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

Monday, December 4, 2017

My WSPR Beacon Rocket is Launched into Near Space

I launched a WSPRLite beacon on my hobby rocket at the Dec 2nd rocket launch in Samson, Alabama. Weak Signal Propagation Reporter, WSPR, is a tool to study radio propagation. WSPRlite is a stand-alone WSPR transmitter or beacon. There is a network of WSPR receivers worldwide that post spots of beacons to WSPRNet.org. I dreamed up an experiment to compare the reports of a beacon at altitude with a reference beacon on the ground. I chose the 20 meter HF band for this experiment.

Question: What is the effect on the propagation of 20 meter radio waves using a half wave vertical at a significant altitude over ground level.

Discussion: A rocket can be used to put a beacon at altitude for a short time. The rocket will ascend to an altitude of at least 1000 feet quickly and slowly descend to ground level under parachute. If I am lucky the chosen rocket will be elevated for the 2-minute transmission cycle of a WSPR beacon. The choice of rocket/rocket motors will affect the hang time.

I have a rocket with a payload bay.I will load the payload bay with:
USB Powerpack
WSPRite Module setup for 20 meters
LNR Trail Friendly End Fed matchbox with a half wave (32 ft) wire exiting from the bay.

Phase 1 Ground Calibration

Setup a Bravo 7K vertical as a reference antenna with a WSPRLite
Setup the rocket payload WSPRLite with the half wave wire extended vertically to a support pole.

Start the WSPR Beacons simultaneously on even minute at 20% duty cycle
Run the beacons for at least an hour.
The WSPR system of receivers will establish the relative SNR delta between the two antennas. 

Phase 2 Launch

Setup the WSPRlite beacons for full duty cycle
Start both beacons at an even minute.
Setup the rocket on the launch pad with the antenna draped loosely on the ground
Launch the rocket about 10 seconds prior to an even minute.
The WSPR system of receivers will establish the relative SNR delta between the two antennas.

Post Launch

Capture the data from the WSPR database. See if the SNR delta between the two beacons is greater at altitude than during the ground calibration.

I checked out of the gear at my home the day before the launch. Here is a video



At the launch, I ran a comparison of the rocket's beacon callsign N4KGL to a Bravo 7K vertical callsign W4RYZ on the field. The comparison report is at this link. Then, I prepared the PML Arial Rocket with an Aerotech I140 motor. The WSPRLite, a USB power supply, and a LNR Trail Friendly End Fed matchbox were in the payload. A 32-foot wire attached to the matchbox extended through a hole in the side of the payload bay.

The PML Arial Rocket on the pad ready to launch

Notice the antenna wire extending out of the payload bay.
The WSPR beacons transmit on a two-minute cycle starting on even minutes. I usually set the beacons for a duty cycle of 20 percent. If you start two beacons at the same time they will be synchronized. I thought I could set the duty cycle to 100 percent. That was not the case. 50 percent is the max.

With a 50 percent duty cycle, I could not predict exactly when a transmit cycle would start. There seems to be some randomness at play. That made pushing the launch button at the right time a bit difficult. So we waited until an even minute came to hear the beacon tone start on my KX2. John Hansel, the Launch Control Office pressed the button with perfect timing.  The rocket assent and decent under parachute were, fortunately, only slightly short of two minutes. The rocket landed safely on the field. The comparison report for the flight is at this link.

The Rocket Beacon N4KGL was -1.76 dB relative to the reference Bravo 7K vertical W4RYZ on the pre-flight ground comparison. The Rocket Beacon, N4KGL, was +1.8 dB relative to the reference Bravo 7K vertical, W4RYZ, during the flight. Therefore the flight beacon was +3.56 dB on average in the air than on the ground. Standard deviations are noted in the report. It is worth reviewing all the details in the reports for the complete picture. I can at least say the trend of the data shows there is an advantage in elevating the beacon/antenna. I believe the rocket altitude was at least 1500 feet or up to 2000 feet. There was no altimeter was on board.

