A parabolic antenna is an antenna that uses a parabolic reflector, a curved surface with the cross-sectional shape of a parabola, to direct the radio waves. The most common form is shaped like adish and is popularly called a dish antenna or parabolic dish. The main advantage of a parabolic antenna is that it has high directivity. It functions similarly to a searchlight or flashlight reflector to direct the radio waves in a narrow beam, or receive radio waves from one particular direction only. Parabolic antennas have some of the highest gains, meaning that they can produce the narrowest beamwidths, of any antenna type. In order to achieve narrow beamwidths, the parabolic reflector must be much larger than the wavelength of the radio waves used, so parabolic antennas are used in the high frequency part of the radio spectrum, at UHF and microwave (SHF) frequencies, at which the wavelengths are small enough that conveniently-sized reflectors can be used.
Parabolic antennas are used as high-gain antennas for point-to-point communications, in applications such as microwave relay links that carry telephone and television signals between nearby cities,wireless WAN/LAN links for data communications, satellite communications and spacecraft communication antennas. They are also used in radio telescopes.
The other large use of parabolic antennas is for radar antennas, in which there is a need to transmit a narrow beam of radio waves to locate objects like ships, airplanes, and guided missiles. With the advent of home satellite television receivers, parabolic antennas have become a common feature of the landscapes of modern countries.
The parabolic antenna was invented by German physicist Heinrich Hertz during his discovery of radio waves in 1887. He used cylindrical parabolic reflectors with spark-excited dipole antennas at their focus for both transmitting and receiving during his historic experiments.
Parabolic antennas are based on the geometrical property of the paraboloid that the paths FP1Q1, FP2Q2, FP3Q3 are all the same length. So a spherical wavefront emitted by a feed antenna at the dish's focus F will be reflected into an outgoing plane wave Ltravelling parallel to the dish's axis VF.