes". The beacon became operational in November of 1930. The Cove/Farnborough beacon transmitted during the five-minute intervals during which the Orfordness beacon was silent.

Orfordness Beacon

Fig. 68: Particulars of the two primary beacons and beacon locations

(source: based on ref. 228H4)

A "North" signal was transmitted while the "nulls" of the antenna radiation pattern swept through the North and South direction. This signal was a single Morse-code character (see Fig. 68). As soon as the constant tone started after this Morse character, the receiving station started the stopwatch (ref. 228N). The stopwatch was stopped upon subsequent passage of the beam's "null". This is exactly the same method as patented by Meißner in 1912 and implemented with the Telefunken "Compass". See the section above. This is referred to as an "ingenious technique" in ref. 262F (p. 4, pdf p. 18; 1948). In the Telefunken Compass, the rotation was stopped during transmission of the North signal, and that signal was transmitted via a separate, omni-directional antenna. Here, only a directonal antenna is used, and it rotates non-stop. So, if the receiver was located close to due north or south of the beacon, the North signal could not be received. Therefore, the beacon also transmitted an "East" signal that could be used instead of the "North" signal. Of course, 90° had to be added to the bearing measurement). The "East" signal was not (and could not) be used to resolve the 180° ambiguity caused by the antenna radiation pattern having two diametrically opposed null-directions.

A sufficiently accurate stopwatch or other chronograph had to be used. Such a stopwatch could have a special dial "somewhat similar in type to that proposed for use with the Telefunken Compass in 1912" (ref. 228L), see Fig. 68 below. Instead of a stopwatch, a sort of strip-chart or other ondulator recorder could also be used to measure the time between "North" or "East" signal and subsequent "null" passage. Ref. 228M1-228M3.

Orfordness Beacon stopwatch

Fig. 69: Stopwatch dials for use with the rotating beacon

(source: adapted from ref. 228L)

All civil pilots and merchant marine radio operators were invited to use the beacons and report accuracy to the Air Ministry (ref. 228H4). During the initial nine months of operation (ref. 228D), the general conclusion from reports submitted by ships was that accurate bearings were obtainable with "ordinary" receivers at a range of 50-100 miles (presumably nautical miles), and up to 250 miles with "more elaborate" receivers. During the subsequent nine months (ref. 228E, 228F2), about 160 ships submitted reception reports. Participating ships, anchored within 45 miles, recorded an accuracy no worse than 1° compared to true bearings accurately determined by other DF means(themselves typically with 1° - 2° accuracy). Overall, with "normal modern" receivers (i.e., 1- or 2-tubes/valves), a reliable range on the order of 100 miles was obtained, day and night, with an accuracy no worse than 2° in about 80% of the cases. With slightly degraded-but-workable accuracy, a range of 250 miles was obtained, and up to 500 miles with more sensitive receivers. A few ships reported accurate bearings at ranges from 400 - 900 miles. Ref. 228F2. The German Küstenfunkstelle (coastal radio station) at Cuxhafen and at Norddeich, at ca. 425 and 525 km northeast of Ortford, also provided signal reports. Ref. 228K. As to be expected for a land-based long- or medium-wave beacon, ships also observed a 1° - 2° shoreline effect (a.k.a. "coastal deviation", "coast refraction") around certain directions. I.e., beam bending towards the shore line. Ref. 228F2, 228N. The RAF performed tests with three bombers in May of 1931, but results were inconclusive. Ref. 228K.

In October of 1934, it was decided to shut down both the Orford and Cove/Tangmere beacon (ref. 228K). From a military point of view, such beacons were considered to have a fatal flaw: they could be hijacked by enemy transmitters. However, it appears that this decision was rescinded at some point: per Air Ministry Notice to Airmen No. 32 of 1938 (ref. 228H11), the Orfordness beacon was (still or again) active in 1938. Per ref. 228N (1939), the beacons at Orford and Tangmere (though with the Farnborough call sign GFT) were still active in August of 1939. The British revisited this perceived vulnerability when they attemped to bend and "spoof" the German WW2 "Knickebein" beam in 1939/1940.


Otto Scheller obtained well over 70 patents, primarily while working at the C. Lorenz company in Berlin. Two of his patents have been absolutely fundamental and groundbreaking for radio navigation. They have found widespread application in aircraft navigation, from the late 1920s to the present time - both en route and for approach and landing. The first patent, German Imperial Patent nr. 201496 (see Patent Table 3), dates back to 1907. Keep in mind, both “radio” and "aviation" were still in their very early infancy! This patent proposes the following, ref. 229C:

  • Using directional radio means to create a sharply defined line in space. This line is easy to locate, even under poor weather conditions, incl. reduced visibility. This could be used by mobile receiving stations as a position marker or course line for marking shipping lanes.
  • Note: in those days, aviation did not yet need the means to navigate other than by simple visual reference to landmarks and man-made objects (a.k.a., "pilotage").
  • Such course lines to be generated by two co-located antenna systems, with identical "figure-of-8" directional radiation patterns and the same operating frequency.
  • Scheller proposes two pairs of vertical antennas, see Figure 60 below. The paired vertical arrangement is covered by Scheller's patent nr. 192524, also from 1907. It uses a single transmitter source of "undamped" waves, inductively coupled to both vertical radiators of the pair.
  • This 2-pair antenna configuration was "borrowed" over a decade later by Frank Adcock, as part of his 1919 Direction Finding patent (GB 130,490). Adcock also proposed a configuration with elevated vertical dipoles (not practical for LF/MF/HF frequencies) instead of monopoles, and added compensation/elimination of common-mode signals by adding 180° phase shift between the two antennas of each pair, resulting in a "2 crossing H's" configuration.
  • The two antenna systems to be angled with respect to each other, such that the lobes of their radiation patterns partially overlap, and a narrow common line of same-strength signals is created (i.e., the equi-signal beam).
  • Effectively, as the patent drawing illustrates, this creates not one, but four equi-signal course lines, of which two are narrower than the other two.
  • The two antenna systems to be energized in an alternating on/off and distinct manner. E.g., one transmits “dots” (the letter "E" in Morse code), the other “dashes” (the letter "T"), such that one is always transmitting. That is, an "interlocked" system.
  • Note: "E/T" is the simplest combination of distinct interlocking pulses. Exactly the same effect can, and was, obtained with the complementary Morse code letter combinations A/N ("A" = "dot dash", "N" = "dash dot"), F/L ("F" = "dot dot dash dot", "L" ( = dot dash dot dot"), D/U ("D" = "dash-dot-dot", "U" = "dot-dot-dash") and others.
  • Note: Scheller patent does not consider sending two different tones instead of two distinct on/off signals - “wireless telephony” transmission was still very small scale and experimental at that time.
  • On the equi-signal line, a mobile receiver station will hear a constant sound. When moving away from the equi-signal line, one of the two audio signals will become predominant. This allows detection of course deviation as such, as well as determination of the direction of this deviation (i.e., to the "E" side or to the "T" side of the equi-signal line).
  • The direction of the four equi-signal course lines can be changed with respect to each other, by modifying the relative transmission power of the two antenna systems.
  • This is expanded by Scheller’s 1916 patent (nr. 299753), in which he proposes to use a radio-goniometer - not to change the receive-direction of a Radio D/F station (as proposed by Artom, Bellini and Tosi, see Fig. 44 above and patent table 3), but to rotate the entire transmitted 4-directions radiation pattern. I.e., without the need to physically rotate the antenna system, or move the relative positions of the transmitting antennas. The 1916 patent also mentions the use of a radio-goniometer to make the equi-signal beams wider or narrower.
  • Multiple, sharply defined equi-signal lines can be created by changing the relative transmission power of the two antenna systems in a cyclic manner.
  • This was later done in the 12-Course Radio Range system in the US, and German World War II multi-beam beacon systems such as “Erika”, “Sonne”, etc.
  • If only a single course line is desired, two uni-directional antenna systems should be used, instead of bi-directional ones.
  • This concept was later used in VHF/UHF Instrument ("blind") Landing Systems systems.
  • Use a stationary radio receiver station located on the equi-signal line, for monitoring the transmissions.
  • This has also become standard practice.

Lorenz-Scheller A/N system

Fig. 70: The 1907 and 1916 Scheller patents for course-line radio beacons

The following plots show the horizontal radiation pattern of two pairs of vertical antennas, arranged as a square, as in Scheller's patent. The polar plot on the left corresponds to the lines A11-A2 and B1-B2 crossing at right angles (90°) in the figure above. The plot on the right is for crossing at 45°/135°: two of the overlapping zones are now much narrower, two are wider.

Lorenz-Scheller A/N system

Fig. 71: Horizontal radiation pattern of the Scheller antenna configuration - for 90°/90° and 45°/135° crossing angles

(the two pairs of associated NEC files of my 4NEC2 antenna simulation model are here, here, here, and here)

The next figure shows the 3D radiation patters for the same two pairs of vertical antennas, for the 90° crossing angle case:

Lorenz-Scheller A/N system

Fig. 72: 3D radiation pattern of the Scheller antenna configuration - separately for each antenna pair

(the two associated NEC files of my 4NEC2 model are here and here)

That was 1907. Then… nothing much happened with Scheller's invention for about ten years. In 1917, Franz Kiebitz, while serving in the German kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Navy) during World War I, was the first to build and test Scheller's patented concept with its 2+2 vertical antennas arrangement. Ref. 184L, 229A, 229B, 229G. Rather than using the interlocking Morse characters "E" and "T" as proposed by Scheller, he used the likewise complementary characters "A" and "N". So, it was Kiebitz who made the world's first A/N equi-signal beam system. He tested this system with both ships and aircraft. This confirmed the ability of the equi-signal beam to mark a narrow course line, and allow detection of deviation from this line. With a 150 W tube transmitter and a 32° crossing-angle between the antenna pairs, he obtained an equi-signal beam width of 3° and a reliable range of 130 km (≈80 mi). With two beacons, each with three vertical antennas in an equilateral triangle configuration, he even obtained circular equi-signal lines (ref. 229B). He also observed that errors were introduced by the directional characteristics of a receiving antenna-wire trailing behind the aircraft. Due to the operating frequency, such antennas were long (e.g., 60 m = 200 ft, ref. 185T). This undesirable effect was confirmed years later, in 1923, in the USA (ref. 229E). Kiebitz also observed shore-line effect (beam bending due to land-sea transition) of up to 5°. During the aftermath of World War I, there was no immediate interest in Germany to continue Kiebitz's activities.