I have had experience doing antenna comparisons during my study of the saltwater effect for vertically polarized antennas. I export the spots data from the SotaBeams Dxplorer.net website.  Then, I import it into a Microsoft Access database.  I developed the Spots Database to do the calculations and generate reports. The output is very similar and agrees with the results Dxplorer,net provides. However, those results eventually slip out of the time windows that the website uses. I can filter specific time periods for comparisons.

I enjoy getting empirical data in these experiments to examine what I understand about antennas and propagation. This experiment was mostly for the fun of it. I may try kites or balloons to elevate a WSPR beacon in the future. WSPRlite is exceptionally easy to use. It is reliable even in near space. All this is a good exercise for my interest in rockets, radios and relational databases. Thanks for reading!


Suzy had a great time greeting the fliers and spectators at the launch.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Success with the New AO-91 FM Satellite

AO-91 is a new FM s amateur satellite. It was known as Fox-1B before launch. It motivated myself and several Club members including Jim K4LIX and Bob KK4DIV to give it a try. It had been a while since I had the gear together to do an FM satellite. I started with the Kenwood TH-D72A and programmed the AO-91 frequencies in the rig memories. It had been long enough that I had to rediscover that the programming cable for the D72A is just a USB cable.

Greg N4KGL's photo by Phil N4STC
My first attempt was Saturday at the field behind the Panama City ARC Clubhouse. My antenna was the Elk log periodic. The bird was very crowded. I came up with nothing. I did hear Matt NJ4Y very well. Immediately after AO-91, AO-85 came over, and I got a couple including Bob KE4AL my friend in Dothan, Alabama. So my gear was working. I later emailed Matt, NJ4Y. He said that he was using a bit more than HT power and he recommended that for the busy day passes. He also suggested trying one of those middle of the night passes. I did an AO-91 pass at 2 AM Sunday morning with the Kenwood TH-D72A. It was very different due to fewer hams trying to use the bird. It sounded crystal clear just like a local repeater. I got three contacts.

I planned to met Bob KK4DIV at Kinsaul Park in Lynn Haven, Florida for a Sunday A0-91 day pass. In preparation, I gathered my Yaesu FT 8900 and programmed it. That would give me more power than an HT. I joined Bob and Phil N4STC at the park. The weather was excellent. The A0-91 pass yielded two contacts including Matt NJ4Y at EL98.

Another one of Bob KK4DIV's cool videos. Notice Suzy in the background at the park.



So I have now been checked out on the FM birds again. There will be more opportunities with another bird in the sky thanks to AMSAT. Bob and Phil and I discussed setting up a base satellite station as a club project. None of us have a home station or experience with a satellite tracking antenna. I expect that Chris VA3ECO, another one of my satellite Elmers, can help. He is expected to arrive in Panama City early January. He has a satellite station up in Ontario.

Note the Kenwood TH-D72A and the Yaesu FT 8900 are capable of full duplex on satellites. Bob is using the Yaesu FT 7900. When you hear yourself on the downlink you know you go through. Phil N4STC was using an HT to copy us. The downlink is on two meters so you do not have to worry about Doppler.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Portable Activation Guide: Join Us or Chase Us

I got inspired to create an online Portable Activation Guide for sites nearby Panama City Florida. Click on this link or the image.


This Portable Activation Guide is an aid to local and visiting hams in the Panama City, Florida area. Use it to choose a site and an activation program for your outing. We are blessed with many beautiful sites nearby. Some are on the saltwater gulf or bay which can enhance radio propagation. Our weather allows activations year round.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Team of Two for the November 2017 RaDAR Challenge

I am happy to report that the plan, the weather, and the radio propagation came together nicely for the November 4th, 2017 RaDAR Challenge, RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio. It originates with Eddie Leighton ZS6BNE in South Africa. I was pleased to have Dennis WA6QKN as a teammate. Our venue was St. Andrews State Park near Panama City, FL. We operated at four locations within the four hour period. We traveled one kilometer by foot between locations. It was necessary to make five contacts before moving to the next stop.




Location 1 was the parking lot at the Jetties area. I chose to take a gamble and do an FO-29 satellite pass. I felt it was a gamble since I have not been too active on satellites lately. Fortunately, I made nine contacts. Among the contacts were Bob KE4AL in Dothan and Chris VA3ECO in Ontario. They had a heads up I was on satellite. Chris is my Elmer for linear satellites.



