This Week in Amateur Radio
This Week in Amateur Radio: North America's Amateur Radio News Magazine. Articles on amateur radio and news stories in the media featured here.
Updated: 55 min 20 sec ago
A new cultural exchange-based radio activity, International Youth at Sea, has been organised by the Finnish Lighthouse Society, the Amateur Radio League of Finland, the OH-DX-Foundation and DX University. The first team will activate Market Reef Lighthouse as OJ0C, from the 21st to the 28th of July. The 2018 youth team members are Nuuti, OH1UBO; Elias, OH2EP; Otava, OH3OT; Mikael, OH3UAF; Pieter, ON3DI; Florian, OE3FTA, and Ilie, YO3IMD. They are all between 6 and 25 years old. They will be participating in daily workshops of safety and survival at sea in the remote lighthouse. In addition, they will become familiar with the latest digital modes and, most important, learning how operating the radio efficiently, providing OJ0C with contacts and handling pileups. Their instructors are Martti, OH2BH; Henri, OH3JR, and Pasi, OH3WS. QSL OJ0C via OH3JR.
A California man embroiled in a long-running license renewal proceeding has lost the next step in his fight to remain a radio amateur. In a July 9 Order, FCC Administrative Law Judge Richard L. Sippel terminated the decade-old license renewal application of William Crowell, W6WBJ (ex-N6AYJ), of Diamond Springs, California, upon a motion by Enforcement Bureau Chief Rosemary C. Harold. Sippel’s Order followed Crowell’s refusal to appear in Washington, DC, for a hearing to consider not just his license renewal but related enforcement issues dating back 15 years or more. “Crowell’s decision not to appear at the hearing has the same practical effect as if he had initially failed, pursuant to Section 1.221(c) of the Rules, to file a written notice of appearance or otherwise signal his intent to participate in the hearing on his pending renewal application, i.e., he has waived his right to prosecute that application,” Harold said in the Enforcement Bureau’s June 12 motion to dismiss Crowell’s license renewal application.
Unless you live in a cave, you’ve probably heard a little about the thirteen people — mostly children — trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand. What you may have missed, though, is the hacker/ham radio connection. The British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC) was asked for their expert help. [Rick Stanton], [John Volanthen] and [Rob Harper] answered the call. They were equipped with HeyPhones. The HeyPhone is a 17-year-old design from [John Hey, G3TDZ]. Sadly, [G3TDZ] is now a silent key (ham radio parlance for deceased) so he didn’t get to see his design play a role in this high-profile rescue, although it has apparently been a part of many others in the past. The HeyPhone is actually considered obsolete but is still in service with some teams. The radio uses USB (upper sideband, not universal serial bus) at 87 kHz. The low frequency can penetrate deep into the ground using either induction loop antennas like the older Molephone, or — more commonly — with electrodes injecting RF energy directly into the ground.
The dramatic rescue of twelve young footballers and their coach from a cave in Thailand was facilitated, in part, by communications technology developed by British radio amateur John Hey, G3TDZ. Ordinary radio signals don’t penetrate the solid rock surrounding caves, but very low frequency signals can do. Around the turn of the Millennium John designed a system that became known as the HeyPhone, which could penetrate some 800m of solid rock and provide reliable two-way voice communication. It used single sideband operating at 87kHz, with novel antenna techniques to couple the signals between units. The HeyPhone was featured in the January 2002 edition of RadCom. Unfortunately John became a silent key in 2016 but he saw his equipment used in countless cave rescue and other applications. You can read more about how his work helped save the Thai footballers on the Hackaday site, via tinyurl.com/GB2RS-1507A
IARU Region 1 Emergency Coordinator Greg Mossup, G0DUB, has posted a report on the Emergency Communications Meeting held at June’s Ham Radio event in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Mossup said some 20 emergency communicators attended the June 1 meeting, sponsored by the IARU. “After the introduction and Region 1 report, there were interesting presentations followed by a good exchange of information in an open forum session, which carried on beyond the official closing time of the meeting,” Mossup said in his report. He said Michal Wilczynski, SP9XWM, and Krzysztof Gaudnik, SP7WME, presented on emergency activities in Poland, followed by Herbert Koblmiller, OE3KJN, who discussed “Exercise Solar Flare,” which saw good cooperation between Austrian radio amateurs, the military, and service providers. Finally, Alberto Barbera, IK1YLO, and Marco, IU1GJE, spoke about the internet-linked DMR network they have been working on for use in emergencies and disasters.