Note: until 1988, German patents had a "term of protection" (validity period) of 15 years. However, in 1920, the validity of patents that expired during WW1 was extended internationally by up to the duration of WW1.

However, after World War I, especially in the USA, long-distance aviation developed at a high pace, both for passenger air transport and trans-continental airmail service. Hence, the need arose for navigation aids for the growing network of routes between airports - in addition to using landmarks and prominent man-made structures such as railroad lines ("steel-beam navigation"). In particular at night, as the mail service basically worked 24/7. This started in 1919 with bonfires, scattered along the air routes (ref. 229D3, 229F, 229J). Early 1923, the US Post Office Department began to construct a transcontinental airway system with optical beacons (enhanced lighthouses). In 1926, this activity was transferred to the brand new Aeronautics Branch of the US Department of Commerce. By 1933, about 1500 optical beacons were in place. A standard beacon station comprised a lattice tower (standard sizes from 51 up to 152 ft tall), with a powerful 24 or 36 inch diameter rotating-mirror light (500 W or 1 kW), two 18 inch stationary pencil-beam course lights, and an illuminated windsock. Ref. 229S3-No.15). The color of the rotating and stationary light beams indicated whether the beacon served a landing field, a waypoint between landing fields, or an obstruction. Next to the tower was a shack, marked with airway designators. At remote sites, it housed two gasoline generators (one on standby), activated by a timer or a photocell. A large concrete course-arrow (ca. 70 ft long, ref. 229S3-No.15) next to the tower also pointed in the direction of the airway. The FAA officially decommisioned the last US federal airway beacon in 1973 (near Palm Beach, CA).

Optical airway beacons

Fig. 73: Airway Light Beacons and a 5¢ "Beacon on Rocky Mountains" stamp from 1928

(source center image: Cibola County Historical Society - Aviation Heritage Museum)

As useful as this "light line" system was, it still required the pilot to have visual contact. During times of reduced visibility (clouds at or below the aircraft altitude, fog, precipitation), no such contact could be established or maintained, or only at close range to a beacon.

By 1920, the US National Bureau of Standards (NBS) was seriously involved in R&D regarding "electron" tubes (vacuum tubes, thermionic valves) and radio. The NBS was an agency of the US Department of Commerce, and renamed National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) in 1988. This work included cooperation with the Bureau of Lighthouses for a radio-based fog signal system. I.e., just like their German counterpart over 10 years before, see the "Radio Compass" section above. Furthermore, the NBS developed automatic radio transmitter sets for lighthouses, radio compasses, radio direction finders, and the renowned broadcast radio station WWV. This station started in May of 1920 and changed in 1923 to transmission of accuate reference time signals on standard longwave and shortwave frequencies. It is active to this day. Ref 229D12-229D15. Around that time, Percival D. Lowell and Francis W. Dunmore of the NBS worked on loop antennas, designed vacuum tube amplifiers and ship-ship and ship-shore radio communication systems. Ref. 229D14. They also appear to have been co-owners of the Radio Instrument Co., to whom the NBS outsourced work. In 1920, Lowell arrived at the same idea as patented by Scheller in 1907: use overlapping radio beams to create pairs of fixed-direction equi-signal beams. His idea was not picked up at the NBS until another two years later.

The remainder of this section is currently (May 2020) in the process of being overhauled and significantly expanded on a near-daily basis.

By the latter half of the 1920s, it became clear that.... Ref. 229D1-229D15, 229E1, 229F, 229K.

  • Four-Course Range system, Low-frequency Radio Range (LFR) ; a characteristic of the low-frequency range was the Cone of Silence immediately above the station (cf. 3D radiation pattern in Fig. 62 above).
  • Ref. 185F: 22 A/N "signals" per minute [TBC: 22x A + 22x N or 11+11]; interrupted every 15 min for station identification by voice from the omni-dirictional co-located radiotelephone station.
  • Here, the word "range" is used in the sense of area of open land, e.g., for testing equipment. I.e., not in the sense of "distance" (as in the acronym "radar"). Radio ranges do not provide any distance information!
  • Tests by/at Bureau of Air Commerce, Army:
  • 1923, at National Bureau of Standards Washington/DC: two 1-turn loops, 43.75x15.25m/150x50ft, 36.5°/143.5° crossing angle, 2 kW quenched spark transmitter, A/N, loops tuned to 300 kHz; ref. 229E1.
  • McCook field @ Dayton , ref. 229N.
  • Wilbur Wright field (Wright Patterson), ref. 229N.
  • Typically, multiple airways that lead to/from the same city/airfield/intersection do not cross at right ( = 90°) angles. Also, airway courses are typically also not aligned with north/south and east/west. Therefore, the courses of a Radio Range are typically rotated simultaneously, and bent or shifted (ref. 229Q, pp. 36-43):
  • "course rotation": changing the all courses of a Radio Range by the same amount and in the same direction, i.e., without changing the angles between the course-pairs. (as proposed in Ottos Scheller's patent - most elegantly done with a radio goniometer).
  • "course bending": changing the angle between the two opposite courses of a course-pair, from their normal 180° angle. Typ. by no more than 30°, i.e., to 150-210°.
  • "course shifting": changing the angle between the two course-pairs of a radio range from the standard 90°+90°. Typ. by no more than 30°, i.e., to 60°+120°.
  • Visual-Aural Range system (VAR), 4-course beacon; a 4-course range, comprising a 2-course Aural Range and 2-course Visual Range; "visual", as it provided on-beam/deviation to the pilot via an indicator instrument, rather than via sound on his headphones.
  • Per ref 185F pp. 37ff: constant tones of diff audio modulation freq, instead of A/N keying. 65 & 86.7Hz (86⅔, per ref. 229S4-No.6) and 75 & 100 Hz. Marker beacons transmitting ID code sigs , primarily to ID intersections of courses from adjacent ranges, "double frequency" marker beacons, alternating between the two. Single -freq beacons used to mark emergency landing fields, abrupt etrrain elevation changes, dangerous landmarks; 5 miles max range. Marker beacon freq same as associated Radio Range freq. Marker stations also low power radiophone station, for emergency communications or emergency WX broadcast. Air nav facilities operated on freqs 237-285 kHz (LW) and 315-350 kHz (MW), with 6 kHz channel spacing.
  • one Visual Range system with two course lines (150 Hz and 90 Hz tones, visual indicator in the cockpit, full meter needle deflection for ≥ 10° off-beam deviation)
  • one Aural Range system with 2 course lines (1020 Hz A/N system); equi-signal beam appr. 1½-2° wide.
  • First demonstrated in 1937 by the Bureau of Air Commerce (VHF, 63 MHz), operational in the US from 1944 - 1960 (VHF, 112-118 MHz).. Also used in Australia, operational 1947 to at least 1980
  • Lorenz A/N AFF, "blind landing system"
  • adopted in Britain via Lorenz/ITT as the Standard Beam Approach System (SBAS) - indeed, it was.
  • ILS (Localiser & Glideslope), SCR51: by ITT, parent company of Lorenz.

4-course radio range

Fig. 74: The 2-loop "polydirectional" 4-Course Range at Wayne County Airport near Detroit/Michigan/USA

(source: Fig. 11 in ref. 185F; also Fig. 30 in ref. 229L14; loop dimensions per ref. 229L14; loops at right angles)

4-course radio range

Fig. xx: Four-course patterns of the Scheller-array for various parameter settings

(source: adapted from ref. 229M)

e4-course radio range

Fig. XX: Ca. 1935 map of the Contiguous USA - with A/N Radio Ranges of the DoC marking the airways

(source: unknown)

By using three loop antennas (or vertical antenna pairs) instead of two, a third figure-of-eight radiation pattern can be created. Ref. ???? Combined, the three patterns results in 12 equisignal courses. VS ref. 229S1-No.4: still two loops, but goniometer with 3 stators instead of 2!!!!!

Rather than A/N or 2-tone keying, three different modulation tones were used: 65, 86.7 (86⅔), and 108.3 Hz. Of course, the deviation indicator and associated electronics also had to be adapted, ref. 229D9, 229L7. Beacon(s) actually ever implemented? Where? Needed at all?

"Visual-type": vibrating reeds, placed side-by-side, and tipped with a white metal strip about 3/32 x 5/32 inch (≈ 2.4x4 mm). "When receiving two tones, the reeds vibrate and move teh tips in rapid vertical vibrations, forming what appears as two "ribbons" and varying in amplitude according to the strength of the received signals. When the aircraft is "on course", both ribbons or "reeds" are of equal amplitude. If the aircraft moves "off course" , - "longest reed shows side off course" - head A/C towards in direction of the shorter reed to get back on "on course" " [iff flying TO!!!]. relative length diff is measure for cross-track error ref. Instrument has "reversing switch", to ensure deflection of the pointer is in the same direction as deviation of the aircraft from the course. Ref. 229S4-No.06

12-course radio range

Fig. 75: The 12-course radio range pattern

(source: adapted from ref. 229D9)

12-course radio range

Fig. 75: The 12-course radio range and associated cockpit instrument

(source: adapted from ref. 229D9)

LW/MW "Marconi" range in Australia.