Location 2 was one kilometer North at a clearing near the turpentine mill. I chose 40 meters. Dennis and I erected a 40-meter dipole supported by three ten-foot fiberglass poles. The rig was the KX2 running ten watts.The low dipole supports NVIS. We were able to work Tom WD0HBR and Don K1DC my friends in Dothan, Alabama 75 miles away on CW.  We got a couple more CW contacts and worked Don KK4DWC in Southport on SSB.



Location 3 was Sandy Point. It is on the Grand Lagoon shore and gives us a wide azimuth over saltwater. I chose the Chameleon whip with transformer and two counterpoise wires for vertical polarization. Verticals on the salt water are always a great performer. We operated 20 SSB. We picked up Jim K4LIX local and four more. Two were in Canada including Chris VA3ECO. We had roughly 45 minutes left in the four hours when we packed up.



Location 4 was the picnic area still near Grand Lagoon. We chose the Chameleon vertical again. I spotted us on DX Summit as WWFF KFF-1917. It created a pile-up which was just what we needed on 20-meter CW. The chasers included two stations from Spain, one from Canada and Joe N2CX who was at a park in New Jersey.



I often make three locations in the four hours and am struggling to make the fourth. This time we made four which is par for the course. I think Dennis made the four locations possible with his help with the gear. We took turns pulling the cart. Maybe RaDAR on foot is a little like golf. We did enjoy four great venues in one outing. The only thing we lacked was a RaDAR to RaDAR contact. Tom G0SBW heard us in the UK but missed working him. There were a number of other RaDAR operators active. You can find their reports on the RaDAR Community on Google+. Welcome back to Lucy M6ECG!

Dennis WA6QKN


Friday, November 3, 2017

Detailed Nov 4th RaDAR Challenge Plan for WA6QKN and N4KGL

RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio. Dennis WA6QKN and I will be teaming up for the Nov 4th RaDAR Challenge. We have chosen to operate at St. Andrews State Park near Panama City, FL from 1400 - 1800 UTC or 9 AM to 1 PM CDT. We will set up portable and make five contacts. Then we will walk at least one kilometer to the next location. As a team, we will combine our contacts so both WA6QKN and N4KGL call signs count. The exchange is RST, name and grid square. If grid square not known QTH will do. See the rules at http://www.n4kgl.info/2017/10/get-ready-for-november-4th-2017-radar.html All chasers welcome and appreciated.

The first stop will be at the parking lot near the Jetties. Pin A on the photo. I will operate the FO-29 Linear satellite pass using N4KGL call. Dennis WA6QKN will be on 146.565 FM Simplex as these simplex contacts count. While we transition we will monitor 145.210 W4RYZ repeater.

The second stop Pin B on photo will be near the boat ramp on Grand Lagoon in the second hour. I will start on 40 meters HF see frequencies below. I will work my way down the list as needed. It is an anyway which way we can situation to make contacts. So bear with us. For local ops 146.565 FM simplex is good at each stop.

The third stop Pin C will be at Sandy Point in the third hour. I will start on 20 meters HF and work up. Additional stops are a maybe. We might even keep going after four hours.

St. Andrews State Park is POTA KFF-1917. Watch for spots on DX Summit. If you are operating portable or chasing give me a heads up. RaDAR to RaDAR is a top priority.

FO-29 will be visible from Panama City, on Saturday, November 4 09:03:16 AM 1403 UTC
Starting in the S (172°)
Ending in the NNW (345°) at 09:19:43 AM
Maximum elevation: 66°

7.029.5 CW
7.296 LSB

14.059 CW
14.346 USB

18.081.5 CW
18.157.5 USB

W4RYZ Repeater145.210 - 100 hz tone
146.565 FM Simplex

St. Andrews State Park

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Nov 4th RaDAR Challenge Plan N4KGL & WA6QKN

For the first time, I will do a team effort for the RaDAR Challenge. Dennis WA6QKN and I will use our own calls and combine our contacts. We will make at least five contacts together and move by foot to the next location. We will only take credit for contacting a station once per band per mode. We may run a VHF station and HF station concurrently. This team effort is an experiment and perhaps the rules can be amended in the future to account for RaDAR teams.

