SKCC 5123T----- FISTS 14979----- Flying Pigs 2331----- NAQCC 3610-----QRP ARCI 14176-----Polar Bear 257

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Monthly RaDAR Active Point Program Starts Now

The aim is to encourage and recognize Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) activity. RaDAR Operators can keep a count of RaDAR QSOs for RaDAR Points. A RaDAR Point is earned by making a contact while on portable outing away from their permanent station. To get more than five RaDAR Points on an outing you must travel the required distances (See below) before making additional contacts. RaDAR Active Points will accumulate on a monthly basis and then reset.

Posting a photo to the RaDAR Google+ Community (or anywhere you choose) and additional details for RaDAR activity is welcome but not required. A post to the community monthly will solicit the current RaDAR Active Point counts for participants. Participants may list their RaDAR Active Point count on any post to the community. For fun use the hashtag   

All amateur bands are allowed including cross band contacts via amateur radio satellites.
Modes – CW, SSB, AM, FM or any legal digital mode. QSOs via terrestrial repeaters will NOT be allowed. This is not a contest there are no winners or losers. Participants do it for the challenge and enjoyment of Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio.

Travel Modes and Required Distances:

Modes of transport and required movement distances (moving RaDAR stations only)
Vehicles, motorcycles and motorboats etc. (Motorised transport) – 6 km
Bicycles – 2 km
On foot and paddle canoes – 1 km
Wheelchairs – 500 m
Aeronautical mobile stations are considered moving stations and can communicate at any convenient time.
Note: Moving RaDAR stations can move at any time but are required to move to the next destination after five contacts have been made from the present location. The move needs to cover the required distance. This requirement tests the ability to rapidly re-deploy your amateur radio field station.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

2015 Field Day Highlights

This year, I provided the outside setup for the Panama City ARC 2F Field Day at the Bay County Florida EOC. Our call was W4RYZ. The weather forecast was for thundershowers which was the case. I was expecting a major drenching of the gear but that did not happen. It did quell any idea of operating overnight. Saturday afternoon was nice and sunny. Sunday morning was overcast.

The setup outside the at the EOC. The building is part of Gulf Coast State College North Campus
Speaking of the Sun, I will cover that first. The 100 watt solar panel keep the battery well charged despite operating the Icom 7100 at 100 watts. The panel pumped 10 amp hours into the battery.After the sun set Saturday we were strictly on battery. I hooked up the power monitor backwards so I don't have good data on the load side. I don't think we challenged the capacity of the 40 amp hour LiFePO4 battery I was using.  Also Sun related, I used my two foldable 28 watt panels to charger the 58 farad supercapacitor array for the natural power QSO bonus.  I made the five QSOs using the KX3 at 10 watts. The voltage held up nicely.

The 100 watt solar panel and the two foldable 28 watt panels.
Antenna-wise, I deployed with help from club members all five antennas. These were 1) a 40/20 fan dipole, 2) the Chameleon Hybrid Micro with a 60 foot inverted L with four 25 foot counterpoise wires 3) a two meter ground plane, 4) two Bravo 7K verticals as a parasitic array and 5) a Chameleon Tactical Dipole Lite in a NVIS configuration. Yes, I got those antennas setup no problem but with the rain threatening I packed up the Bravo 7Ks before I used them. Also the supports on the Tactical Dipole were not up to the job and it fell over. So as you would expect the 40/20 dipole worked like a champ on those bands. I kind of forgot I could use it on 15 meters. I did try to tune it on 80 meters by mistake (I thought I was on the inverted L)  Well that explains why it would not tune as tuning a 40 meter antenna on 80 meters is worse case load for the tuner.

40/20 meter fan dipoles.
We used the Inverted L on 80 meters Saturday Night but for some reason there were few Field Day stations on the band. I did work a few with effort. Sunday Morning 10 and 15 meters were active and the Inverted L really did a good job there.