Rotating beam system - stationary antennas. Ca. 1928, the C. Lorenz company in Berlin began to use the 1907+1916 "Scheller" patents, which they owned. Interesting aspect: alternatingly connecting the transmitter to the two input coils of the motorized radio goniometer was done with two switches, iron-powder toroidal transformer cores ("Pungs Drossel), each with a DC-powered control winding, driving the core into saturation, causing a high series impedance to the transmitter signal ("Tastdrosselverfahren". lit. "choke-coil keying method"). "Magnetic-bias keying", ref. 229N. A/N sequence. 4-course beacon. Rotable, not rotating. Before NBS in USA. Lorenz test site at Versuchsfunkstelle Eberswalde (on the Finow canal, about 48 km, 30 miles, northwest of down-town Berlin). Freq: 385 kHz, long-wave 780 m wavelength, 800 W transmitter power. In 1931/32, goniometer motorized, to get a rotating beacons. "Umlaufende Richtfunkbake Eberswalde". Range ca. 350 km. But two crossing loops antenna system, instead of Scheller's 2 pairs of vertical antennas (copied by Adcock), hence, limited use due to sky wave night-effect. Ref. 2. Note: same approach with "DC transformer" / "saturating transformer" was standard high-power light dimmer device for (movie) theaters etc. for many decades.

In 1913/1914 Leo Pungs and Felix Gerth (both at C. Lorenz AG) developed the first practical and satisfactory method for amplitude modulatiing the RF antenna current of high power transmitters with voice and music. It used a choking coil on a closed laminated iron core. The series-impedance of that coil was controlled by varying the magnetic saturation level of the core via the DC current through a secondary coil on the same core. This was referred to as a "telephony choke" or "Pungs choke" ("Steuerdrossel", "Pungs-Drossel"). The concept was originally proposed by Reginald Fessenden around 1902, who never got it to work properly. In 1913 Ludwig Kühn of the Dr. E.F. Huth company in Berlin revived the method (cf. 1923 US patent nr. 1653859). By hard-switching between zero and full saturation, this type of choke coil could also be used as an on/off telegraphy keying-choke ("Tastdrossel"), i.e., as an RF switch, instead of an AM modulating choke.

Lorenz LW rotable beacon Eberswalde

Fig. 76: The experimental Lorenz long-wave rotable/rotating four-course A/N beacon at Eberswalde

(source: adapted from ref. 2)

Lorenz LW rotable beacon Eberswalde

Fig. 76: The experimental Lorenz long-wave rotable/rotating four-course A/N beacon at Eberswalde

(source: ref. 2)

In 1930, de C. Lorenz AG company was acquired by Standard Elektrizitätsgesellschaft, a subsidiary of the US American International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (ITT, also IT&T), from the Dutch firm N.V. Philips' Gloeilampenfabrieken, who owned 98% of Lorenz shares by 1929. Ref. 263A-263C. ITT was created by the Puerto Rico Telephone Company (Ricotelco) in 1920. From 1922 through 1925, ITT acquired all overseas subsidiaries of Western Electric, and a number of European telephone companies through its subsidiary C. Lorenz AG. This included Standard Telephones & Cables Ltd (STC) in Britain, Standard Elektrik Lorenz (SEL) in Germany, Bell Telephone Manufacturing (BTM) in Belgium, and Compagnie Générale de Constructions Téléphoniques (CGCT) in France. The A.E.G. Telefunken company also had affiliations with a major US American conglomerate: International General Electric (IGE). Their facilities were not bombed during WW2, other than accidentally. They were actually on American "do-not-bomb" lists, as were e.g., the Ford Motor Co. facilities. Note that Siemens (as was Brown Boveri) had no close ties with US companies. Their production sites where the specific target of Allied bombing raids. Ref. 8.

During 1932/33, Ernst Kramar of the Lorenz company applied the concept of the Lorenz-Scheller A/N-system to a "blind landing system" for aircraft. Ref. 28, 188, 235C2, 235C3. Note that "blind landing" [or, more generally, "flying" = "solely by reference to instruments"]  is somewhat of a misnomer, as the system did not provide precision vertical guidance down to the actual touch-down of the landing and subsequent roll-out. Hence, it is only an approach-beacon (D: "Ansteuerungsfunkfeuer", AFF). These days, we would refer to this beacon as a non-precision "localizer" approach system: the horizontal ( = lateral) component of an Instrument Landing System (ILS).

As discussed above and shown in Fig. 60/61, the ground-station of the Scheller system had a radiation pattern with four main lobes, in fixed orthogonal directions. See Figure 41A. Two of the lobes transmitted the Morse code letter "A", the other two the letter "N". Where lobes overlap and are of equal strength, the combination of "A" and "N" results in a constant tone signal, the so-called "equi-signal". This signal had a beam width of about 1-5°. This was the first "A/N" system, later used in several other Lorenz radio-navigation systems. Subsequent variations of this scheme used narrow "A" and "N" beams, with a much narrower overlap, allowing more accurate determination of the course line of the equi-signal. In the 1907 Scheller patent, the directional radiation patterns are obtained with four equidistant vertical antennas.

A-zone (≈10-15°), bi-signal zone (≈2x15°,in one half A dominates, N in the other), equi-signal/on-course zone (≈1-5°), N-zone (≈10-15°). For visual-type radio range beacons, the 65 Hz tone beam corresponds to "A" and 86⅔ Hz to "N". Ref. 229S7-No. 6.

Blind landing: OK, at that time, without accurate ILS, is was possible to do so successfully. As the saying goes, "any landing you can walk away from, is a good landing"! In a small and slow airplane, with a forgiving landing gear designed for rough, unpaved, ondulating runways (e.g., Junkers Ju-52 transport airplane, with a landing speed of a mere 95 km/h, ≈50 kts). This is actually akin to the procedure for landing on absolutely flat calm water, so-called glassy water, without as much as a ripple. On approach to a "landing", such flat water looks like a mirror and it is impossible for the pilot to get a sense of depth and judge height above the watery runway. Not recommended (or even allowed!) at night. I enjoyed practicing this for my pilot rating for seaplanes and flying-boats!

The antenna system is very simple: a vertical exciter dipole of standard length (½ λ), with a vertical reflector to the left and to the right. See Figure 77. This was patented in 1932 by Ernst Kramar of the C. Lorenz AG company in Berlin (Reichspatent 577350, British patent 405727). The dipole is excited continously by the transmitter. The reflectors are completely passive: they are never connected to the transmitter. Each reflector can be "opened" at its mid-point with a relay. This reconfigures the reflector into two unconnected half-length rods - much too short to affect the radiation pattern of the active dipole. The two relais are energized in a  interlocked  fashion: when the contact of the Relay 1 is open, the contact of Relay 2 is closed, and vice versa. This makes it very easy to implement complementary keying (E/T, A/N, etc.).

Lorenz-Schiller A/N system

Fig. 77: The antenna arrangement of the Lorenz-Scheller E/T localizer beam ("Lorenz Beam")

(source: ref. 31)

The patents covers a distance of 0.2 - 0.5 λ between dipole and reflectors, which primarily affecting sharpness of the beam. The patent also considers reflector length shorter/same as/longer than the dipol. This primarily affects side lobes. For a parallel rod to work effectively as a reflector, its electrical length must typically be within 5-10% of length of the dipole.

Kiebitz vertical dipole

Fig. 78: Radiation pattern of a vertical dipole with one reflector to the left of it

(cases similar to those covered by Ernst Kramar's patents; note: radiation patterns are for "free space" case = without ground)

Lorenz-Schiller A/N system

Fig. 79: The beam pattern of the Lorenz beam - simulated vs British patent 405727

(source: ref. 31)

The signal transmitted by the dipole induces current into the parallel reflector. In turn, this induced current causes the reflector to (re)radiate. This radiation combines with that of the dipole. Depending on the distance ( = phase) between dipole and reflector, the strength of the dipole radiation is decreased in directions behind the reflector, and increased on the opposite side of the dipole. I.e., the radiation pattern of the dipole is no longer omni-directional. Basically "vertical 2-element beam" antenna. How the antenna works. The radio waves from each element are emitted with a phase delay [physical distance + inductive-lag=long=reflector/capacitive-lead=short=director], so that the individual waves emitted in the forward direction are in phase, while the waves in the reverse direction are out of phase. Therefore, the forward waves add together, (constructive interference) enhancing the power in that direction (constructive interference / EM wave combination)), while the backward waves partially cancel each other (destructive interference), thereby reducing the power emitted in that direction. At other angles, the power emitted is intermediate between the two extremes.

In the laboratories at Tohoku Imperial University, beginning in 1924, Professor Hidetsugu Yagi and his assistant, Shintaro Uda, designed and constructed a sensitive and highly-directional antenna using closely-coupled parasitic elements. The antenna system, using a driven element with closely coupled parasitics (usually a reflector and one or more directors) for short-wave work, was first described by S. Uda, a professor at Tohuku University in Japan, in 1926, in the IEEJ (Japan). Associated patents filed in Japan [69115] and the USA [1860123] that same year. -------- VS Marconi et al parabolic reflector screen 1919  [US patent nr. 1301473]

Kramar's 1937 patents expand this scheme with a complementary-keyed (e.g., E/T) beam system for vertical guidance. This [the latter?] was simply re-patented in 1940 in the USA by others (e.g.,...ITT?)

front course, back course - revert L/R mentally or switch instrument of switch beam keying when active crs changed.

