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

Monday, May 22, 2017

N4KGL Field Day Loop Antenna Refinements

On Sunday afternoon I spent some more time on my Field Day Loop. I measured it out and put the insulators at the right places. I also setup a feed point at the bottom center and the bottom corner. I made a 300-ohm jumper to the AH-4 tuner. I have not tested it with the AH-4 yet. Thanks to Myron WV0H for help with analysis of this antenna. 

This is a 100 ft wire loop 30 ft across by 20 ft high. The bottom wire is 10 ft above the ground. It is NVIS antenna on 40 meters and has 39 deg elevated lobes broadside on 20 meters when fed at the bottom center. It has low angle radiation on 20 through 10 meters when fed a the bottom corner. The three poles are strapped to angle iron driven in 1ft in the ground. The poles allow raising the loop in push-up fashion. It is designed to fit in a camp site without using trees or extending beyond the bounds of the camp site. I can use the Icom AH-4 tuner or a matching transformer with a tuner at the rig. The 300-ohm feedline and the tuner can be switched from bottom center to bottom corner.








Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The May 2017 Second Saturday Sprint

The 2017 Second Saturday Sprints sponsored by QRP Field Ops Google Plus Community began on May 14th. These are two hours 1900 UTC to 2100 UTC. See the rules at this link. The goal is to work other members of the group. However, any contacts you make will count. Therefore you can leverage off of other events. This is good practice for RaDAR style ops. I leveraged off of SKCC contacts and Arkansas QSO Party. Likewise I have a cadre of local chasers. They had no problem working me in town on HF. I also made contacts with them on 2 meter simplex.

Note the three poles for the loop antenna.

I setup in the front yard of my house. I wanted to test an antenna configuration for the upcoming Field Day. The antenna is a 30 ft long by 20 ft high loop supported by three 30 ft fiberglass poles. The motivation for the loop is to stay within the confines of the camp site at Falling Waters State Park. I anchored the poles with a length of angle iron. I pound them in the ground about one foot and strap the poles to them. I can attach the wires at the top of the poles and push the poles up. There is no weight at the top other than the wire going across. This is pretty easy to erect. The loop is fed at the bottom center which is about ten feet high. I used a Chameleon 5 to 1 transformer at the feed point and 30 feet of  RG-8X to the tuner which is an LDG IT-100. The rig was my Icom 7100 on battery.

The Chameleon 5 to 1 transformer at the bottom center of the loop
For the sprint I started on 40 meters. There was very little activity on the band perhaps due to conditions. I did snag local chasers Rick NZ2I, Bob WB4BLX and Bob KK4DIV. So I don't think I can draw any conclusions about the antenna on 40. I hope on the next test the band is more active. On 20 meters the band was better. I worked six stations out of town with no problem I also got WB4BLX, KK4DIV and Phil N4STC near by. So I will give the loop antenna a passing grade on 20 meters.

Angle iron at the base of the Jackite 31 ft poles.

Myron WV0H kindly did some analysis on the antenna configuration. The analysis indicated that using larger coax like LM400 would be beneficial to reduce losses. I have many options for feeding and matching the antenna. I may try 300 ohm line as well. Note, I plan to dry run Field Day on June 2nd at the Falling Water Camp site. Then I can custom fit this antenna to the site. Of course I have many antenna options to consider.

Operating from the shade

I am looking forward to future Second Saturday sprints. I hope to work some members next time. I also did some satellite work earlier in the day. I met with Bob KK4DIV and Bob WB4BLX behind the PCARC Club house. I was able to get three on FO29. So I got a good dose of ham radio on Saturday.

FO 29 linear Satellite Ops. Photo by Bob KK4DIV



Friday, April 28, 2017

Mission: Field Day 2017

I decided to do this year's June 24/25 ARRL Field Day apart from the local club. I have a camp site reserved at Falling Waters State Park near Chipley, Florida just South of I-10.  The funny thing is I am not a camper so we will see how that goes. Being new to camping, I better stay out of trouble, Therefore, I plan on keeping my antennas out of the trees and within the limits of the camp site.




For planning purposes lets say I have 30 feet of linear space for an antenna. So I envision a 30 foot long and 20 foot tall vertical loop. I can support that with two 31 foot Jackite poles. The bottom of the loop will be ten feet off the ground and fed at the bottom center with an Icom AH-4 tuner. It seems I have read that in a wooded area horizontal polarization is better. Myron WV0H modeled the loop and says it will be a good NVIS antenna on 40 meters and has a 39 deg lobes broadside on 20 meters. That should do fine for Field Day. Of course, I better try to setup and test this antenna with the tuner before the event.