The parenthood of any invention of consequence is almost never cut and dried. The natural tendency to want a simple story that’s easy to tell — Edison invented the light bulb, Bell invented the telephone — often belies the more complex tale: that most inventions have uncertain origins, and their back stories are often far more interesting as a result. Inventing is a rough business. It is said that a patent is just a license to get sued, and it’s true that the determination of priority of invention often falls to the courts. Such battles often pit the little guy against a corporate behemoth, the latter with buckets of money to spend in making the former’s life miserable for months or years. The odds are rarely in the favor of the little guy, but in few cases was the deck so stacked against someone as it was for a young man barely out of high school, Philo Farnsworth, when he went up against one of the largest companies in the United States to settle a simple but critical question: who invented television?
The World Radiosport Team Championship takes place this week, running from Thursday the 12th to Monday the 16th. This invitation-only event pits the world’s elite contesters against each other in two-person teams. To level the playing field, all the contesters use similar stations with similar antennas, all within a relatively small geographical operating area to ensure no-one is aided or disadvantaged by local propagation conditions. We have more details on how you can take part in the Contests section of this bulletin. This year’s event takes place in Germany and you can find details of all parts of the event at www.wrtc2018.de
The days are dwindling down to a precious few: Following 4 years of preparation, World Radiosport Team Championship 2018 (WRTC 2018) is primed to start, and excitement is building to see how the 63 competing teams fare in the 24-hour event, July 14 – 15 in Germany. Fourteen North American teams are on the roster, including the defending champion team of WRTC 2014, Daniel Craig, N6MJ, and Chris Hurlbut, KL9A. Several well-known US contesting personalities are among those serving as referees at each site. As the July 12 opening ceremonies neared, WRTC 2018 organizers were searching for a last-minute replacement for a team leader who had to drop out. WRTC 2018 takes place in conjunction with the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) HF Championship, although with different or additional rules. Both events get under way on Saturday at 1200 UTC and conclude on Sunday at 1159 UTC, and all radio amateurs may take part in the IARU event. The object of the IARU is to contact as many other stations on phone and CW, especially IARU member society headquarters stations, on 160 through 10 meters, except for 30, 17, and 12 meters.
A bandpass allows a certain electrical signal to pass while filtering out undesirable frequencies. In a speaker bandpass, the mid-range speaker doesn’t receive tones meant for the tweeter or woofer. Most of the time, this filtering is done with capacitors to remove low frequencies and inductors to remove high frequencies. In radio, the same concept applies except the frequencies are usually much higher. [The Thought Emporium] is concerned with signals above 300MHz and in this range, a unique type of filter becomes an option. The microstrip filter ignores the typical installation of passive components and uses the copper planes of an unetched circuit board as the elements. A nice analogy is drawn in the video, which can also be seen after the break, where the copper shapes are compared to the music tuning forks they resemble. The elegance of these filters is their simplicity, repeatability, and reproducability. In the video, they are formed on a CNC mill but any reliable PCB manufacturing process should yield beautiful results. At the size these are made, it would be possible to fit these filters on a business cardor a conference badge.
ARRL was on hand in Boston July 8 – 13 for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Antenna and Propagation Society (AP-S) Symposium, held jointly held with the US National Committee of the International Union of Radio Science (URSI). The ARRL exhibit included an Amateur Radio special event demonstration station, N1P, and more than a dozen volunteers staffed the ARRL exhibit. “We had a very attractive booth in a great location,” said ARRL Eastern Massachusetts Assistant Section Manager Phil Temples, K9HI. “Engineers in the antenna and propagation fields in industry and science attending from all over the world stopped by the ARRL table to see and learn about Amateur Radio.” Temples said ARRL Headquarters provided supplies for the booth as well as display copies of publications, “which doubled as door prizes for drawings,” he added. Complementing volunteers from the ARRL Eastern Massachusetts Section were radio amateurs attending the conference who donated their time between talks and seminars to assist with the booth and greet fellow attendees.