In 1934/35, Telefunken developed their version of the Lorenz AFF/VEZ/HEZ system (ref. 2, 235M), to Lorenz specifications.

Lorenz Localizer ET-beam

Fig. 79: Telefunken and Lorenz localizer-beacon ground stations

(sources: ref. 2 & 235M (left, Telefunken), ref. 31 (center), ref. 137B & 225C2 (Lorenz, at Berlin-Tempelhof airport))

Lorenz Localizer ET-beam

Fig. 80: Lorenz beacons (left & center: at Zürich-Dübendorf/Switzerland airport, construction in 1937, with USAF B-17 in 1944)

(sources: ref. 235B (left & center), ref. 137B (right))

Lorenz Localizer ET-beam

Fig. 81: Lorenz VHF marker beacons

(sources: ref. 235Q (left), Fig. 7 in ref. 235E)

Lorenz Localizer ET-beam

Fig. 82: Lorenz  and AEG/Telefunken VHF marker beacon

(source: ref. 235F (left), ref. 2 (Telefunken))

The two reflector dipoles were activated alternatingly, to deform the dipole beam slightly to the right and to the left. This effectively created a directional beacon ("Richtfunkfeuer") with a twin-beam radiation pattern. At the centerline of the beams (aligned with the centerline of the runway), the "E" and "T" beams would merge into an 1150 Hz equi-signal zone that had an aperture of about 5 degrees. The antenna system was located at the far end ( = departure end) of the runway, so as to provide left/right guidance throughout the entire approach, landing, and roll-out. During approach to landing, the arriving aircraft would intercept and track the equi-signal beam. The beam-system operated at frequencies in the 30 - 36.2 MHz range (λ ≈ 10 m). The pilot would hear the E/T audio signals, and also have a Left/Right course deviation indicator. At two fixed distances from the runway, a marker-beacon ("Einflugzeichenbake", EFZ-Bake) was installed. An Outer Marker ("Vor-EFZ") at 3 km, and a Main Marker ("Haupt-EFZ") at 300 m, ref. 32. These beacons transmitted on 38 MHz, with a narrow upwardly pointing fan-beam, extending across the approach course and at right angles to it. This allowed the pilot to determine when to initiate descent to the runway from a standard altitude and with a standard descent rate (3 degrees flight path). Ref. 26B, 235L1-235L4. This "Lorenz beam" system entered service in 1934 with the German national carrier, Lufthansa (actually "Luft Hansa", until its post-war re-start in 1953). It was then commercialized worldwide.

By 1938, some 38 of these beacons were installed at airports throughout the German Reich. The above beacon provides lateral ( = horizontal, left/right) guidance. In 1937, Lorenz/Kramar created a separate system for providing vertical approach-to-landing guidance, by turning the antenna system 90 degrees and placing it next to the runway, abeam the touch-down point. The combined system with lateral- and vertical-guidance beams is called Instrument Landing System (ILS). It is used to this day. For a general treatise of such beam systems by Ernst Kramar himself, see ref. 254 (1938).

In 1937, Lorenz installed systems at three aerodromes around London: Croydon, Heston, and Gatwick.

Lorenz UKW Bake installed at Essendon Airport (Melbourne/Australia) by Lorenz (p. 96, 97 in ref. 2) or AWA?, 1937; Kastrup/Denmark, 1937, Malmi-Helsinki 1937 (see advert-TFK-AEG-ILS-Finland-Aero-Vol17-193709.jpg).

Introduced into Luftwaffe in 1933? LFF vs Jagd JFFF, see ref. 6F.

Equipment also sold by Lorenz to airlines and RAF, where it was know as Standard Approach Beam (SBA).

Die Lorenz-Funkbake, welche für die Zentralstelle für Flugsicherung in Berlin-Tempelhof Auf-stellung fand, hatte folgende Charakteristik: Die Antenne bestand aus einem Gestell von 9 Me-ter Höhe mit einem, vom Sender – 70 Watt moduliert – erregten Dipol und zwei Dipolreflektoren, in denen die Tastung durch Unterbruch mittelst Relais erfolgte (in einem ein Ruhestrom-relais, im andern ein Arbeitsstromrelais, was die reziproke Tastung ergab).

Da bis dahin sieben deutsche und ein österreichischer Flugplatz für 7,89 m eingerichtet waren, setzte die 4. Conférence européenne des experts radiotelegraphistes de l’aéronautique, welche im September 1934 in Warschau tagte, an Stelle der 50 cm-Welle für Signale von Blindlandeanlagen diejenige von 7,89 m.

In the UK, it became the "Standard Beam Approach System" (SBAS) system. YEAR??? Copied?? via Lorenz UK?? Former German Lorenz system used at civil airports and Royal Air Force airfields. Evolution?? Difference w.r.t. BABS - Beam Approach Beacon System, widely used approach system at Royal Air Force airfields?

S.C.S. (Signal Corps System) 51, S.C.S. 51 is the forerunner of the future I.C.A.O. approved runway approach system, known as I.L.S. (Instrument Landing System).

The Low-Frequency Radio Range (LFR), also known as the Four-Course Radio Range, the A-N Radio Range or the Adcock Radio Range, was developed in the late 1920. This 1937 Westinghouse transmitter is identified as "simultaneous" because, unlike earlier versions, it was capable of transmitting the range navigation signals (A and N) and voice transmissions at the same time.

Flight into "instrument meteorological conditions" by non-qualified pilots typically ends catastrophically in a matter of a few minutes.

Outer Marker Middle Marker Inner Marker

Fig. XX: Indication of passage of Outer, Middle, and Inner Marker on standard modern indicator or display

A/N system

Fig. 81: Intercepting (with overshoot) and flying an A/N beam of a Four-Course Range

(source: National Air & Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, "Time & Navigation - Navigating in the Air", 2012, artist: Bruce Morser)

"Radio range" beacon : a radio beacon that transmits in such a way as to mark out a fixed straight line (as for directing the course of airplanes to or from a landing field). Here, the word "range" has nothing to do with "distance".

The following audio clip is the realistic simulation (incl. keyclick suppression) of the receiver sound that would be heard when being on the "A" side of the equibeam of a Four-Course Radio Range AN-beacon. The "N" signal is also heard, but much weaker. As it is complementary to the keying of the "A" signal, it sounds like a continuous background signal. In the middle of the clip, there is a 3-letter Morse code identification (here: ABC), transmitted sequentially on the "A" and "N" beam. Tone frequency is 1020 Hz.

Four-course AN beam sound...

Audio simulation for the A side of an LF Four-Course Radio Range, while also receiving the (weak) N-beam signal

(source: "LF Range Navigation Sound 70% "A"" © Bob Denny, accessed 27 March 2020)

Scheller-Lorenz A/N beam sound - audio file still to be created...

Simulated sound of crossing an A/N beam back & forth and approach beacons - TBD!!!

(source: © ipse)


The "Lorenz Beam" was designed for flying a specific course-line towards a short-range beacon that had relatively wide beam-aperture (5º). In 1932, Dr. Johannes (Hans) Plendl of the Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt (DVL, German Aviation Test Establishment) already identified the need for a directional beam system, to guide bombers to a target along a course-line away from the beacon, at night and in poor weather (visibility) conditions. Plendl was the national commissary for RF research ("Bevollmächtigte für Hochfrequenzforschung") from November 1942 until December 1943, and also headed up the national agency for RF research "Reichsstelle für Hochfrequenzforschung" (RHF) that was established mid-1943.

Plendl's concept used two directional beacons, sufficiently spaced apart. The centerline of their beams crossed each other at the target. Plotted on a chart, the two beam lines form a big "X". Hence, this concept was referred to as the "X-Method" ("X-Verfahren"). The aircraft would intercept and track the E/T equi-signal of a director-beam ("Leitstrahl") to the target. A second beacon would transmit three E/T beams that would cross the director-beam at certain distances just before reaching the target. Upon reaching the first cross-beam, the aircraft had to well established on the equi-signal course-line. Reaching the centerline of the second and third cross-beam was used to determine when to release the bombs. This was done with a special stopwatch, the "X-Clock" ("X-Uhr"), see Figure 45B. This mechanical calculator computed the "bomb release" time, based on actual groundspeed towards the target (derived from the times between the cross-beams), release altitude, and type of bomb. In a simplified version, only a single cross-beam was used. Ref. 183.

The (lead) aircraft required an "X-Apparatus" ("X-Gerät") installation. This comprised (see p. 106 in ref. 2, ref. 229R):

  • two dedicated receivers with associated rod antennas,
  • two AFN2 ("Anzeigegerät Flug-Navigation") course-deviation indicators (right-hand instrument in Figure 82).
  • The vertical down-pointing needle indicates left/right deviation from the course line. The needle pulses to the left or right, in the rythm of the dominating "E" or "T" signals ("Zuckanzeige", "kicking meter"). When receiving the beacon and the position is "on course", the needle is centered.
  • The horizontal needle (pointing at the vertical scale on the left) is a signal-strength indicator, and acts as a simplistic near / far indication of distance to the beacon.
  • The indicator lamp in the center is illuminated when receiving a marker beacon during approach to landing. It is a line-replacable neon lamp. On the AFN1, it is located at the top.
  • an AVP unit ("Anzeige-Verstärker Plendl", "Plendl-method Indicator Amplifier") for each AFN2.
  • a power converter unit and a power-distribution unit,
  • an "X-Uhr" multi-stopwatch bomb-release timer (Figure 83).


