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: 47 min 10 sec ago
Lou Frenzel | May 17, 2018 Electronics has been a hobby for as long as electronics has existed. It started with radio in the early 1900s, and has continued to this day. Audio was a big focus in the 50s and 60s, but hobbyists turned to micros, computer kits, and PCs in the 70s and 80s. That interest in micros continues to this day. There have always been publications covering the hobby aspects of electronics, and today multiple websites serve this community. It’s hard to pin point the number of participants, but in general, the hobbyist population appears to be growing. Many working engineers are also hobbyists. Are you one? I definitely “are” one, as they say. I started out in my early teens with radios, taking them apart and learning about shortwave listening and ham radio with my Dad’s Hallicrafters S38B radio. I got my ham license soon after, and have been involved with that hobby up to the present. I’m a ham extra class, W5LEF. In the 1970s, I worked for Heathkit and was involved in developing the Heath computer kits. I still play around with electronics and have my own workbench with multiple radios, scope, power supplies, breadboards, etc., to try out circuits and equipment. It’s still fun for me. I suppose that makes me somewhat of a geek. Whatever.
JK Antennas, which recently donated a new two-element, 40-meter Yagi to Maxim Memorial Station W1AW at ARRL Headquarters, has followed up with a XR5-JK antenna for use by the Laird Campbell Memorial HQ Operators Club station W1HQ, located adjacent to the ARRL Laboratory. The five-band XR5-JK replaces a multiband antenna that was no longer functional. Matt Strelow, KC1XX, and Andrew Toth — both of XX Towers, Inc. — were on hand on May 2 to finalize the construction and installation of new Yagi, donated by JK Antennas proprietor Ken Garg, W3JK. The balun used for this antenna was donated by Balun Designs, LLC, which manufactures the baluns used on JK Antennas based on their specifications. Headquarters staffers Bob Allison, WB1GCM, and Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, picked up the new antenna from JK Antennas’ distribution site in Brookfield, Connecticut, on May 1.
ARRL has asked the FCC to avoid authorizing developmental technologies in two Amateur Radio bands above 95 GHz that some radio amateurs may not be unaware of. The ARRL commented on May 2 in response to a Notice of Proposed Rule Making and Order (NPRM&O) in ET Docket 18-21, released in February. The so-called “Spectrum Horizons” proceeding seeks to make the bands above 95 GHz “more readily accessible for new innovative services and technologies.” ARRL said that, while it agrees that “regulatory flexibility is justified” in the millimeter-wave bands above 95 GHz, due to the extensive frequency re-use possibilities, the FCC ought to make two primary Amateur/Amateur Radio Satellite bands in that part of the spectrum unavailable for deployment of unlicensed Part 15 or Part 5 Experimental Spectrum Horizons devices. Amateur Radio has primary allocation status in the bands 134 – 136 GHz and 248 – 250 GHz, both shared with the Radio Astronomy Service, which is secondary.
The first science results from the Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP) last August 21 have been published in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters. In the paper, “Modeling Amateur Radio Soundings of the Ionospheric Response to the 2017 Great American Eclipse,” Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, and team present Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) observations of the SEQP and compare them with ray tracings through an eclipsed version of the physics-based ionospheric model SAMI3. Frissell, a New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) research professor, explains that ray tracing is a method of calculating where a radio wave will go based on electron density — essentially the same as calculating how a light ray through a lens. HamSCI, the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation organization, sponsored the event. “From a ham radio perspective, this paper very clearly shows the effect of the eclipse on not just a few, but a very large number of contacts,” Frissell told ARRL. “You can see from the charts that activity drops off steeply on 20 meters during eclipse totality, while 80 and 160 meters open up. On 40 meters, you can see how the contact distance increases in step with the eclipse.”
The Amateur Radio community of Puerto Rico was honored by the island’s House of Representatives on May 8 in San Juan as part of the celebration of el Día del Radioaficionado (Radio Amateur Day), observed each year on the second Tuesday of May. The office of Representative Nestor Alonso-Vega, WP4BL, prepared a resolution. ARRL Puerto Rico Section Manager Oscar Resto, KP4RF, was among those on hand for the occasion. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo A. Roselló Nevares had issued a proclamation earlier, noting that Puerto Rico’s 4,000 Amateur Radio operators “contribute to the art and science of radio,” and serve as “goodwill ambassadors of our island.” Amateur Radio Day offers “the opportunity to exalt the valuable service of the radio amateurs of Puerto Rico and their contribution to the development and evolution of this important means of communication in our society,” the proclamation declared. ARRL was recognized for providing Amateur Radio equipment following last fall’s hurricanes as part of the Ham Aid program, and for organizing the deployment of ham radio volunteers to help with Puerto Rico’s recovery.