I have an Icom IC-7300 that gets light use so I am leaning toward using it for the event. I like the spectrum scope to help walk across the bands. I am likely going non QRP but the jury is still out. I will be all non-commercial power using LiFePO4 batteries from Bioenno with solar assist. The site is partial shade.I have a 10 by 10 foot pop up canopy with a bug screen. For sleep, if I get any I have a new tent cot.




I have some buddies that will drop by and possibly operate. I actually reserved the call N4Y November 4 Yankee. Maybe they will bring some food because Suzy and I will get hungry. There are more details to work on. If you are not out on your own for Field Day check in with your local club. Our Panama City ARC will operate from the Bay County EOC.



Friday, April 7, 2017

RaDAR Challenge Heaven at St. George Island Florida

Sometimes things just work out to your favor. This was the case for my Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) Challenge outing on Saturday April 1st. I chose St. George Island State Park in Florida. This is a beautiful park with beaches on the South side and bay front access on the North side. The weather was stellar with clear blue skies. Contrast that with Julian OH8STN operating RaDAR in Finland. He endured freezing rain but still had a good time.

The beach on the South side of St. George Island.
I thank Eddie ZS6BNE of South Africa for originating RaDAR. The RaDAR Challenge now occurs the first Saturday of April, the third Saturday of July and the first Saturday of November each year.  I have been participating since April 2013. The RaDAR challenge is a 4 hour stress test for your portable equipment and operating skill. In the Challenge, you make five contacts and move to another location. The distances vary by the transportation mode. I was on foot which is requires one kilometer. I chose to use my Icom 7100 for the expected difficult conditions. The battery and rig are heavy but a dog stroller I have made moving the gear very easy.

Picnic area on the North side of St. George Island.
Eddie was not able to practice RaDAR on foot this year. He recently was bitten on the foot by a large dog while jogging. However, Eddie was operating portable and focusing on RaDAR DX. That influenced me to choose St George Island. I subscribe to the salt water effect. This is that low angle radiation is enhanced for vertically polarized antennas at the shoreline or over saltwater. St George Island has a clear shot toward South Africa over the Gulf.



My first stop was on the beach. I had a schedule prearranged to walk through the bands on CW from 10 meters to 20 meters. I could not hear Eddie. He could hear me but I was too weak to work. However, I did QSO with Eddie's friend John Kramer ZS5J on 15 and 17 meters. I still needed five contacts to move. Then I worked Rubin AC2RJ on 20 meters. I was unaware he was chasing me but that QSO helped get the five. He made a RaDAR video from his end.


On my second stop, I set up my low dipole on forty meters. That enabled me to work chasers close by. That included Mike KM4ELJ near Panama City and Tom WD0HBR in Dothan, Alabama. A pleasant surprise was Craig NM4T The Huntsville QRP Guy. He worked me from his home in Alabama. It just happened that April 1st was the Florida State Parks On The Air Contest sponsored by the Lakeland ARC. I made a string of 16 contacts that counted toward that contest. I worked two other Florida State Parks including K4LKL which was the bonus station for the contest. The operator was a friend Matthew KK4FEM.


I timed my third stop to coincide with a SO 50 pass. Making a satellite pass counts toward a bonus for the RaDAR Challenge. I envisioned getting my five contacts all on the pass. The sat was so busy that I lucky to get one contact. Matthew KK4FEM came through for me. I picked up the remaining four on 20 SSB using the low dipole measured out for the band. This completed the four hours. But there is more.



The World Wide Fauna and Flora program for the USA, WWFF-KFF, has awards for radar. making three transitions in 24 hours qualifies for a Warthog award, four is the Rhino award and six for the Cheetah award. I had enough for the Warthog but one more stop would give me the Rhino. So another one kilometer walk and I got five contacts on 20 CW. Two were WWFF chasers from Croatia. See my Rhino Award here. But there is more.


On the way home, I passed by a small Florida State Park where the Florida Constitution Museum is located. I spent one hour there and got ten contacts. That is enough for a WWFF-KFF activation. I certainly was blessed with a wonderful day to practice RaDAR, the Florida State Parks On the Air and World Wide Fauna and Flora all on the same day.Doing RaDAR you learn to leverage off of other activities going on at the time. Propagation conditions for my ops were better than expected.