Fig. 82: Anzeigegerät für Funk-Navigation (Radio-Navigation Indicator) - model AFN1 and AFN2

Note that these two instruments do not have the same size! The AFN1 is a somewhat larger: its bezel has an outer diameter of 83 mm (≈3.3 in), whereas the cylindrical housing has a diameter of 79.4 mm (≈3.1 in) and a length of 72 mm  (excl. protruding connectors; ≈2.8 in). For the AFN2, these dimensions are 66.7 (≈2.6 in), 57 mm (≈1.3 in), and 57 mm, respectively. See these diagrams.


Figure 83: X-Uhr "Bombenabwurfautomat" (automatic bomb-release timer/computer)

(source left image: ref. 230A; clock face is marked "H&B" for manufacturer "Hartmann & Braun"; right image: item in Horst Beck Collection)

In the black & white photo above, the needles are at the position just prior to bomb release. Note that the X-Uhr on the right has a third small scale marked "0 - 4 hours", indicating to what extent the clock spring has been wound.

Proof-of-concept was done with "Lorenz Beam" systems. However, these commercial systems had neither the required range, nor the required accurate and narrow equi-beam (±0.1º aperture). Therefore, the operating frequency was increased from 30 - 36.2 MHz to the 66 - 77 MHz range, and the beacon was equipped with more powerful transmitters. The German code name for the "X"-station ("X-Station", "X-Bodenstelle", "X-Peiler", "X-Bake") was "Wotan I". The basic antenna system comprised two vertical dipoles. The antenna system as such was rotable to the desired beam direction, but not (continuously) rotating. One dipole was energized continuously with an AM carrier that was modulated with a 2000 Hz tone. The second dipole was placed at a distance of 3½ λ, and was energized via a motorized capacitive phase-shifter. The phase was changed stepwise, every 0.5 sec. The resulting radiation pattern had 14 or 18 E/T-beams of about equal strength, and an equi-signal zone with a width of less than ±0.1º. The large number of major lobes was very awkward: the aircraft had to fly across the lobes, and count the passages of the "T" zones to find the intended guide beam ("Marschleitstrahl", the 7th of 14 (as in Figure 84 below), or the 9th of 18).

Wotan I beacon pattern

Fig. 84: Radiation pattern of the Wotan I beacon

(source: adapted from ref. 2)

Wotan I beacon pattern

Fig. xxA: 3D radiation pattern of the Wotan I beacon (in free space) - for 3½ λ antenna spacing

(the NEC file of my 4NEC2 model is here)

Wotan I beacon pattern

Fig. xxB: 3D radiation pattern of the Wotan I beacon (in free space) - for 4½ λ antenna spacing

(the NEC file of my 4NEC2 model is here)

The complexity of the method required extensive pilot training. Only a rather limited number of aircraft was equipped with the X-Gerät. To cope with jamming by the British, the system was modified to use additional frequency channels, and a tone modulation well above the standard audio bandwidth of regular receivers. This provided some temporary relief from the jamming. The "Battle of the Beams" between Germany and Britain took place from late-1939 through mid 1941. Ref. 6D, 28, 38, 230C, 230D, 230E, 230F, 234. During this period, the British developed countermeasures to German radio-navigation systems and to radio-telephony communication of fighter/bomber control systems, to which the Germans responded with modifying those systems and introducing new systems.

By May of 1941, the Lorenz X-System was abandoned in favor of the "Y-System", see further below. A secondary reason for abandoning the X-system was the absence of a system for formation flying "in the clouds". This limitation had been recognized, and implied that a simpler system with crossing beams would be just as effective.


The Telefunken company had already been tasked early 1939 to develop a simple beam system that was compatible with the Lorenz Funklande Empfangsanlage Fu Bl 1 ("blind approach & landing system") that was standard equipment in Luftwaffe aircraft (ref. 32). The receivers had much higher sensitivity than required for operation with a landing beacon, to enable long-range navigation. This new system was also an E/T beam system, and also used two crossing marker-beam beacons. Telefunken's extremely rapid development was headed by Adalbert Lohmann, who later headed up the development of the Bernhard/Bernhardine system. The new system operated in the 30-33.3 MHz band, i.e., a wavelength of 9 - 10 m. Obtaining a sufficiently narrow equisignal-beam at these frequencies required an antenna system with two large dipole arrays. The ground stations of this directional-beam system ("Richtfunkfeuer") were Telefunken Funk-Sende-Anlage ("radio transmitter installation") FuSAn 721. Their German code name was "Knickebein".

By the end of 1939, three Knickebein installations were operational along the western border of Germany: station Knickebein-2 (K2) at Stollberg/Bredstedt on the North Sea coast in the far north (later the location of Bernhard station Be-9), K4 at Kleve (the German town that is closest to London and the Midlands), and K12 at Lörrach/Maulburg (in the far southwest of Germany, near the German/Swiss/French border). However, the latter was the small ¼-size version (see Fig. 75). The K2 and K4 installations had an enormous rectangular antenna system, see Figure 71. Their truss frame measured ca. 90 x 30 m (WxH, ≈300 x 100 ft). Suspended in the frame were two dipole arrays, one for the "E" beam and one for the "T" beam. Each of these sub-arrays comprised 8 vertical wire-dipoles. Each wire-dipole had a dipole-reflector behind it. The system could be rotated on a circular track, to point the beam at the target (in Britain). To obtain a narrow equi-beam (≈0.3º), the "E" and "T" beams were offset 7.5 degrees to the left and to the right of the desired equi-beam. This was done by angling the left and right hand half of the antenna system by 15 degrees from each other. Looking at the antenna system from above, it had a slight V-shape ("crooked leg", "dog leg") of 180 - 15 = 165 degrees.

Knickebein large

Fig. 71: Large Knickebein under construction (K2 at Bredstedt; replaced by Bernhard Be-9 in 1944)

(source: Fig. 36 in ref. 181; red circle shows the size of a man)

Knickebein beams Knickebein beams

Fig. 72: The alternating "E" (dot) and "T" (dash) beams of the Knickebein beacon

Knickebein E/T sound - audio file still to be created...

Simulated sound of crossing the "Knickebein" E, Equi-Signal, and T beams back & forth

(source: ©2020 Frank Dörenberg)

There are several Knickebein-beam radiation pattern diagrams floating around in literature, without reference to the ultimate source. As always: trust, but verify! This is why I decided to create a model of the large Knickebein dipole/reflector array myself. I always use the fabulous 4NEC2 antenna modeling freeware tool. The complete antenna system comprises two independent identical arrays side-by-side (one for the dash-beam, one for the dot-beam), but only one beam transmits at a time. So, I only modeled one beam. The results are shown above and below. Note that, as is standard for radiation pattern diagrams, a logarithmic scale (decibel, dB) is used for the signal-strength (see far left side of the two figures below).

Knickebein pattern

Fig. 73: Top, oblique, and side view of the radiation pattern of a Knickebein sub-beam ("E" or "T") - in free space

(the NEC file of my 4NEC2 model is here - it is not optimized)

The top views above are actually quite similar to the generic patterns shown in literature. However, they are only valid for an antenna in so-called "free space". I.e., without any objects anywhere near, or ground below, the antenna. This is unrealistic, in particular for an antenna system close to the ground (in terms of the number of wavelengths λ of the transmitted signals), as is the case with Knickebein (with λ ≈ 10 m). The figure below shows the impact of ground reflections (assuming conductivity and dielectric constant of standard "real ground"), clearly beyond the modeling capabilities of the era. My model does not include the steel trusses around the Knickebein arrays, which could cause some pattern distortions. In practice, this was "not disturbing" (pdf p. 4 in ref. 184F1).

Knickebein pattern

Fig. 74: Top, oblique, and side view of the radiation pattern of a Knickebein sub-beam ("E" or "T") - over ground

(the NEC file of my 4NEC2 model is here)

After the invasion of their neighbor countries, the Germans installed another nine Knickebein stations along the coasts of southern Norway (1x), The Netherlands (2x), and France (6x, from the Channel coast down to Brittany). Construction of station K13 on the isle of Sicily/Italy was never completed. Like K12 in Germany, all of these stations had a smaller antenna system: half the size of the Large Knickebein. The Small Knickebein had a width 45 m, a track diameter of 31 m, and had 2x4 dipoles plus reflectors per beam, instead of 2x8. I.e., only one quarter the size of the Large Knickebein. Hence, the width of the equi-beam was larger (≈0.6º) and the side-lobes were stronger. These small stations were installed closer to their targets than the large K2 and K4 stations in Germany. So, over the target, the width of the equi-beam was still acceptable.

Knickebein klein

Fig. 75: Small Knickebein station (left: under construction in France)

(sources: Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-228-0322-04/Friedrich Springorum/CC-BY-SA 3.0 (left) and Fig. 37 in ref. 181 )

The dipoles and radiators of the Small Knickebein were made of thick metal tubes instead of wires. This makes the antenna more broadband ( = usable over a wider frequency range, without "tuning"). The left-hand photo above clearly shows that the reflectors are also driven dipoles (see the split between the upper & lower dipole halves). So, they are "active", i.e., powered by the transmitter. Active reflectors are more effective for side-lobe reduction than passive/parasitic reflector dipoles or rods (see p. 71 in ref. 137A).

In September of 1941, the Luftwaffe aircraft receivers were upgraded from FuBl 1 to FuBl 2, which supported a large increase in the number of available frequency channels in the same band, and a range of 600 km at 6000m altitude (20 thousand feet). During the winter of 1940/41, the Knickebein system became increasingly unreliable and unusable over Britain, due to jamming by the British. Reported "spoofing" and "beam bending" by the British being undetected and effective is doubtful at best. The jamming tone pulses sounded differently from the true Knickebein pulses (§28 in ref. 6A), possibly due to more keyclick suppression. The system continued to be used in the lead aircraft ("Pfadfinder") for navigation towards the target, but those now relied on the X-System (described further below) to locate and mark the actual target.


