back to article Things that needn't be said: Don't plonk a massive Starlink dish on the hood of your car

The California Highway Patrol has issued a warning to motorists that, frankly, needn't be said. Don't whack a massive Starlink satellite dish to the hood of your car. It's a bit illegal. Officer T Caton, of the Antelope Valley division of the California Highway Patrol, stopped the driver after spotting the massive broadband …

  1. b0llchit Silver badge

    Your Mileage May Vary

    ...not including any fines caused by questionable positioning.

    If you have the change to pay for this stuff, then I'd be surprised if you would be too poor to pay a regular fine of such kind. But, when you keep it on the hood, then I guess that YMMV should be taken more literally than usual and can be measured in both monetary and distance units.

    Take note, el Reg Units department. Unit expansions and conversions are expected soon.

  2. Brian Miller


    Had to look elsewhere for the pic, I don't have a Farcebook account. But that's a ridiculous spot to mount an antenna. I can understand if it was mounted on the roof, but the hood?? Really short hood, and the person plonked it in the middle.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Spaced-GenX?

      > I can understand if it was mounted on the roof

      Well that would be closer to the satellite

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Spaced-GenX?

        I'd have thought a truck bed would have been more appropriate.

        1. JDPower666

          Re: Spaced-GenX?

          A cybertruck surely.

      2. Joe Gurman

        Re: Spaced-GenX?

        Well played, that Coward.

    2. ShadowSystems

      Re: Spaced-GenX?

      I wanted to point out something to that affect. If you want to mount something big to your car, do it on the roof where it won't obstruct your ability to see WTF is going on around you. The police will be more than happy to ticket you for being unable to see, but they *might* let a "big stupid roof doodad" to go with just a warning

      Besides, given the need to keep the antenna pointing at the right bits of sky, wouldn't you need an auto-adjusting gyro aiming harness in which to keep said antenna so it stayed on track no matter how the car beneath it might be oriented? Otherwise you would have to keep driving in only a limited number of directions on a limited number of streets and a limited number of elevations lest you render your signal strength to be less than a butterfly's scream in a typhoon. =-\

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Spaced-GenX?

        "Besides, given the need to keep the antenna pointing at the right bits of sky, wouldn't you need an auto-adjusting gyro aiming harness ,,,?"

        I'm not a expert, but my understanding is that the Starlink antenna is a phased array antenna whose beam is electronically steerable, But I would think that adjusting for changes in the vehicle's direction might require satnav and some non-trivial mods to its standard beam steering software.

        1. ShadowSystems

          At VTCodger, re: aiming.

          For the most part that is true, but the car needs to be pointed in at least the gross general direction for the phased array steering to narrow it down to the specific. E.G. facing general North so the array can get to the specific NNE spot on the horizon.

          If you need to aim the array South & you're unfortunately stuck facing West for example, the auto-adjusting gymbal harness could simply twist itself to ignore the car's orientation in order to ensure the correct one for the antenna.

          *Hands you a pint*

          I had to learn about this crap while traveling in a tow-behind camper-trailer. We had a satelite antenna by which to get tv/internet/communications & if it weren't for the auto-adjusting gyro bits inside the "R2D2's domed head" we never would have stood a chance. It was difficult enough to find the right spot in the sky when you were standing still & could use various tools, but doing it while driving would be right impossible.

          Drink up! At least we don't have a giant satelite dish on the top of our heads!

          1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

            Re: At VTCodger, re: aiming.

            For the most part that is true, but the car needs to be pointed in at least the gross general direction for the phased array steering to narrow it down
            In the case of Starlink, the gross general direction is "up".

          2. cows2

            Re: At VTCodger, re: aiming.

            Again, you are referring to satellite services that point at a fixed location. The Starlink antenna tracks satellites that are constantly moving quickly across the sky, horizons to up. There are typically multiple visible in multiple parts of the sky at a time, more as more launches happen (the goal). They won't need any special setup as you're suggesting. The mobile setup is using the same (or pretty close) hardware (no doubt there will be revisions). If it can't see north, it will choose up. South, no, the license (I believe) requires mostly north (ish) in our hemisphere (If I recall correctly, could be wrong).

            There isn't a gross general direction. The antenna just needs to see "up".

            Take a look at satellitemap dot space (no www), it shows their movement and positions. Note that the antennas are already self-pointing and can orient themselves as is.

      2. cows2

        Re: Spaced-GenX?

        It's a phased array antenna, it already tracks satellites moving fairly quickly across a large area of the sky, not in fixed positions, and in more than one direction. They are working on mobile use (like airplanes), not so much cars, perhaps RV use though.

    3. J27 Silver badge

      Re: Spaced-GenX?

      Yeah, but putting it on the roof would have been legal and then we would never have read this story.

    4. sova

      Re: Spaced-GenX?

      Clearly, the person who attached the dish decided that it’s easier to screw it to the bonnet. Access is easier and won’t cost much to rectify. If he; I assume it was a man; did it on the roof then he would have massive three holes to patch if the “test” failed.