Following an extensive review of the Amateur Radio Observation Service, AROS, the RSGB has decided to create a new service to provide guidance to operators who experience misuse of the amateur bands by others. This service will be known as the Operating Advisory Service, or OAS, and will replace AROS. The change will come into effect over the next few months. A new team of volunteers will promote good practice and take a detailed look at how to tackle problems such as on-air harassment, repeater abuse and the pirating of callsigns. They will develop written advice that will be published on the OAS pages on the RSGB website.
WRTC 2018 organizers today officially announced the list of call signs to be used during the World Radiosport Team Championship 2018 (WRTC 2018) competition that gets under way at 1200 UTC on Saturday, July 14. The call signs to be used will be Y81A through Y89U. Y##-prefix call signs, once used by radio amateurs in the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) were inherited by the German government after the reunification of East and West Germany and have not been used since. The call signs were announced during the WRTC 2018 opening ceremony today. Shortly before the competition starts on Saturday, each team leader will select a sealed envelope containing the team’s call sign. The envelope then is given to the team’s referee, and 15 minutes before the competition begins, the referee will hand the envelope to the team leader, and the team members will then quickly program CW and voice keyers.
The Canadian CASSIOPE (CAScade, Smallsat, and Ionospheric Polar Explorer) spacecraft once again eavesdropped on ARRL Field Day activity. CASSIOPE’s Radio Receiver Instrument (RRI) was tuned to 7.005 MHz during six passes over the North American continent during Field Day 2018, although there was no advance publicity this year. The RRI is a component of the spacecraft’s Enhanced Polar Outflow Probe (e-POP), a suite of eight science instruments that study space weather. “We’re really happy with our results this year,” remarked Gareth Perry, a physics and astronomy postdoctoral research associate at the University of Calgary in Canada, CASSIOPE’s home institution. “RRI recorded plenty of chatter between Field Day participants, especially during our passes over the eastern and central United States on the evening of [June 23].”
Tac Hirama, JA7QVI, has completed all requirements for the Worked All States (WAS) award on 6 meters. New Jersey was the last state he needed to work, and he managed a moonbounce (EME) contact as well as a conventional ionospheric contact. It’s quite possible that JA7QVI is the first radio amateur to earn WAS on 6 meters from Japan, although that cannot be confirmed. Completing WAS on 6 meters was a major goal for him, Hirama said, and an Earth-Moon-Earth contact with Andy Blank, N2NT, on June 17 clinched the deal. He’d been working on achieving WAS on 6 meters since 1977. JA7QVI now has accomplished WAS on 10 bands, 160 through 6 meters.
We really like when a vendor finds a great book on a topic — probably one they care about — and makes it available for free. Analog Devices does this regularly and one you should probably have a look at is Software Defined Radio for Engineers. The book goes for $100 or so on Amazon, and while a digital copy has pluses and minuses, it is hard to beat the $0 price. The book by [Travis F. Collins], [Robin Getz], [Di Pu], and [Alexander M. Wyglinski] covers a range of topics in 11 chapters. There’s also a website with more information including video lectures and projects forthcoming that appear to use the Pluto SDR. We have a Pluto and have been meaning to write more about it including the hack to make it think it has a better RF chip inside. The hack may not result in meeting all the device specs, but it does work to increase the frequency range and bandwidth. However, the book isn’t tied to a specific piece of hardware.
The annual Original 13 Colonies Special Event will mark its 10th anniversary this year. The event gets under way on July 1 at 1300 UTC and runs through July 8 at 0400 UTC. Event Manager Kenneth Villone, KU2US, reports that 127,132 contacts took place during the 2017 13 Colonies event, down from 139,772 in 2016, owing in part to poor band conditions. Special event stations with 1 × 1 call signs will represent the original 13 US colonies, plus bonus stations WM3PEN in Philadelphia and GB13COL in Durham, England. Each special event station will have its own QRZ.com profile page. Participating stations try to contact all 13 Colony Stations plus the two bonus stations. Call signs and their respective states are K2A, New York; K2B, Virginia; K2C, Rhode Island; K2D, Connecticut; K2E, Delaware; K2F, Maryland; K2G, Georgia; K2H, Massachusetts; K2I, New Jersey; K2J, North Carolina; K2K, New Hampshire; K2L, South Carolina, and K2M, Pennsylvania. Additional information is on the 13 Colonies website.