Already in 1939, an other successor to the "X-System" was conceived. It retained the director-beam ("Marschleitstrahl") concept of the "X-System". But rather than using a cross-beam to mark the position of the target along that beam, it used a transponder system that allowed the ground controller to determine the aircraft's distance from the beacon (of course "slant range", not distance over ground). After a fixed delay time, the transponder in the aircraft would retransmit the received signal at a different frequency (1.9 MHz lower). The ground station would derive the range from the total round-trip signal delay, minus the fixed delay. The ground controllers would command release of the bombs, based on the range. This was called the "Y-System" ("Y-Verfahren", ref. 244D), US/UK Allied code name "Benito". It became operational in September of 1940. As the procedure involved a ground controller, the number of aircraft that could use the system simultaneously, was limited.

The (lead) aircraft required a "Y-Appraratus" ("Y-Gerät") installation (ref. 2, 6E, 229P). This comprised:

  • one dedicated beacon receiver: the "UKW Leitstrahlempfangsgerät" FuG28a. It combined a FuG17 radio-telephony transceiver (42.15 - 47.75 MHz, 10 Watt) and an AG28 "Auswertegerät" - an electro-mechanical equivalent of the X-system's AVP unit,
  • an LKZG ("Leitstrahl-Kurststeuerungs-Zwischengerät") to interface the FuG28a to the lateral-axis auto-pilot ("Kursregler"), for automatically tracking an equi-beam,
  • one AFN2 ("Anzeigegerät Flug-Navigation") course-deviation indicator (Fig. 45A),
  • one FuG16ZE or FuG16ZY transponder (38.5-42.3 MHz and 38.4 - 42.4 MHz, respectively; ref. 40, 41),
  • associated power converter units,
  • various control panels.


Fig. 50: Front & bottom of the FuG28a "UKW Leitstrahlempfangsgerät" (VHF guide-beam receiver)


The "Y-Station" ground station ("Y-Bodenstelle", "Y-Peiler", "Y-Bake") was called "Wotan II" (FuSAn 733). A variety of antenna configurations and beam transmitters was used (Bertha I, Bertha II), and a number of co-located transponder transmitters (S16B, Sadir 80/100).

An interesting beacon system is the Hermes/Hermine "Sprechdrehbake" system ("Talking Beacon"). The system was originally developed in response to a tactical requirement formulated during the second part of 1942, as a navigational aid for the purpose of giving an approximate bearing to single-engine night fighters engaged in "Wilde Sau" [lit. "Wild Boar"] air-defence operations. The pilot could determine the bearing from the beacon, without having to look at an instrument. The beacon stations (FuSAn 726) transmitted real-time voice-announcements of the beam azimuth, every 10º. I.e., the numbers 1 - 35 (multiples of 10º), and the "station call-sign" at 360º = 0º = north. Each digit was pronounced separately: e.g., "12" = "1-2" (as is standard practice in worldwide aviation radio comunication to ensure intelligiblity, except in France), not "twelve". The voice stream was pre-recorded as an optical track on a film strip ("Tonfilm"). The voice signal was transmitted with an omni-directional antenna. At the same time, and on the same frequency, a strong constant audible 1150 Hz tone was transmitted. However, it was transmitted with a rotating cardioid antenna pattern. The null of this pattern ( = no 1150 Hz interference signal) coincided with the direction as announced by the voice announcement at that very moment. So, the voice could only be heard (briefly) in that momentary direction. Due to the width of the null (effectively about 15° (ref. 8), equivalent to (360°/15°)x60=2.5 sec), the immediately preceding and following announcement was only partially audible, at much reduced volume. The airborne counterpart, FuG125 "Hermine-Bord", comprised the standard EBl 3 receiver, its FBG2 control panel, and a small audio-amplifier (model V3a or ZV3). The system was developed in 1943/44 by Ernst Kramar et al of the Lorenz company. Ref. 247 (pp. 13-15).


Fig. 51: Principle of the "Hermes/Hermine" talking beacon system

(source photo: deutschesatlantikwallarchiv.de)


Fig. 53: Radiation pattern of the rotating "null" beam

Hermes sound - audio file still to be created...

Simulated sound of a "Hermine" beacon (60 sec rotation)

(source: ? © ? used with permission)

With a single "Bernhard", "Hermine", etc. beacon, only relative bearing to/from that particular station can be determined. I.e., not a position ( = direction + distance (range) to the station), but only a line of direction. This is called a linear "Line of Position" (LoP, "Standlinie"). Position determination can be done by combining the bearing from at least two beacons with known location. This is called "multilateration". The simplest form is with two beacons: triangulation ("Kreuzpeilung"). Note that the bearing from a ground station to the aircraft (or vice versa) should not be confused with the aircraft's heading ( = the way the nose is pointing), nor with the aircraft's course ( = direction of the ground track).


Consol sound

Sound clip of a Sonne/Consol sequence (42 sec)

(source: de.wikipedia.org, retrieved March 2020)

Consol sound

An other sound clip of a Sonne/Consol sequence (3 min)

(source: www.geocaching.com, retrieved March 2020)


hyperbolic system

Fig. YY: The hyperbolic radio navigation system for aviation

(source: National Air & Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, "Time & Navigation - Navigating in the Air", 2012, artist: Bruce Morser)

Video 1: Short version of the 1947 "LORAN for Ocean Navigation" clip produced by the US Coast Guard to promote LORAN to commercial shipping lines

(source: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, also YouTube)

Loran sound

Sound clip of Loran/Loran-A pulses (33 sec)

(source: A. Cordwell, retrieved February 2020)

An EM wave is called "vertically polarized", if the E (= electrical) field is vertically polarized. The H (magnetic) field is always perpendicular to the E field.

EM wave E & H field EM E-field dipole

Fig. XX: Linearly polarized EM wave (left) and E-field of such a wave inducing current in an aligned dipole antenna

(image source: (left) wikimedia.org CC license; (right) wikimedia.org, CC license)


Circular LoP.

Radio-transponder based ranging (here: range in sense of distance) patented in France & GB in 1927 by Alexandre Koulikoff & Constantin Chilkowsky, see patent table 3.

WW2 Germany + UK/GB.

Derived from "Identification Friend or Foe" (IFF), ground-based interrogator + airborne responder or transponder. Reverse roles: airborne interrogator + ground based transponder.

1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation (also known as Chicago Convention), looked at developing a form of distance measurement, based on the Rebecca-Eureka ‘Identification Friend or Foe’ (IFF) secondary radar system, and operating in the 200 MHz band. Adapted to DME(A) in Australia in 1946.

1945 CERCA London meeting

"Up to that time whilst continuous azimuth guidance on airways was provided by various types of radio beacons, progress along track could only be measured by station passage of a beacon - in other words, by flying over it."

1000 MHz DME(I) international, 200 MHz DME(A) Australian (discontinuedt December 1955)


Out of scope. But....

Finally, after years of shameful denial, the world-renowned IEEE finally redeemed itself in 2019, by formally recognizing that, contrary to popular belief, perpetuated Allied WW2 propaganda and general ignorance, radar was not only invented and patented in 1904 in Germany by Christian Hülsmeyer (patents 165546, 13170, 25608), but also he also publicly demonstrated his "telemobiloscope" in Cologne/Germany (Köln), and in Rotterdam/The Netherlands that same year. Ref. 261A, 261B.

3 general categories: Earyl warning, Ground control, intercept, ..

The term "radar", for Radio Detection and Ranging, was actually introduced in 1940.

Doppler: ref. 261S.


In addition to the beacon systems described above, there was a number of other German beacon systems (ref. 1, 2, 8, 26B, 33, 230A-230C, pp. 7-19 in ref. 247), such as:

  • Baldur, VHF system. Airborne set: FuGe 126 and FuGe 126k. Further developments (never operational): Baldur-Truhe (combination of Baldur and Truhe), Baldur-Bernhardine (combination of Baldur and Bernhard, for simultaneously obtaining bearing and range; with a "Bernhardine" Hellschreiber printer for bearing & range indication).
  • Elektra: long wave beam system (initially ca. 480 kHz, later 270-330 kHz), range over land 800-1200 km (500 and 300 kHz respectively), range over sea 1700-200 km (500 and 300 kHz respectively). Three antennas per beacon station. Transmitter power: 1.5 kW. Ref. 230A, 230B.
  • Elektra kurz (480 kHz, λ = 625 m; 1939-1941), Elektra lang (300 kHz, λ = 1000 m). Ref. 230K.
  • Dreh-Elektra.
  • Elektra-Sonne: beacon could be operated alternately as "Elektra" and "Sonne", to combine advantages of both. Range was intended to be increased by raising transmitter power to 60 kW. Three stations were built during 1944-1945 but were never operational. Ref. 230A.
  • Mond ["Moon"]: experimental system, intended to improve range and accuracy of "Sonne", while operating on higher frequencies (3 MHz, 6 MHz; 30-30 MHz per ref. 230A), at night.
  • Sonne ["Sun"]: long wave (several LF frequencies between 270 and 330 kHz), long-range system of the Kriegsmarine. It was based on "Elektra", but rather than physically rotating a loop antenna, Sonne used three stationary antennas spaced about 1 km (about 3.86 wavelengths) and a single transmitter, to electronically sweep the direction of the beams. Range over land 1200 km. Range over sea 2000 km. Transmitter power: 1.5 kW. Ref. 230A-230C, 230M.
  • Goldsonne.
  • Goldwever: a "Sonne" derivative that never became operational.
  • Stern ["Star"]: an experimental Sonne derivative, operating at VHF frequencies, hence range basically limited to line of sight. Not developed to completion.
  • Erich: VHF system.
  • Erika: a hyperbolic beacon system [TBC], comprising a line of six antenna arrays (spaced ca. 46, 18, 27, 27, and 124 m) each with a transmitter. Similar to the British Gee system. Developed in1942, briefly operational, replaced by Bernhard. Ref. 8.
  • Dora: ca. 1940, shortwave, 2 pairs of vertical dipoles in crossed configuration, with a vertical antenna at the center, rotating dual cardioid pattern; not satisfactory. 1.5 kW beacon, used for calibrating Erika.
  • Komet (FuSAn 712) / Komet-Bord (FuG 124), with concentric rings of antennas for multiple operational HF frequencies (short wave); it proved impossible to adjust/calibrate. Development and evaluation was done from 1941 through the end of the war (vs. abandoned per ref. 6D). Large HF ground station with an antenna array with 127 masts and 19 control huts, with "Kometschreiber" bearing recorder/indicator in the aircraft (FuG124). Ref. 8. Experimental stage only (Bordeaux/France, Kølby/Denmark = ref. TBD23).
  • Drehbake "M", UHF system.
  • Truhe, VHF hyperbolic pulse system, compatible with the British "Gee" system (where "Gee" stands for the letter "G" in "Grid"), which was referred to a "Hyperbel" by the Germans. Airborne sets: FuGe 122 (46-50 MHz), and FuGe 123 (25-75 MHz).
  • Zyklop, 120 watt transportable beacon station, derived from Knickebein, operated on Knickebein frequencies. A more-mobile version was Bock-Zyklop, working on FuG16 frequencies. Ref. 8.