      So some reasonable thinking here, but not much.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Spaced-GenX?

        He could have used a roof rack :-)

        (Do they have them in the US? Or do they just buy a bigger car?)

  3. Inventor of the Marmite Laser
    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Linky

      Yep. Well, the only thing surprising me was that this didn't happen in Florida.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Linky

        Now that I've seen the picture, I can only say WTF was he thinking?!?!?!?!?

    2. Smirnov

      Re: Linky

      From that link:

      "Sir I stopped you today for that visual obstruction on your hood. Does it not block your view while driving?" CHP of Antelope Valley wrote in a Facebook post about the incident.

      Why am I not surprised? I love the AV but things like this are what often makes it into a little Florida.

  4. IGotOut Silver badge

    This is a disgrace...

    ... it's in California so clearly they are a disruptor, the next Zuckerberg or Bezos. Just you wait!

  5. LDS Silver badge

    Yes, you drive a Prius because it's green...

    ... and then put a dish on it to make if very inefficient aerodynamically, with the risk it detaches and hits the windscreen of some unlucky one behind you - in addition of not being able to see the road yourself.

    CHIPs should be given a Musk flamethrower (one following SpaceX engines designs...) to teach some common sense to this people....

  6. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Prior Art

    He was probably trying to establish public record for the idea of having mounting a satellite dish on the bonnet/hood of the a car. When manufactures start doing something similar (albeit not as intrusive to driver vision), he'll file a lawsuit with the hope of settling out of court. May be he has been granted a US patent

  7. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

    Driver's side

    "a cable snaking up through the driver-side window"

    I agree that it's the side that the driver should be sitting, but as it happened in America the driver sits on the left of the car and the pictures show the cable entering through the right-side door seal.

  8. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Yet another example

    ... that nothing can ever be made idiot proof.

  9. HildyJ Silver badge

    As if COVID wasn't bad enough

    Now the Mar-a-Lago variant of Florida Man is spreading across the country.

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Could have been worse...

    ... if Darwin had got to him before the Highway Patrol.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Could have been worse...


      OK, if he wasn't the only one involved.

  11. ZekeStone

    It is cheap compared to the past

    Regarding this statement:

    "But surfing this way is not cheap. Punters are asked to fork out $499 for the dish and modem, with a further recurring $99 monthly subscription fee."

    While that's expensive compared to setting up a land-line based or cellular-based internet circuit, it's cheap compared to the costs associated with satellite internet access of the past.

    I remember spending 2-4 times that for bad service for someone who insisted on living in the middle of nowhere.

    1. cows2

      Re: It is cheap compared to the past

      "While that's expensive compared to setting up a land-line based or cellular-based internet circuit"

      You're not familiar with the costs in a lot of areas. Cell carriers aren't available everywhere, and often don't have "unlimited" plans suitable for home use. Many people in the US pay more than $100 for shady plans (like corporate accounts not meant for home use, etc.). And, good cell boosters start at around $500 (I have one, know several that do).

      Land-line cost, no, that's much more expensive in a lot of areas. The fiber I'm closest to is metered, they don't offer an unlimited plan. Just one plan. 50Mbps, $20 base fee, $0.20 per 1GB used with no cap on use. Use 100 gigs, $40 bill. 1,000 gigs, $220. That's only 7 miles away, if i'd pay to run that to me, it would pass by 3 houses. My cousins were quoted $85,000 to run a line 1/2 mile, so, 7 miles would not be possible.... In the village, "up to" 5 Mbps service that cuts out streaming audio is $85/month. $15 more for something that works isn't too bad.

      Bottom line, the costs of Starlink are competitive as is in a lot of areas. Expensive yes, but competitive.

  12. Mozzie

    The vehicle was the problem

    They could have bolted Jodrell Bank on to the hood on to that well known US city runabout, the F-150 and nobody would have noticed. Even better with less obstructions like a semi in the next lane now being below the height of the dish.

  13. JohnG

    Starlink won't work on the move or outside your chosen/designated cell.

    Perhaps he should have read the Starlink FAQs before bolting the antenna to his car:

    "Can I travel with Starlink, or move it to a different address?

    Starlink satellites are scheduled to send internet down to all users within a designated area on the ground. This designated area is referred to as a cell.

    Your Starlink is assigned to a single cell. If you move your Starlink outside of its assigned cell, a satellite will not be scheduled to serve your Starlink and you will not receive internet. This is constrained by geometry and is not arbitrary geofencing."

    Starlink won't work on the move or outside your chosen/designated cell.

  14. Jeremy Bresley

    Weird Al from 1985

    Weird Al's Dare to be Stupid album, song Cable TV:

    I got a satellite dish on the trunk of my car

    So I can watch MTV while I drive

    Life imitating art, just a little slow (like the driver in this story)

  15. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge


    Now that he's been told to remove the dish from the bonnet/hood, where will he put it next?

  16. Blackjack Silver badge

    You can however carry one on the back of a pickup, right?

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