“Baker is brutal!” That was the initial assessment from the Baker Island KH1/KH7Z DXpedition team, which arrived at the uninhabited South Pacific atoll on June 26 at local sunrise, following a 4-day sea voyage. The KH1/KH7Z team started up early on June 27 with three stations on the air, with additional stations pending. “Island conditions are extremely hot, and difficult. Long work periods in the sun are challenging,” a June 27 DXpedition news update reported. The team reported that the landing “was not too bad, but the island is an oven,” with the temperature well above 100 °F by mid-morning. Despite rough tidal action, the crew of the Nai’a was able to offload all tents, generators, and emergency supplies. After the initial landing team left “totally exhausted,” a fresh crew arrived to put up the tents for sleeping tents and move radios antennas and generators to the storage and operating tents. “They say it never rains on Baker,” the DXpedition noted in its June 28 update. “At midnight giant squalls came through knocking out one of our three antennas that we worked so hard to get up. We worked through the morning and [now] have 6 stations available. The KH1/KH7Z frequency plan is on the DXpedition website. DXpedition operators will be operating split. Do not call on the DX station’s transmitting frequency! FT8 operation is planned, using the FT8 DXpedition Mode. Stations should have WSJT-X version 1.9.1 installed and be in “Hound” mode (check the appropriate box under the Advanced tab in the WSJT-X File/Settings menu). More information on DXpedition Mode is available from the WSJT-X Development Team. Plans call for the DXpedition to be “very active” on 60 meters. IT problems have prevented uploading logs, but the team is working to correct the issues. These will be on Club Log as soon as they are available. For his June 28 Ham Talk Live internet radio program, Neil Rapp, WB9VPG, has arranged for a satellite telephone contact with the Baker Island DXpedition team and will take callers via Skype or telephone. He’ll also take live questions via Twitter (@HamTalkLive) or, in advance, by email.
The Canada Day Contest takes place on Sunday, July 1. The annual event celebrates the anniversary of Canada’s Confederation. Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) sponsors the Canada Day Contest and invites radio amateurs around the world to Canada’s birthday party on the air. This event begins on July 1 at 0000 UTC (Saturday, June 30, in North American time zones) and continues until 2359 UTC. Available bands are 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, and 2 meter, on CW and phone. Suggested frequencies for CW are 25 kHz up from the band edge. Look for SSB activity centered on 1.850, 3.775, 7.075, 7.225, 14.175, 21.250, and 28.500 MHz. Stations in Canada should send their signal report and province or territory. VE0s and stations outside Canada should send the signal report and serial number. Contacts with RAC official stations (RAC suffix) are worth 20 points. A trophy is awarded for the highest single operator (no power classification), non-Canada participant. — Thanks to Radio Amateurs of Canada
[Charlie Morris] has been busy building a portable ham radio rig and documenting his progress in a series of videos. You can see the first one below. There’s four parts (more if you count things like part 4 and part 4a as two parts) so far and it is always interesting to see inside a build like this, where the choices and tradeoffs are explained. The first part covers the Si5351 VFO and the associated display. There’s very little to the VFO other than off-the-shelf modules including an Arduino. You can also see the portable Morse code key which is actually a micro switch. The second part experiments with audio amplifiers. [Charlie] looked at the NE5534 vs discrete amplifiers. He was shooting for lowest current draw that was usable. Other parts discuss the RF amplifier and the receiver. Despite the VFO, there is quite a bit of non-module parts by the time things start shaping up.
CAMSAT, China’s Amateur Radio Satellite organization, has offered additional details about the three Amateur Radio satellites it plans to launch later this year. Two of the satellites, designated CAS-5A and CAS-6, will carry transponders, and one of them will offer HF capability. CAMSAT’s Alan Kung, BA1DU, told ARRL that the 6U CAS-5A will carry two HF transponders and two V/UHF transponders. The plentiful equipment package includes an H/T (21/29 MHz) mode linear transponder, an H/U (21/435 MHz) mode linear transponder, an HF CW telemetry beacon, a V/U linear transponder, a V/U FM transponder, a UHF CW telemetry beacon, and UHF AX.25 4.8k/9.6k baud GMSK telemetry.