Non-Luftwaffe: French & British "leader cables" systems. Doomed from the beginning, very short-lived.


Below is a listing of patents related to radio direction finding, radio location, radio navigation (generally covering the early 1900s through WW2).Patent source: DEPATISnet. Patent office abbreviations: KP = Kaiserliches Patentamt (German Imperial Patent Office), RP = Reichspatentamt (Patent Office of the German Reich), DP = deutsches Patentamt (German Federal Patent Office), US = United States Patent Office, GB = The (British) Patent Office, F = Office National de la Propriété Industrielle (French patent office), AU = Dept. of Patents of the Commonwealth of Australia, NL = Nederlandsch Bureau voor den Industrieelen Eigendom (patent office of The Netherlands).

Patent number Patent office Year Inventor(s) Patent owner(s) Title (original, non-English) Title (original English or translated)
716134 US 1901 John Stone Stone John Stone Stone --- Method of Determining the Direction of Space Telegraph Signals
716135 US 1901 John Stone Stone John Stone Stone --- Apparatus for Determining the Direction of Space Telegraph Signals
770668 US 1903 Alessandro Artom Alessandro Artom --- Wireless Telegraphy of Transmission through Space
165546 KP 1904 Christian Hülsmeyer Christian Hülsmeyer Verfahren, um entfernte metallische Gegenstände mittels elektrischer Wellen einem Beobachter zu melden Method for detecting distant metal objects by means of electrical waves [this is the invention of radar!]
771819 US 1904 L. de Forest L. de Forest --- Wireless Signalling Apparatus
13170 GB 1904 Christian Hülsmeyer Christian Hülsmeyer --- Hertzian-wave Projecting and Receiving Apparatus Adapted to Indicate or Give Warning on the Presence of a Metallic Body, such as a Ship or a train, in the Line of Projection of such Waves
25608 GB 1904 Christian Hülsmeyer Christian Hülsmeyer --- Improvement in Hertzian-wave Projecting and Receiving Apparatus for Locating the Position of Distant metal Objects
192524 KP 1907 Otto Scheller Otto Scheller Sender für gerichtete Strahlentelegraphie Antenna arrangement for directional radio transmission [multi-antenna systems could not be made directional with spark transmitters, as transmitter output could not be split; patent shows how to do this efficiently with undamped-ave transmitter]
201496 KP 1907 Otto Scheller Otto Scheller Drahtloser Kursweiser und telegraph Wireless course indicator and telegraph. [invention of overlapping beams with equi-signal]
[English translation is here]
378186 F 1907 Alessandro Artom Alessandro Artom Système évitant la rotation des antennes dans un poste de télégraphie sans fil dirigable et permettant en particulier de déterminer la direction d'un poste transmetteur System to avoid rotation of the antennas of a directional radio station and in particular enabling determination of the direction of a transmitter station.
[identical to the original Italian patent  nr. 88766 of 11 april 1907; invention of the goniometer]
943960 US 1907 Ettore Bellini & Alessandro Tosi Ettore Bellini & Alessandro Tosi --- System of Directed Wireless Telegraphy
11544 GB 1909 Henry Joseph Round Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co. --- Improvements in Apparatus for Wireless Telegraphy  [for directional receiving purposes: switched  directional beams, here obtained with 2 inverted-L antennas]
1135604 US 1912 Alexander Meissner Alexander Meissner --- Process and Apparatus for Determining the Positon of Radiotelegraphic receivers [invention of Radio Compass]
1162830 US 1912 Alexander Meissner Telefunken GmbH --- Spark gap for impulse excitation
1051744 US 1914 Alexander Meissner Telefunken GmbH --- System for signalling wireless telegraphy under the quenched-spark method
981 NL 1912 - Telefunken GmbH Inrichting voor het bepalen van de plaats van ontvangers (schepen) door middel van draadloze telegrafie Arrangement for position determination of receivers (ships) by means of wireless telegraphy
299753 RP 1916 Otto Scheller C. Lorenz A.G. Drahtloser Kursweiser und Telegraph Wireless direction pointer and telegraph [expanding his 1907 patent with a radio goniometer to couple transmitter to antenna pair]
[English translation of the patent claims is here]
328274 RP 1917 Leo Pungs Leo Pungs Verfahren zur Feststellung der Richtung eines Empfangortes zu einer Sendestation, von der gerichtete Zeichen ausgehen Process for determining the direction of a receiving station relative to a transmitting station that is sending directional signals
130490 GB 1918 Frank Adcock Frank Adcock --- Improvement in Means for Determining the Direction of a Distant Source of Elector-Magnetic Radiation [adds suppression of received horizontally polarized signals in each antenna pair] NOTE: this patent is sometimes erroneously attributed to R.E. Ellis, who only acted as intermediary / patent agent in the patent application, as Adcock was serving military duty in WW1 France at that time.
1301473 US 1919 Guglielmo Marconi, Charles Samuel Franklin Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd. --- Improvements in reflectors for use in wireless telegraphy and telephony  [also patented in Australia as patent nr. 10922]
328279 RP 1919 Hans Harbich & Leo Pungs Hans Harbich & Leo Pungs Schaltung für die Richtungstelegraphie mit Vielfachantennen Circuit for directional telegraphy with multi-element antennas
198522 GB 1922 James Robinson & Horace Leslie Crowther & Walter Howley Derriman James Robinson & Horace Leslie Crowther & Walter Howley Derriman --- Improvements in or relating to wireless apparatus
1653859 US 1923 Ludwig Kühn Dr. Erich Huth G.m.b.H. --- Apparatus for influencing alternating currents
252263 GB 1924 Alexander Watson Watt Alexander Watson Watt --- Improvements in and relating to Radio-telegraphy Direction Finding and other purposes [adds CRT display to Adcock DF antennas]
1860123 US 1926 Hidetsugu Yagi Radio Corp. of America (RCA) --- Variable directional electric wave generating device
1741282 US 1927 Henri Busignies Henri Busignies --- Radio Direction Finder, Hertian Compass, and the Like
632304 F 1927 Alexandre Koulikoff & Constantin Chilkowsky Alexandre Koulikoff & Constantin Chilkowsky Procédé et dispositifs pour le mesure des distances au moyen d'ondes electro-magnétiques Method and apparatus for the measurement of distances by the use of electromagnetic waves [identical to British patent nr. 288233; invention of the transponder]
305250 GB 1927 Alexander Watson Watt & Labouchere Hillyer Bainbridge-Bell Alexander Watson Watt & Labouchere Hillyer Bainbridge-Bell --- Improvements in and relating to Apparatus adapted for use in Radio-telegraphic Direction Finding and for similar purposes. [expansion of GB patent 252263; adds omnidirectional / non-directional sense antenna]
529891 RP 1928 Alexander Meissner Telefunken GmbH Verfahren zur drahtlosen Richtungsbestimmung Method for wireless determination of direction [improvement of Compass with stopwatch, resuts depend on stopwatch operator and relatively low speed of beacon rotation requires time-consuming repeated measurements and averageing. Patent: automatic , replace stopwatch with an optical indicator that rotates synchronously with beacon, light pulse based on reception of pulses from beacon rotating at 10-20 rps (!!!)]
502562 RP 1929 Ernst Kramar & Felix Gerth C.Lorenz A.G. Verfahren zum Tasten von Richtsendern für rotierende Richtstrahlen Method for keying directional transmitters for rotating directional beams
546000 RP 1930 Meint Harms Meint Harms Verfahren einer selbsttätigen Ortsbestimmung beweglicher Empfänger Method for position finding by a mobile receiver [phase difference of coherent/synchronized waves; invention of hyperbolic navigation]
661431 RP 1930 Ernst Kramar C. Lorenz A.G. Einrichtung zur Richtungsbestimmung drahtloser Sender Arrangement for direction finding of wireless transmitters
1945952 US 1930 Alexander McLean Nicolson Alexander McLean Nicolson --- Radio Range Finder
1949256 US 1931 Ernst Kramar C. Lorenz A.G. --- Radio Direction Finder
577350 RP 1932 Ernst Kramar C. Lorenz A.G. Sendeanordnung zur Erzielung von Kurslinien Arrangement for creation of course lines
592185 RP 1932 Ernst Kramar & Felix Gerth C. Lorenz A.G. Gleitwegbake zür Führung von Flugzeugen bei der Landung Glideslope beacon for guiding airplanes to landing