Boy Scouts of America’s Radio Scouting Coordinator Jim Wilson, K5ND, says that, although the program name for ages 11 to 17 will change to “Scouts BSA” and begin admitting girls starting on February 1, 2019, the organization’s name remains the same. “Perhaps the big difference is that girls will now be eligible to earn the Radio merit badge as part of their Scouting program,” Wilson told ARRL. “Girls are already a part of Venturing, a coed program for ages 14 to 20.” He pointed out that Venture Scouts of both sexes have always been able to earn the Amateur Radio Operator Rating Strip and the Morse Code Interpreter Strip. “For Jamboree on the Air, Girl Scouts have always been welcome to participate throughout the world,” Wilson added. “Now, they’ll be participating in not only Girl Scouts, but also in Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA.” Wilson noted that worldwide, most national Scouting organizations have had female members for quite a while now, with just 8% of countries admitting boys only.
The February edition of RadCom included a helpful article by Ofcom about their Licensing Portal, Registration and Revalidation, which are all on the Ofcom website. The RSGB has now made the article available on its website as an easy reference for every one, whether or not they are an RSGB Member. You can download it directly from tinyurl.com/GB2RS-0520A.
When it comes to surveillance, why let the government have all the fun? This tiny spy transmitter is just the thing you need to jumpstart your recreational espionage efforts. We kid, of course — you’ll want to stay within the law of the land if you choose to build [TomTechTod]’s diminutive transmitter. Barely bigger than the 337 button cell that powers it, the scrap of PCB packs a fair number of surface mount components, most in 0201 packages. Even so, the transmitter is a simple design, with a two transistor audio stage amplifying the signal from the MEMS microphone and feeding an oscillator that uses a surface acoustic wave (SAW) resonator for stability. The bug is tuned for the 433-MHz low-power devices band, and from the video below, it appears to have decent range with the random wire antenna — maybe 50 meters. [TomTechTod] has all the build files posted, including Gerbers and a BOM with Digikey part numbers, so it should be easy to make one for your fieldcraft kit.
In response to calls from Norway’s contesting community, the Norwegian Communication Authority (NCA) recently announced that it would permit the use of 2 × 1 contest call signs for individual radio amateurs. With few exceptions, Norwegian 2 × 1 call signs have been reserved for club stations, which also may use the LN prefix in contests. The new call signs will use the LC prefix and single-letter suffixes, are available to all radio amateurs with a Norwegian call sign, are issued for contest use only, and must be renewed every 5 years. The new call sign format was used for the first time in April during Norsk Hammeeting 2018, Norway’s biggest ham radio event. Call signs applied for by several contesters were allocated by random drawing. Norsk Radio Relæ Liga (NRRL), Norway’s national ham radio organization, is administering the call sign program. “We hope the shorter call signs will improve the QSO rates and call sign readability, and reduce the error rates for our contacts,” said Rag Stein-Roar Brobakken, LB3RE, the head of NRRL’s Contest Committee.
Despite largely dismal HF conditions, there is no doubt that the recent FT8 digital protocol has made hams more enthusiastic about getting on the air. The mode has caught on so quickly that co-developer Joe Taylor expressed surprise last fall at the rapid uptake of FT8 for making contacts on HF bands. Judging by Logbook of The World (LoTW) data, more than 2.3 million FT8 contacts were uploaded in 1 month — a net gain of 1.2 million contacts on all modes over the same month last year, ARRL Radiosport Manager Norm Fusaro, W3IZ, said. Over the same period, activity in some of the other modes has declined. “Year-to-date DXCC applications are up by 11% over the same period last year,” Fusaro said. “So far, we have processed 898 Worked All States (WAS) applications — a 72% increase over the same period last year. Of those applications 347 — or 39% — were FT8 endorsements. Application for VUCC are also up by 33% over 2017.” Fusaro said that while some feel that FT8 is “taking over the world,” subsuming all other modes, that’s not the case. “Activity in the traditional modes of SSB and CW has decreased only slightly, by 10%,” he said. “The real decrease is in RTTY and PSK activity and in the other WSJT-X modes. I believe poor propagation would have cut into SSB and CW activity, regardless of the new mode.” Anecdotal reports support Fusaro’s hard numbers, with wall-to-wall signals surrounding the FT8 watering holes.