Our chosen site is St. Andrews State Park near Panama City, FL. I have shown three stops A, B & C on the photo below. The distance between them is one kilometer. We will progress through the stops A-B-C-B-A as far as we can in 4 hours. The four hour period will be 1400 - 1800 UTC. We have the option to extend our outing and keep going after the four hours if we like. RaDAR transitions over 24 hours count for the special WWFF-KFF POTA RaDAR Awards. The park is reference KFF-1917.


At the first stop A, I will attempt to work five stations on the FO-29 linear satellite on SSB. This will require my Icom 910H and an Arrow Antenna. the pass info is
FO-29 will be visible from Panama City, on Saturday, November 4 09:03:16 AM
Starting in the S (172°)
Ending in the NNW (345°) at 09:19:43 AM
Maximum elevation: 66°
I will return the sat gear to the van after the pass. The 1st sat contact will count as a bonus.

We will rely on a KX2 at ten watts on HF. The HF antennas will include a low 40-meter dipole with 10-foot poles, an N6BT Bravo 7K vertical and an Alex Loop magnetic loop. I have a beach cart to carry the antennas that will double as a table.

I provide more details to coordinate local and RaDAR to RaDAR contacts as we get closer. Good luck to all participants and chasers. Be Safe!

Greg N4KGL

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Meetup at Rocky Bayou State Park

Last Saturday, Dennis WA6QKN and I drove over to Rocky Bayou State Park near Niceville, FL to meet up with Tom WD0HBR. Tom had some time in the area while his wife Sandy took a class in Valparaiso. Tom had found a spot in the picnic area that overlooks the bayou. The area is under many oak trees. Tom set up his Youkits HB-1B with a random wire antenna. Dennis and I set up my Elecraft KX3 with a 40 meter Off Center Fed Dipole (OCF). The OCF had very low SWR on 40 meters and between 2 and 2.5 to 1 on 20 meters. The OCF is a popular one from China via eBay. Dennis was interested in my KX3 since he has one on order. I managed to make a dozen contacts which is enough to activate the park for Parks On The Air (POTA).  Dennis took lots of great photos in this album. It was nice to do portable ops with a couple of friends.

Tom WD0HBR

Dennis WA6QKN

Rocky Bayou

Suzy. She enjoyed lunch and a walk!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Chasing Memories From My Teenage Days in Ham Radio UPDATED

One of my teenage ham radio memories was a  program on Alabama Educational Television. The program was received at my Dothan, Alabama home directly from WDIQ Dozier, Alabama about 60 miles away. There was no cable back then. The show played a part in my getting my license or at least increasing my knowledge of amateur radio. It was wonderful that ham radio had an on-air TV presence.The format of the show was a segment on electronics theory followed by a segment of Morse code.

This is me back in the 60's. A few years before getting my ham license and Novice call WN4JFW.

Initial Google searches were unsuccessful as it was pre-internet and I had little to go on. I did think the main instructor was named Herb. I had listened to Don Keith's QSO Today Podcast.and he mentioned that he worked for Alabama ETV while attending the University of Alabama. I enquired with Don via email. This was Don's response:

Good morning, Greg,

Thanks for the note.  Indeed I do remember the show, though I only saw a few segments. I was already a ham then…got my license in ’61 when I was 13.  The host was Herb Coleman and it was done right here in Birmingham at the WBIQ channel 10 studios.  His call is W4AVX and he is apparently still alive and kicking, living in Mobile:https://www.qrz.com/db/W4AVX

I give the show credit for there being so many active hams in our area.  That and, of course, the fact that “ham” is BirmingHAM, Alabama’s middle name!