405727 BP 1932 --- C. Lorenz A.G. --- Directional radio transmitting arrangements particularly for use with ultra-short waves [use of marker beacons]
2093885 US 1932 Ernst Kramar & Felix Gerth Standard Elektrik Lorenz A.G. --- Means for guiding aeroplanes by radio signals
408321 BP 1932 --- C. Lorenz A.G. --- Radio beacon for directing aircraft  [2 overlapping VHF beams for lateral guidance, curved glidepath on constant signal strength of same 2 beams]
607237 RP 1933 --- C. Lorenz A.G. Leitverfahren für Flugzeuge mittels kurzen Wellen, insbesondere ultrakurzer Wellen Method for guiding aircraft by means of short waves, in particular ultra-short waves [expansion of Reichspatent 589149]
1981884 US 1933 Albert H. Taylor, Leo C. Young, Lawrence A. Hyland Albert H. Taylor, Leo C. Young, Lawrence A. Hyland --- System for detecting objects by radio [Invention of Doppler-shift based radio detection of moving reflective object]
653519 RP 1933 --- Marconi's Wireless Telegraphy Co. Ltd. Verfahren zur Übermittlung von Nachrichten allert Art auf drahtlosem Wege Method for wireless transmission of messages [directly readable, omni-directional transmission of e.g., weather data, as pointer on CRT display with scale, without synchronization complexity of TV of fax]
2072267 US 1933 Ernst Kramar C. Lorenz A.G. --- System for Landing Aircraft [expanded by 1937 follow-up US patent 2215786 "System for landing airplanes"]
2044852 US 1933 Ernst Kramar C. Lorenz A.G. --- Electric indicator for comparing field intensities [E/T equisignal beam deviation indicator; non-kicking meter]
616026 RP 1934 --- C. Lorenz A.G. Sendeanordnung zur Erzielung von Kurslinien gemäß Patent 577 350 Transmitter arrangement for obtaining course-lines per Reichspatent 577350 [vertical dipole and resonant reflectors]
612825 RP 1934 --- C. Lorenz A.G. Verfahren zum Betrieb von Funkbaken Method for operating a radio beacon [2-course AN or ET beam, left/right beams swapped based on which course is active]
2196674 US 1934 Ernst Kramar & Walter Max Hahnemann C. Lorenz A.G. --- Method for Landing Aircraft
2217404 US 1934 Ernst Kramar & Walter Max Hahnemann C. Lorenz A.G. --- System and Method for Landing Airplanes
2025212 US 1934 Ernst Kramar C. Lorenz A.G. --- Radio Transmitting Arrangement for Determining Bearings
2083242 US 1935 Wilhelm Runge Wilhelm Runge --- Method of Direction Finding
2184843 US 1935 Ernst Kramar C. Lorenz A.G. --- Method and Means for determining Position by Radio Beacons
44879 F 1935 --- C. Lorenz A.G. Appareil transmetteur pour les ondes électriques et en particulier pour les ondes ultra-courtes Transmitter for electrical waves, in particular ultra-short [curved glidepath based on constant beam signal-strength]
2134535 US 1936 Wilhelm Runge Telefunken GmbH --- Distance Determining System [signal-strength based]
2117848 US 1936 Ernst Kramar C.Lorenz A.G. --- Direction Finding Method
2170659 US 1936 Ernst Kramar C.Lorenz A.G. --- Direction Finding Arrangement
2141247 US 1936 Ernst Kramar & Heinrich Brunswig C.Lorenz A.G. --- Arrangement for Wireless Signaling
734130 RP 1937 Ernst Kramar & Walter-Max Hahnemann C.Lorenz A.G. Ultrakurzwellen-Sendeanordnung zur Erzielung von Gleitwegflächen Arrangement of VHF transmission for generation of glide path planes
705234 RP 1937 Ernst Kramar & Dietrich Erben C.Lorenz A.G. Sendeanordnung zur Erzeugung von geknickten Kurslinien Arrangement for generating angled course lines
720890 RP 1937 Ernst Kramar & Werner Gerbes C.Lorenz A.G. Anordnung zur Erzeugung einer geradlinigen Gleitwegführung für Flugzeuglandezwecke Arrangement for generating straight glide path guidance for aircraft landing purposes
2215786 US 1937 Ernst Kramar & Walter Max Hahnemann C.Lorenz A.G. --- System for landing airplanes
2226718 US 1937 Ernst Kramar & Walter Max Hahnemann C.Lorenz A.G. --- Method of Landing Airplanes
767399 RP 1937 Ernst Kramar & Joachim Goldmann C.Lorenz A.G. Verfahren zur Erzeugung einer vertikalen Leitebene Method for creating a vertical guidance plane for long-range navigation  [shortwave; ground & sky waves combine, periodic fading]
731237 RP 1938 Ernst Kramar C.Lorenz A.G. Empfangsverfahren für Leitstrahlsender Method of reception of guide beam transmitters
767522 RP 1938 Ernst Kramar & Felix Gerth & Joachim Goldmann & Heinrich Brunswig C.Lorenz A.G. Empfangsvorrichtung zur Richtungsbestimmung mittels rotierender Funkbake Receiving device for determining direction with a rotating radio beacon [rotating beacon with omnidirectional north-signal pulse and rotating minimum/null; [mentions optical device with synchronously rotating light bulb (inaccurate, complicated construction) and CRT display (Braunsche Röhre) showing pip upon receipt of max signal]
2282030 US 1938 Henri Busignies Henri Busignies --- System of Guiding Vehicles
711673 RP 1938 Ernst Kramar C.Lorenz A.G. Gleitweglandeverfahren Glide Path Landing Method
2290974 US 1938 Ernst Kramar C.Lorenz A.G. --- Direction Finding System
2297228 US 1938 Ernst Kramar C.Lorenz A.G. --- Glide Path Producing Means
2288196 US 1938 Ernst Kramar C.Lorenz A.G. --- Radio Beacon System
7105791 RP 1938 Ernst Kramar & Heinrich Nass C.Lorenz A.G. Sendeanordnung zur Erzeugung von Leitlinien Arrangement for producing course guide-beams
2241907 US 1938 Ernst Kramar & Walter Max Hahnemann C.Lorenz A.G. --- Landing Method and System for Aircraft
2238270 US 1939 Ernst Kramar & Heinrich Nass C.Lorenz A.G. --- Radio Direction Finding System
2210664 US 1939 Ernst Kramar & Walter Max Hahnemann C.Lorenz A.G. --- Radio Direction Finding System
2255741 US 1939 Ernst Kramar C.Lorenz A.G. --- System for determining Navigatory Direction
718022 RP 1939 Ernst Kramar C.Lorenz A.G. Antennenanordnung zur Erzeugung einer Strahlung für die Durchführung von Flugzeugblinlandungen Antenna configuration for generating a beam for blind landing of airplanes
2241915 US 1939 Ernst Kramar C.Lorenz A.G. --- Direction-Finding System
767254 RP 1939 Ernst Kramar C.Lorenz A.G. Verfahren zur kontinuierlichen Ortsbestimmung eines Flugzeuges längs der Anflugstrecke zu einem Landeplatz Method for continuously determining position of an aircraft along a the approach path to an arfield.
[From marker beacon to touchdown, rotating wave interference pattern, one beam with phase modulation, one with unmodulated CW, wavelength at least approach path length, e.g., 900 m or 4 km, located at departure end of runway]
2294882 US 1940 Andrew Alford International Telephone & Radio Mfg. Corp. [subsidiary of ITT] --- "Aircraft Landing System"
[methods & means for providing a glide path with antenna location remote from landing runway [FD: beside runway, abeam T/D point]; parabolic/curved GP too steep at higher alt, but correct shap at T/D point; straight GP at higher altitude but too sharp angle at T/D point; patent proposes hyperbolic GP shape that is substantially straight but curved at lower alt; antenna system has symmetrical pattern in opposite directions, i.e., 2 GP's in opposite directions [FD: undesirable, since only 1 can serve a correct T/D point!]
581602 RP 1942 Robert James Dippy Robert James Dippy --- Improvements in or relating to Wireles Signalling Systems" [invention of the Grid / GEE/ G hyperbolic system; covers GEE pulse-signals receiver & CRT display system design]
581603 RP 1942 Robert James Dippy Robert James Dippy --- Improvements in or relating to Wireles Systems for navigation [co-patent to 581602]
2436843 US 1943 Chester B. Watts & Leon Himmel Federal Telephone & Radio Corp. [subsidiary of ITT] --- "Radio Antenna"
[UHF directional antenna system with 2 overlapping beams, radiating predominantly horizontally polarized waves, without rear lobes, suitable for operation with a mobile glide path transmitter, lower end of GP changes from straight GP angle to zero; finalization of US patent nr. 2419552 (filed 1 month earlier) with same title, by Leon Himmel & Morton Fuchs, Federal Telephone & Radio Corp (ITT)]
862787 DP 1944 Joachim Goldmann C.Lorenz A.G. Antennenanordnung zur Erzeugung von ebenen Strahlungsflächen der Strahlung Null Antenna configuration for generating narrow nulls in beam radiation pattern ["Elektra" beam system]

Table 3: Selected patents regarding radio direction finding, radio location, radio navigation through WW2


Note 1: due to copyright reasons, this file is in a password-protected directory. Contact me if you need access for research or personal study purposes.

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