The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station team (ARISS) team and Hamvention® will be working together again this year, as ARISS kicks off its 2018 fundraising campaign. That will include a special drawing on the last day of Hamvention to award an ARISS Challenge Coin display, valued at $200. “We are happy to be able to make the ARISS Challenge Coin display a very special part of Sunday’s prize awards,” said 2018 Hamvention Prize Committee Chairman Bill Serra, N8NRT. The prize features two ARISS Challenge Coins positioned side by side in a display that shows off each side of the coin. Noting Hamvention’s 2018 theme of “Amateur Radio…Serving the Community,” ARISS pointed out that it “serves communities by inspiring great numbers of youth to explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and Amateur Radio.”
Two informal informational nets remain open on the island of Hawai’i (“The Big Island”) in the wake of recent and ongoing volcanic eruptions and seismic activity, Pacific Section Emergency Coordinator Clement Jung, KH7HO, reports. No formal traffic has been passed, but frequencies are being monitored. “All normal communications, i.e., cell, land-line phones, Internet, and public safety, are operational,” Jung told ARRL. The Kilauea volcano on The Big Island erupted on May 3, spewing lava and venting high levels of sulfur dioxide. An Amateur Radio net is open on 7.088 MHz (SSB), and the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) 146.720 MHz repeater (100 Hz tone) on Mauna Kea was activated after Hawaii’s governor issued an emergency declaration. A federal disaster declaration has been approved. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports active venting of lava and hazardous fumes continues, with no end in sight. The Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park closed after roads and trails were damaged. Media accounts report that volunteers are assisting about 300 evacuees who have been staying at emergency shelters. Some 2,000 residents have been evacuated in all. The US Geodetic Survey has warned that new lava outbreaks could happen “at any time,” as well as “more energetic ash emissions.”
ARRL Audio News will post Extra Hamvention Editions Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May18 – 20, offering news and interviews from the Big Show in Xenia. Subscribers to the ARRL Audio News podcast will receive these Extra editions automatically. Anyone can hear them online. ARRL Audio News is a summary of the week’s top news stories from the world of Amateur Radio, along with interviews and other features. It’s posted every Friday in weeks during which The ARRL Letter is published.
To avoid a repeat of the first-day traffic tangles of its 2017 debut in Xenia, Ohio, Hamvention® 2018 will utilize a low-power Information Radio Station on 1620 kHz AM to get out the word on traffic, parking, and event details to visitors as they approach the city. The town is bracing to host an influx of some 25,000 Amateur Radio operators, exhibitors, and the curious, nearly doubling Xenia’s population while the event is under way, May 19 – 21. Hamvention sponsor, the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) is hoping things will go more smoothly this year. Due to the web of two-lane roads that serves the venue — the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center — Hamvention established shuttle-bus operation to alleviate traffic congestion. The hope is that the information station will persuade visitors to park at the shuttle lots, and take a shuttle to the venue. According to the Michigan firm providing the Information Radio Station, its signal “will blanket Xenia and 3 – 5 miles into surrounding Greene County (see coverage map, attached), directing approaching motorists to the five special parking facilities.” The founder of Information Station Specialists, Bill Baker, hails from Xenia. His company also is broadcasting and exhibiting at Hamvention (Building 6, Booth 6503) to introduce visitors to Information Station technology, which is used nationwide. Hamvention 2017 reported the second-largest attendance in its 67-year history.
Friday was damp at the Dayton Hamvention, but the rain showers did little to deter the crowds. In fact, many seemed to even prefer overcast conditions to the alternative: sun and heat. Perhaps as a consequence of the rain, the indoor exhibit areas were packed. At times the crowds revived memories of Hamvention at Hara Arena when movement was next to impossible with human traffic jams in the aisles. ARRL Expo saw a considerable number of visitors. All the booths were active with the ARRL Store particularly well attended. Attendees also appreciated the ARRL stage where talks here held on a regular basis. And despite the popularity of ARRL’s Logbook of the World, the DXCC card checkers were kept busy throughout the day.