A friend of mine, Jim Brinson K4WOP, was also on the show occasionally as a kid, helping with the teaching of Morse code. He is still very active and I sometimes chat with him on CW.  See https://www.qrz.com/db/K4WOP

I actually paid my way through college partly by working at Alabama Public TV, at the production facility at the University of Alabama.  Part of my job (In addition to saying, “This program comes to you from the University of Alabama” in my best announcer-ish voice) was to do the legal station identification. We had to name all the stations around the state and I especially enjoyed saying “Dozier” and “Mount Cheaha.”
 Now I put google back to work and I found this in the June 1969 Popular Electronics Archive:


Herb Coleman's QRZ page has this note about the show:
Later I enjoyed teaching classes in morse code and electonic theory for obtaining an amateur license. A highlight for me was having the opportunity to teach morse code and electronic theory on public television during the late '60's and early 70's. The program was called "Electronics and The Radio Amateur".
A deeper Google search yielded this picture of Herb. I am pretty sure it is the same, Herb. It is from West End High School in Birmingham.

Herb is now retired and living in Mobile, Alabama. He had a lot to do with the engineering side of TV in Birmingham. I certainly appreciate his help to educate me about electronics and ham radio. I still hold out for a clip of the show on video. I hear there are none. Still, I search YouTube. Hi Hi!

UPDATE:

I received an email from Herb Coleman W4AVX himself. He was complimentary of the post. Herb confirmed the picture above is him. This memory chase went right back to the source. Thanks, Herb!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Activation

I operated from Topsail Hill Preserve State Park near Miramar Beach, Florida on Saturday, October 14th. The park is POTA KFF-3664. I originally was going to the rocket launch in Samson, Alabama. I replanned when my wife was asked to work in Miramar at the last minute. The volunteer taking my money saw my Field Day T-Shirt and was very in tune with ham radio and emergencies.





I was not too ambitious and worked right out of the parking area using the van for shade. The rig was the Elecraft KX2. I chose to use the Bravo 7K vertical antenna. It requires no trees or stakes in the ground. I got weak reports on 40 meters but it did OK on 20 meters. At first, I was targeting the QRP ARCI Fall QSO party but did not hear much activity. I ended up working two other POTA stations. The rest was a hodgepodge of including FISTS and NAQRPCC anniversary stations. I heard DX activity on 10 meters SSB but no luck. I did snag one station on 15 CW and one on 17 meters SSB. The total was 17 contacts which will net a POTA activation. I had good conversations with the Park staff and a camper from Kentucky.



There are plenty of State Parks here in Northwest Florida to activate. My plan is to meet up with Tom WD0HBR from Dothan at Rocky Bayou State Park near Valparaiso, Florida. He will be visiting that area on Saturday, October 21st.



Sunday, October 8, 2017

Get Ready for the November 4th 2017 RaDAR Challenge

RaDAR Is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio



RaDAR Challenge Rules

1. Aim

The RaDAR “Challenge” is a unique event aimed at promoting the use of Rapidly Deployable
Amateur Radio stations. Categories 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. RaDAR operators are encouraged to be self-sufficient during each challenge, not only with power supply and communications equipment but food, water, protective clothing and shelter, not forgetting the first aid kit.

2. Date and Time

00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 1 April 2017,
00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 15 July, and
00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 4 November 2017

24 hours will give equal opportunity to the international community of RaDAR operators.
RaDAR operators can define their own operating time schedule. The 24 hour period remains but it’s up to each individual to plan his / her MAXIMUM, SINGLE PERIOD, FOUR HOUR ops. He/she should take propagation into account with the ultimate goal of intercontinental RaDAR to RaDAR communications in mind. (10 bonus points!)

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 FM
repeaters should preferably not be used for the purpose of the challenge.

4. Suggested HF calling frequencies

See http://zs6bne.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/radar-calling-frequencies/ for the RaDAR
Calling channels, the latest suggested international list of calling frequencies

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. The grid locator of six characters
is acceptable but should preferably be accurate to 8 or 10 characters for higher
position accuracy (especially for moving RaDAR stations).

6. Scoring

1 point per QSO. Individual QSOs could be per mode, per band, per satellite, per
grid location. If the moving RaDAR station has moved the required distance contact
can be made with a previously worked station, again. Suggestions have been made to call CQ including grid location, for example CQ RaDAR from grid KG34acXXyy, to help callers determine whether it is possible for a new contact with a previously worked moving RaDAR station

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 (in a building away from home)
X 2 – RaDAR Field station (camping)
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 can be made.
This requirement tests the ability to rapidly and successfully re-deploy your amateur
radio station. If it be gentlemanly to make further QSO’s before moving then please feel free to do
so but the QSO’s in excess of five per deployment point can not be counted for
points.