I was also pleased that Julian OH8STN, Tom G0SWB, Mickey NY2MC, Scott ND9E, and Rubin AC2RJ among others practiced RaDAR in unique ways. Some others just could not make it out. We all look forward to the July 15th RaDAR Challenge. Of course, it is unbearably hot then in Florida. The tables will be turned.




Monday, March 27, 2017

Thanks to Chris VA3ECO for Elmering

I met Chris and his wife Margot by chance at a Conservation Park in Panama City in February of 2016. I was doing portable ops and Chris recognized that I was a fellow ham. The couple spends the Winters of late in the Panama City. I have been getting started with amateur satellites. My HF operating started almost 40 years ago. I would not need elmering there but sats are different, in particular the linear sats. It just happens that Chris has done quite a bit with the linear birds like FO-29. He offered to get me going.

Chris VA3ECO at an Elmer session

I had tried using a single FT 817 for FO-29. I could hear the stations. I liked what I heard. There can be many QSOs going on at the same time unlike the FM birds. Some ops can pull off using one rig but the dopplers had me lost. Then, I took a leap and got an Icom 910H on eBay. This was my most expensive buy on eBay. Fortunately, the radio was as described and working perfectly. That is if you know how to operate it. There is some complexity with understanding the satellite mode and so forth. I tried to get something going without the aid of computer. I still could not pull that off.

My Icom 910H setup for portable sat ops.

I have had some challenges getting the software control programs going in the past. Of course it is doable but the forums are filled with tales of woe. The software of choice for satellite rig control is SatPC32. I like software that you can get started without reading the manual. Well this program is a little non-intuitive at first.

An Arrow satellite antenna

Well, this is where Chris came in. He helped me update the Kelps and some other particulars. Then he met me at a parking lot and was my co-pilot for a pass of the XW sats. He knew about the fine tuning you use for the Doppler. These are things that would have taken me awhile to learn since I did not know what I did not know. We even did a second outing for more fun.



Well to complete the story Chris is now back in Canada. It is my turn to go solo on the linear sats. Last Saturday I was at the Samson, Alabama rocket launch and Chris agreed to meet me on a FO-29 pass.  I had success contacting Chris on two passes. I also got several more contacts. The ops are very friendly on the linear birds. This will be lots of fun. Thanks to Chris for being an Elmer to a senior ham. Hi Hi.

Chris has a home on an Island at Echo Bay on Lake of the Woods in Ontario. It happens to be a rare grid. So Chis is popular on the sats. He has a HF station as well. In fact his station is setup for remote operation. Chris did a talk for the Panama City ARC while he was here. He did a live demo of remote operating from our clubhouse. He has documented his remote setup here.




Oh yes, Chris is into lots of other interesting activities like model planes and drones. He has some great videos on YouTube. Check them out. He even does some rockets so he enjoyed coming to our launches in Samson.

73 to Chris and Margot

Greg N4KGL

Chris at a Samson, Alabama Rocket launch.




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Planning for the April 2017 RaDAR Challenge

The April 1st Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) Challenge has been on my mind. See RaDAR Challenge rules here. My top choice for a site is St. Andrews State Park nearby. The saltwater access is generous there. I should have azimuths over salt water for most of the world. I have had lots of luck from this site domestic and DX. However, the Sunspots are not favorable for the high bands this year.



To be bold, I could go pedestrian mobile using the Elecraft KX2 and a whip antenna.  I use the KX2 as a hand-held. It is the lightest configuration I can imagine. There would be almost no setup time. I might go for it. Of course, a backup antenna might be wise. It would likely be my self supporting dipole.



I also will go for the Satellite Bonus if there is a pass of an FM Bird. This could influence the four hour window I choose. It would require taking my Elk Sat antenna. The Elk also comes in handy for 2 meter FM simplex. The Digital Modes bonus is a possibility also.



I have three stops in mind as shown. I will be on foot. The stops are at least one kilometer apart. By choosing a State Park I will be eligible for WWFF-KFF Radar Awards. The Warthog Award is three stops, Rhino is four and the Cheetah is six in a 24 hour period.  I hope to get at least three stops in during the four hours. I could stay longer than four hours to go for the Rhino or Cheetah.