The signal from the digital amateur television (DATV) transmitter aboard the International Space Station (ISS) cannot be detected on the ground, Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) has reported. The unit indicates that it is functioning, however. So far, ARISS has been at a loss to pin down the problem. “A series of steps are currently being undertaken to try to diagnose the problem,” a May 10 announcement from ARISS said. “However, if an actual failure occurred, only a ground-based evaluation will fully diagnose the problem. The ARISS International team is working diligently to bring [the system] back to full operation as soon as practical.” The ISS DATV system is known variously as “HamVideo” and “HamTV.” ARISS said it has begun coordination with its space agency partners and sponsors to “expeditiously troubleshoot the issue onboard and, if necessary, troubleshoot and repair the device on the ground.”
A change in scoring methodology for handling duplicate contacts in the CW weekend of the 2017 CQ World Wide DX Contest led to an inconsistency with the standards by which logs submitted for the SSB weekend of the same contest were scored. After considerable discussion and debate among members of the CQ WW Contest Committee and consultation with CQ management, it was decided to restore the original scoring methodology and to rescore all CW logs for the 2017 CQ WW DX. This is not expected to result in any changes to the order of finish. Updated scores will be published online on the CQ website and on the CQ World Wide DX Contest website. CQ will alert the contest community notified once the rescoring has been completed. — CQ World Wide Management
ARRL has praised the work of US Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and Mike Rogers (R-AL) for their successful efforts in securing language in the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that asks the FCC to grant radio amateurs living in restricted communities the right to install effective outdoor antennas. Text from the proposed Amateur Radio Parity Act (HR 555) formed the basis for the Courtney-Hartzler-Rogers Amendment to the NDAA. “The bill does entitle each and every Amateur Radio operator living in a deed restricted community to erect an effective outdoor antenna. Full stop. That is the principal benefit of this legislation,” ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, stressed. “There are tens of thousands of ham radio licensees who now, absent the legislation, cannot erect any outdoor antenna at all. This enables them in the same way PRB-1 has enabled hams to address unreasonably restrictive zoning ordinances during the past 33 years.” Imlay points out, though, that certain conditions apply. Prior to erecting an antenna in a deed-restricted community, an applicant for an outdoor antenna may have to apply to the homeowners association (HOA) for prior approval of the particular antenna system proposed by the ham. The Act would not empower an HOA to deny approval of all outdoor antennas. But neither does it entitle radio Amateurs residing in deed-restricted subdivisions to erect whatever antennas they want.
Amateur Radio will have a role in Cuba’s soon-to-be-launched “Operation Meteor,” aimed at aiding the island nation in preparing for natural disasters. Among the new strategies under review for implementation are civilian first-aid training; assist and rescue missions; damage control, and large-scale needs assessment. The nationwide initiative aims to mitigate the impact of natural disasters, especially in rural areas, and safeguard life on the island, Lieutenant-Colonel Wilfredo Cobas said. Operation Meteor will also work with Cuba’s radio and television services, the island’s communications system, and the Emergency Network of the Amateur Radio Federation of Cuba (FRC) to fine-tune their emergency responses. Alfredo Mesa Hormigó, CO8TVC, Information System Coordinator for the FRC’s Santiago affiliate, suggested that Operation Meteor will strengthen the capacity of the country and its provinces to face strong earthquakes, hurricanes, intense drought, fires, health, and technological disasters, and would enhance the communication system’s capabilities to face disasters in Cuba. In 2017, Hurricane Irma affected 12 Cuban provinces, destroyed more than 150,000 homes, left 10 people dead, and caused some $13 million in damage.
Former CQ magazine Contesting Editor, CQ Contest Hall of Famer, and longtime CQ World Wide DX Contest Committee member John Dorr, K1AR, has been appointed as director of the CQ World Wide DX Contest. He succeeds Doug Zwiebel, KR2Q, who had been CQ WW Director for the past 2 years and has stepped down for personal reasons. A ham since 1969, Dorr has been a member of the CQ WW Contest Committee since the mid-1970s and was CQ magazine’s Contesting Editor from 1989 until 2011. He is also a two-time World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) medalist, served as president of the Yankee Clipper Contest Club, and as chairman of the World Wide Radio Operators’ Foundation, and, for the past 25 years, emceed the Dayton Contest Dinner. He was elected to the CQ Contest Hall of Fame in 1997. Dorr, who lives in New Hampshire, recently retired from a high-tech career. The appointment is effective immediately.