9. Bonus points (All categories)

Five (5) points 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.
Five (5) points for the first intercontinental (DX) QSO
Ten (10) points for the first successful intercontinental (DX) RaDAR to RaDAR
QSO.

10. Log Sheets

Log sheets must be submitted by 15 April 2017, 29 July and 18 November 2017 and
sent by e-mail to edleighton@gmail.com

Note: A photo of the station should accompany every log entry including each new
location that moveable RaDAR stations visit.


The above is an excerpt from SARL 2017 Contest Manual

Please visit zs6bne.wordpress.com and Google+ RaDAR Community for more info about RaDAR.


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

Greg N4KGL
www.N4KGL.info





Monday, October 2, 2017

St. Vincent Island USI Qualification Expedition Succeeds

I love it when the plan, the weather, and propagation come together!

A team from Panama City ARC successfully qualified St Vincent Island, Florida, FL006, for the US Islands Award Program on Saturday, Sept 30th. The team members included Jim K4LIX, Bob WB8PAF, Bob KK4DIV, Phil N4STC, Greg KG4LFS, Dennis WA6QKN and Greg N4KGL. The qualification required 25 contacts. However, the team made 128 contacts in just over two hours including 29 states, Canada, Germany, and Belgium. The contacts also counted for Parks On The Air KFF-0257. St. Vincent is only accessible by boat. The team used the St. Vincent Island Shuttle to get to the island. Our time was limited to four hours on the island and two hours operating time. The team is eager to do more expeditions.


An outstanding video by Bob KK4DIV



I chose to take the Icom 7100, a Bioenno 40 AH battery and my 100-foot loop matched with the Icom AH-4 Tuner. This combination worked fine business on 40 meters and 20 meters. We were making one contact per minute average. We made 50 contacts on 40 meters to my surprise. It helped we got mentioned on the North Florida HF Traffic Net. It also helped that the recent solar activity had the SFI at 90 and the critical frequency was above 7 MHz. It was easy to make the short contacts back to Panama City and neighboring counties. The 100 ft loop is 30 feet across, 20 feet high and the bottom is 10 feet above the ground. It has proved itself as an all-around performer since the last Field Day. The footprint is 30 feet long which was chosen to fit in a camping spot at Falling Waters State Park.

Thanks to the team for making this expedition a success!

Three 30 foot poles supporting the 100-foot loop

The Icom AH-4 tuner matches the loop at the center bottom via a short 300-ohm feedline.

The base of the Icom 7100 and the Bioenno 40 AH battery.

Bob WB*PAF operates and Dennis WA6QKN logs.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

St. Vincent Island Florida Expedition Planned

It will be the closest I have come to a DXpedition. The Panama City ARC is planning to qualify St. Vincent Island, Florida on Sept 30 13:00 - 15:00 UTC. The call will be W4RYZ. We will call CQ US Islands Florida New until 25 contacts. Then we will use FL006. The Island is also Parks On The Air KFF-0257. We will operate primarily 40 and 20 SSB. Other bands and modes will be used based on openings.



Qualification means we are the first to operate from the island for the US Islands Awards Program. We need at least 25 contacts to qualify the island, We have a team of seven club members going. We will have two or more stations running. Access to the Island is only by boat. We will take the St. Vincent Island Shuttle from the Indian Pass landing.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Chameleon F Loop Magnetic Loop WSPR Baseline Test

This is is one in a series of tests using WSPRlite Beacons to study the Salt Water Effect. The Salt Water Effect is gaining a propagation advantage by placing vertically polarized antennas near the salt water shore.I often setup on the salt water shore with good results. However, now I am experimenting with a WSPR test methodology to quantify the effect. WSPR is Weak Signal Propagation Reporter.


This test was intended to show that two Chameleon F Loop magnetic loops are similar in their WSPR spots. This is a precursor to doing a WSPR test that places one loop at the salt water shore and one inland. I placed my loop and one provided by Bob KK4DIV on the field at Kinsaul Park in Lynn Haven Florida. I spaced them out at some distance from the bay and far enough apart not to have interaction between the two antennas.