It will be five contacts and move one kilometer for the four hours. I am hoping for DX including RaDAR to RaDAR DX. As you can see five contacts and go, the walking, the bonuses all combine to be the a formidable.challenge. I am counting on a cadre of chasers and other RaDAR ops to help. We will see what factor weather plays. There might be a April shower. Sadly, Suzy is not allowed on the State Park beaches. Oh well I might think about other sites.




Consider getting out portable on April 1st. You can be fixed or move via any mode under RaDAR. The distances vary with the mode. Good luck!


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Get Ready for the April 1st 2017 RaDAR Challenge

RaDAR Is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio

1. Aim
The RaDAR “Challenge” is a unique event aimed at promoting the use of Rapidly Deployable Amateur Radio stations. This challenge is for all licensed radio amateurs not limited to South Africa. A RaDAR operator can take part in any of the three defined categories (see point 7) which may be changed at any time during the challenge. The points system is so structured as to encourage portable RaDAR operations, especially moveable RaDAR stations. Moveable RaDAR stations rely on fixed and portable stations as a point of contact using channelised frequencies. “Search and pounce” techniques are also allowed.

2. Date and Time
From 00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 1 April 2017. A 24 hour window will give equal opportunity to the international community of RaDAR operators. RaDAR operators are suggested to chose a four hour operating period during the 24 hour window,.

3. Bands and Modes
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.

4. Suggested HF calling frequencies
See http://zs6bne.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/radar-calling-frequencies/ for the latest international list of frequencies. The WARC bands can be used considering this is a RaDAR Challenge and not a contest as such. It provides better opportunities for RaDAR contacts during difficult propagation conditions. Recommended digital modes frequencies – Refer to the South African Radio League Contest Manual, General Rule 15.

5. Exchange
The RaDAR challenge requires more than a minimalistic information exchange. Accurate information exchange is considered more important than a large QSO count.
Call sign, name, RS(T) report, QTH and grid locator. Note the grid locator can change as RaDAR operators are allowed to move position at any time. The grid locator of six characters is acceptable but should preferably be accurate to 10 characters for higher
position accuracy. Smartphone applications are generally used to establish more than a 6-character grid locator. If working non-participating stations, call sign, name, RST and QTH is acceptable.

6. Scoring
1 point per QSO.
Individual QSOs – per mode, per band, per satellite, per call sign.
If the moving RaDAR station has moved the required distance (see point 7) contact can be made with a previously worked station, again.

7. Categories and multipliers
The following multipliers are applicable to determine the final score. If category/mode of transport changes were made during the challenge, than calculate accordingly.

X 1 – RaDAR Fixed station (At home or in another building)
X 2 – RaDAR Field station (Portable – away from home)
X 3 – Moving RaDAR station – See modes of transport below.

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 before further contacts are allowed to be made. This requirement tests the ability to rapidly re-deploy your amateur radio field station.

9. Bonus points (All categories)
Five (5) points (The equivalent of five QSOs) for a minimum of one satellite or any digital modes QSO involving a computer, smartphone or digital modes device. (For clarity thereafter 1 point per Satellite / Digital modes QSO).
Five (5) points for the first successful same continent RaDAR to RaDAR QSO (As may be confirmed by the extensive information exchange.
Five (5) points for the first intercontinental (DX) QSO
Ten (10) points for the first successful inter continental (DX) RaDAR to RaDAR QSO (As may be confirmed by the extensive information exchange).

10. Log Sheets
Log sheets must be submitted by 8 April 2017 and sent by e-mail to edleighton@gmail.com.

See https://zs6bne.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/11046905_10152762072212759_727315224761083499_n.jpg for a log sheet specifically designed for the 2016 RaDAR contest.
Note: A photo of the station (JPG format) MUST accompany every log entry. A photo is required for each new location that moveable stations visit. These photos are used to promote amateur radio and the RaDAR concept showing where amateur radio can be used to communicate from and in the many different ways.

The above is an excerpt from from http://www.sarl.org.za/Web3/Members/DoDocDownload.aspx?X=20161222085537waqSliCvbT.PDF

Visit zs6bne.wordpress.com and https://plus.google.com/communities/109283065808971118728 for more info about RaDAR.

You are also encouraged to enter your RaDAR Op Plan at http://radarops.co.za/index.php/planned-ops/

I encourage all hams to participate a. Let us know your plans and results. Good luck and be safe!

Greg N4KGL
www.N4KGL.info