The Inverted L antenna using the Chameleon Hybrid Micro 
We had a good combination of operators, loggers, supporters and visitors at the outside station. I particularly enjoyed a visit from my ham/work friend Dennis. I had not seen him in a long time. He recently recovered from a serious illness. He was very interested in the setup and we had some long over-due quality time. Also Michael almost ten years old got the hang of operating and had a good string of contacts. Michael is Bob KK4DIV's Step Son. Suzy our Basset spent Sunday Morning with us.

Steve, Michael, Suzy and Bob


Of course, the outside station was just part of a successful Field Day at the EOC. Thanks to Steve KM4BWV, Jacque KK4LUW, Bob KK4DIV,  Mike KM4ELJ, and Bob WB4BLX for joining me outside. Also thanks to Genella (studying for the test) for her enthusiastic support.

Michael and Suzy


The setup at night

The Club Hex Beam on Phil N4STC's trailer/tower.




Wednesday, June 24, 2015

2015 Field Day Setup

Field Day is one of my best memories from my teenage ham days. It is one of those things I think about all year. I am operating this year with the Panama City ARC W4RYZ 2F station at the Bay County EOC near Southport, Florida. I pretty much provide the outside station. There will also be an inside station. They will use a hex beam in the parking lot. I am outside at the Northwest corner of the building. A 100 foot doublet does the job, but I am bringing the works for antennas this year.

Antennas:


Antenna Layout


1-2 is 40 meter dipole 3-4 is 20 meter dipole. These have a common feed point at 28 foot camo pole mast. There will be 30 foot poles at 1, 2, and 3. At 4 will be another 28 foot mast. It will hold up one end of the 20 meter dipole. It will have a 2 meter antenna at the top. at 5 is a 30 foot mast having the feed point and radials for a Chameleon Micro Hybrid with a 60 foot wire that goes up the mast and toward 4. At 6 will be a 16 foot mast to hold up the Chameleon EMCOMM2 with 60 foot NVIS radiator extending to 7. There will be a 60 foot counterpoise extending under the radiator. 8/9 is a parasitic array of two Bravo 7K verticals. 

Rig:

When I bought the Icom 7100 I had it in mind for Field day. I used the KX3 at ten watts one year and it did the job. However, since our club entry is not QRP I can go for 50 to 100 watts with the 7100.I have an external LDG IT-100 tuner which will come in handy.


Icom 7100 control head.




The icom 7100 main unit, battery and tuner.



Power:

I have a 40 amp hour and a 30 amp hour LiFEPO4 battery from Bioenno. These were quite expensive but they hold the voltage high enough to operate the Icom 7100. The Icom 7100 will crash if the voltage drops to 11.7 volts. I will be using a 100 watt solar panel to replenish the power I draw from the battery during daylight. We will see how the battery management goes. I can drop down to 50 watts at night if needed.


100 watt solar panel


Natural Power Bonus:

This year I am going to try for the five natural power QSOs using a solar panel supercapacitor combination. I will be assured that there was no commercial power electrons involved. We will see how it goes.


Super capacitor bank,


The rest:

Here is the pop-up canopy from a past year at night. 





Well this is quite load of stuff. It is not RaDAR or QRP this time. The Florida heat and humidity are something to deal with. Of course there will be thundershowers. I hope to get lots of club operators involved. The club should have a big Field Day over-all with both stations. Good luck on your Field Day!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Portable Gathering for the June RaDAR Meetup

Today was the June RaDAR On-The-Air Meetup. There were several Panama City ARC members setting up portable stations at a park by the bay in Lynn Haven, Florida. I used this opportunity to test the core of our outside station for the upcoming Field Day at the Bay County EOC. The station included the Icom 7100 powered by a 40 amp hour LiFePO4 battery. The battery was being charged via a 100 watt solar panel. The antenna is a 40/20 meter fan dipole. The center is supported by a mast made of camo poles with a tripod base. It is 24 feet high. The dipole ends were held up by four 31 foot Jackite poles. The poles were strapped to three foot angle iron pieces driven one foot deep. I ran 100 watts. The rig pulled 8.5 amp hours out of the battery and the solar panel put 6 amp hours into the battery during the meetup.


