Early Aircraft Communications in the UK

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Meet the Pioneers and Their Technology

Communications Technology at the Dawn of Flight

In the July 2020 issue of RadioUser, David Smith departs from his usual timetable. He journeys back into aviation history, to take a look at the early days of communications in this sector, both in terms of equipment and protocol. In 1909, wireless technology was already being used by many ships, although it was still little more than experimental. One of the earliest trials of wireless communication between air and ground occurred in May 1908, when a receiver was installed in the Army balloon Pegasus. "Very good signals" were received at a 20-mile range from the Aldershot wireless station. Some success was also achieved in the sending of messages from the balloon. Experiments were also undertaken at this time with transmitters and receivers in aircraft. However, audible reception proved impossible. owing to engine noise and vibration. These early wireless sets operated in what we now call the HF (High Frequency) band at wavelengths of 50-100 metres. It so happened that this was the kind of radiation that could be generated and received at the time. To the delight of Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937)) and other pioneers, it was found that it could be received after travelling great distances […].

The photograph shows the 'Wireless Room' at Biggin Hill.

[Read the full article – Part One of two – in the July issue of the magazine – Ed.].

Georg Wiessala

20 May 2020