Note, I have upgraded the firmware of my WSPRlite beacons so that if they are started at the same even minute their transmissions will be synchronized. This will enhance the credibility of the results. Also, we lost lots of time because one loop was tuned to 30 meters instead of 20 meters. This was Greg's Boo Boo. Of course, it was a good trouble shooting exercise. Thanks to Bob KK4DIV and Cory N4UVR for their assistance on the field!


There were eight transmissions from the two beacons over the course of an hour. Unfortunately, there seems to have been interference on the N4KGL beacon during the second half of the test.


The delta of the average SNR for simultaneous spots is shown above for N4KGL - W4RYZ. The numbers on the header are the deltas in decibels. Eight out of the twelve values are within two dB. Below are the values for the distance bins in kilometers. I will use a view like the one above to gauge the difference in average SNR when I locate one beacon at the salt water shore and one inland in a future test.


I am doing my data analysis in Microsoft Access. I will refine the queries and views as this effort progresses.

Greg N4KGL

Monday, August 28, 2017

W/VE Islands QSO Party and Parks On The Air at Okaloosa Island, Florida

Dennis WA6QKN and I had lots of ham radio fun on Saturday at the Gulf Islands National Seashore Okaloosa Island Day Use Area near Destin, Florida. The US Islands organization sponsored the W/VE QSO Party that day. Okaloosa Island is US Islands FL003S. Also, this site is part of the National Park System and counts for Parks On The Air as KFF-0661. I was concerned initially when I saw a lot of vehicles at my favorite picnic area. It turns out that Marine recruits were having a drill and picnic before they leave for boot camp. No worries as we had plenty of space for our setup. 

The Marines were our neighbors
I choose my vertical oriented 100-foot loop for the antenna. It is the one I built for Field Day. It went up smoothly with the three fiberglass poles. We used a sledgehammer to drive the angle iron stakes for the poles. That hammer would be heavy for RaDAR. The rig was my Icom 7100 running 100 watts using a 40 AH Bioenno LiFePO4 battery. An AH-4 tuner matches the loop impedance to 50 ohms for the rig. I am pleased with the ease of erecting the loop and antenna. It did a great job on 40 and 20 meters and even the high bands 17, 15 and 10 meters. 

The 100 foot horizontally polarized loop antenna used three 31 foot poles for support.
As the day went on the bands started sounding decent. We operated only SSB. We worked a number of Kansas and Ohio QSO party stations. They dominated the bands. The other W/VE Island stations were hard to find. I did get called by Scott ND9E operating from an island in Missouri..Later, I answered a CQ from VA3TIC on an island in Ontario. Dennis saved me the chore of logging all day. That was a great help.

Greg N4KGL. Photo by Dennis WA6QKN.
In regard to Parks On The Air, I worked KFF-1077 in Arkansas. That counts for POTA Park to Park. I spotted myself for POTA and a couple of Croatian stations came right back. For grins, we checked the high bands. To my surprise, there was an opening to Brazil on 10 meters! I also worked Suriname on 17 meters. The highlight of the day was snagging KH6TU in Maui Hawaii operating the Hawaii QSO party on 15 meters.

Dennis and I worked in a  repeat of the Saltwater Effect experiment with two WSPRlite Beacons and N6BT Bravo 7K verticals. Dennis did a lot of the setup and tear down of the verticals. We left one Bravo 7K vertical unattended on the beach at the bay. It was right over the salt water. Fortunately, it did not attract any undue attention. The second vertical was across the park road on a grassy spot. 


Dennis models the saltwater shore Bravo 7K vertical with a WSPRlite beacon.
Of the 66 stations receiving both beacons, all but one had a better average SNR on the salt water shore vertical over the inland vertical. There were 52 stations that copied the salt water shore vertical and did not copy the inland vertical at all. The salt water shore vertical got across the Atlantic and down to Brazil where the inland vertical did not. I am getting more and more confident that the salt water effect is real and measurable. The beacon that was a loser in past tests won today. Prior to this test, I measured the output of the beacons into a dummy load and they are both the same.