Suzy admiring the solar panel
The first hour was 40 meters. On SSB I worked K4LIX first. Jim was in the park with me. Then I worked Don KK4QAM in Sweetwater Alabama from the RaDAR Community. This was followed by KK4DIV Bob setup next to me. Then Jack N1HQ who was in Panama City, The last SSB contact was Cory N4UVR in the park. On to CW I worked K4JYS running vintage gear from North Carolina. Next was N1ZX Stan in Stuart Florida.

40/20 meter Fan Dipole
The second hour was 20 meters. My first contact was a surprise K4FUS Fernando nearby. I did not know he was operating portable. I finished out the SSB contacts with VE3LYX Don, W8BOX Tom in Ohio and KE8AQW Michael in Michigan. On to CW i worked Bob WB4BLX right off the bat, he was at his home in Panama City. I was picked up by the SKCC Week End Sprint ops. I worked K9JWV in Utah, KA3OCS in VA, WB0CLL in Oklahoma, K0LUW in Nebraska, K9JWI in Indiana and NS3C in California.

Icom 7100 Control Point

Icom 7100 Go Box with battery


I would say this setup is going to work fine for Field Day. We should be able to work 15 meters with the fan dipole as well. Suzy the basset puppy did well and greeted the visitors. Here some photos of the other setups.

Bob KK4DIV

Ron KK4DWE

Cory N4UVR.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

RaDAR Meetup & Hurricane Preparedness Event

Saturday May 30th, I combined the May RaDAR On-The-Air Meetup and the Red Cross Hurricane Preparedness Event at the Panama City Mall. The Panama City ARC has been participating for several years.



You could say this was a study of how to operate from a mall parking lot. Essentially, I took two facing parking spaces, setup the canopy in one and parked the truck in the other. There was a 31 foot jackite pole rising above the canopy. It had the Chameleon Hybrid Micro attached head high. The 60 foot wire goes to the top of the pole. Then the wire goes horizontal to camo poles off the back of the truck. Two 25 foot counterpoise wires were wrapped around the top of the canopy.



The first two hours of ops were the RaDAR On-The-Air Meetup. Any contacts are good but it is a bonus to work other RaDAR Operators. My grid square was EM70EE24DU. On 20 SSB I worked two local KK4DWC Don and WB4BLX Bob, I had several solid QSOs including N1GYE/W8 at a club station in Michigan, KD0WUF Shawn in Kansas and VE3TCV Mauro. Also got a call from Charlie NF4A who is also local. He said I was spotted on a cluster. I switched to CW as planned and worked Pat NQ0N. Pat is a RaDAR op but was inside due to weather.



The second hour was on 17 meters. The band was in poor shape. I struggled but was called by K0YO. He also called me on 20 meters possibly. I did snag LY1G Stasy in Lithuania. I switched to CW and worked NT9L. I apologize John I was getting questions from a visitor and was not focused. Since the meetup was over I went to 40 SSB and checked into South CARS net. The net control liked that we were at hurricane preparedness an event.



I did use my 100 watt solar panel which replenished the drain from the battery as I operated. I ran 100 watts and I think it would have been tough at 10 watts due to conditions. The antenna did well so I think the inverted L was a good choice. 



I had a number of visitors. Most were most were intrigued with the code. I met our US Representative Gwen Graham. She already had a good handle on amateur radio for emergencies. I did visit with the other local hams attending. Ron KK4DWE and Melissa KK4SYL held down the booth inside. I felt that this was great prep for Field Day. I wanted to work more RaDAR ops but the conditions did not cooperate.

Melissa KK4SWL and Don KK4DWC at the inside booth

I am interested to know how the other RaDAR Ops faired!


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Natural Power for the Field Day Purist

Alternate Power: 100 bonus points for Field Day groups making a minimum of five QSOs without using power from commercial mains or petroleum driven generator. This means an "alternate" energy source of power, such as solar, wind, methane or water. This includes batteries charged by natural means (not dry cells). 
Well I have gone for the bonus in past years but you know for a given battery it may have some charge from commercial as well as solar panel. I did read somewhere of a group that used a supercapacitor and solar panel combination to meet the requirements. So I obtained a ultracapacitor via ebay "Ultracapacitor Module Kit" which is a bank of six 350 Farad capacitors. a single cap can handle 2.7 volts. So it takes six in series to have a 16.2 volt bank. There was soldering involved. The post on the caps are thick so a solder gun was required. Thanks to Vic K4GXV for loaning me one.

First setup with a 15 watt solar panel
At first I was rather cautious and hooked the bank to a 15 watt panel. The source must be current limited and the 15 watt solar panel might put out an amp. It took maybe 20 minutes to charge to 11.85 volts. At that point I discharged it with a 12 volt lamp. Now getting bolder I used a 100 watt panel that puts out about 4.5 amps. I had the morning sun and it charged the bank up to 13.4 volts in two or three minutes. 

The 100 watt panel
Now let me mention that my understanding of solar panels and radios is that you do not hookup a panel directly to a radio. In fact even with a the solar charger the panel will pass on 20 volts if there is no current draw. So that would not be good for a radio. So it is my practice to use a battery and ensure that the panel never feeds the radio directly no matter how I play with the wires. The voltage of the solar panel clamps down to the battery voltage. Now in this scenario a capacitor bank can replace the battery. I would charge up the cap bank first, then you have the nominal 13.4 volts. The solar charger limits the voltage to the caps like it does for a battery. I found an equation at this link that said for estimating purposes a 2 amp draw for 30 seconds would drop the voltage one volt with a 60 Farad capacitor.

The ultracapacitor bank


Living more dangerously I fed the KX3 off the cap bank with the solar panel still hooked up. I found the 200 ma receive current is constantly replaced by the solar panel maintaining the 13.4 volts. On 10 watts SSB the voltage drops off to 12 something like most batteries. With the some sun the voltage will return  to 13.4 fast enough that it is like being on a battery. I checked into SCARS on 7.251 and worked Michigan on 17 meters as a test.


The KX3. Do hot put a KX3 on a black surface in the Florida Sun!

This looks good enough for Field Day natural power QSOs. I don't know if this makes sense for anyone's operating style. I do think I could use more fuses on input and output of the cap for safety sake. The supercapacitors will discharge more rapid than a battery and that is useful for some applications but otherwise it could be hazardous. So be careful if you play with these caps.

Now I'll be happy knowing my five contacts are pure and natural solar for the bonus. Of course, it cost me $70 for the bank. Now for more fun I could use a ultracapacitor cap bank/solar combo for a environment friendly rocket launch system. Hi Hi

Greg N4KGL

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Field Day Antenna Amusement

Many of our antennas/tuners try to solve the multiband problem. When you throw in the WARC band into the mix you have many bands to cover and you can't count on them being harmonically related. Of course for ARRL Field Day, we don't operate on the WARC bands. I have in the past used the multiband doublet concept. In fact, last year I put up a 100 foot doublet with a SGC 237 at the center. This worked great. However, it occurs to me that a 40/20 parallel dipole with one feedline would cover those two bands plus I could work 15 meters as a 3/2 wave off the 40 meter dipole. I used this combo in the past for SOTA. I do have four Jackite poles that I could get the ends up 30 feet. The center might be 25 feet supported by camo poles. I could add a 10 meter parallel dipole but that is too cumbersome. Well, I just happen to have two Bravo 7Ks verticals and I could setup a 10 meter parasitic array for fun.  So 40/20/15 and 10 are covered. Hey maybe I just won't worry about 80 meters. We will see.

Parallel dipoles in my front yard.


A 100 foot doublet with a SGC 237 at the feed point.
Two Bravo 7K verticals as 10 meter parasitic array
This year I am operating with the Panama City ARC at the Bay County Florida EOC. There is an inside station and I set up an outside station. The inside station will use a NA4RR hex beam that covers 20 through 6 meters. This year Phil has a a trailer tower combination that can get the hex beam up about 30 feet.. I think this will be the A bomb for those bands. That antenna will be for the inside station.

The club hex Beam on Phil N4STC's trailer/tower.
Oh yes, I have a few days before the June 27/28 Field Day to change my mind. 

Greg N4KGL