The inland Bravo 7K vertical with a WSPRlite beacon.
Despite the sticky weather, Dennis and I had a great day and Suzy did as well. It was well worth the trip from Panama City. I introduced Dennis to the QSO Today Podcasts on the trip home. We listened to Eric Guth 4Z1UG interview Art Bell W6OOB.


.Suzy hams it up with Dennis



Thursday, August 24, 2017

N4KGL Operates Solar Eclipse QSO Party

Monday, August 21st was the Solar Eclipse across the USA. I setup for the Solar Eclipse QSO Party at Kinsaul Park in Lynn Haven, Florida. I had a short turnaround time since I had just got back from the Huntsville Hamfest Sunday Night. I was pleased to get all the gear packed up and then setup at the field. It included the 100-foot vertical loop I built for Field Day, the Icom 7100 transceiver and my laptop computer. I also deployed two Bravo 7K verticals each with a WSPRlite beacon.

My 100-foot circumference loop antenna with Icom AH-4 tuner 
The goal of the Solar Eclipse QSO Party was to maximize activity on the HF bands This would provide lots of data for the Reverse Beacon Network, PSKReporter, and Weak Signal Propagation Reporter databases for the scientist to study. My WSPR Beacons contributed. I also called CQ on CW many times which was captured by the Reverse Beacon Network.  I did get answers to my CQs including fifteen contacts of 20 meters and three on 20 meters. I will turn the log I made using the N1MM+ logging software.



I could not discern any dramatic effects of the eclipse on my reception. However, at the maximum, I had a Canadian contact on 40 meters. It is unusual for me to work that distance on 40 meters in the daytime. As the sky got darker, many small birds and dragonflies joined us. The birds used the radials on the Bravo 7K verticals to roost.

The N6BT Bravo 7K verticals with WSPRlite beacons

I enjoyed getting a visit from Bob KK4DIV in the morning. My wife Linda also came by and we enjoyed looking at the eclipse together. The maximum was about 85% at 1:38 PM. The were lots of clouds during the day but there were enough breaks to see the solar eclipse.

My gear under the canopy.

I had a second reason for the two vertical with WSPR beacons. I wanted to see if the spots would be similar. My previous salt water effect tests assume the two setups are equivalent. The simultaneous spots compared very well. However, one beacon had almost double the spots of the other. It could be the beacon or the antenna. It also could be that there was another station on the same frequency for one beacon. Oh well, this will mean more tests to sort this out.

The station.

I think the process of setting up the gear outside for various events is good practice for what ever situation may come up. This setup was pretty much my Field day setup. You always want to get to the field with all the gear you need right down to those coax barrel adapters. This time I was successful.

Linda observing the Solar Eclipse

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

N4KGL Solar Eclipse QSO Party Plans

I am plan to participate in the Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP). Ham activity captured by RBN, PSKreporter, and WSPR will be used by scientists to understand the effect of the eclipse on HF propagation via the ionosphere. They want to maximize activity on the ham bands to get lots of data. CW and digital modes are best. SEQP logs will also be collected. There are bonuses for being outside and public place. 




The Solar Eclipse QSO Party is 9 to 5 CDT. The eclipse will be maximum in Panama City at 1:38 PM I plan to operate from St Andrews State Park.The grid square there is EM70DD. I can take advantage of the salt water effect on the South shore of Grand Lagoon. I will use my Icom 7100 to a Chameleon vertical antenna mainly on 20 meters CW. When I CQ, it should be picked up on RBN. The SEQP exchange includes grid squares. I will log with N1MM+ and submit my log for analysis.


The SEQP also encourages WSPR.I plan to deploy two WSPRlite beacons each to a Bravo 7k Vertical along the shore line. I am double checking the beacons to support my salt water effect study. The spots for the beacons should be similar.

These are my plans as of now. It will be interesting to experience the eclipse effects on propagation in real time. Consider operating if you can. It is in the interest of science you know.

Greg N4KGL

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The August Second Saturday Sprint

The 2017 Second Saturday Sprints are sponsored by QRP Field Ops Google Plus Community. They occur May through October each year. The sprints are two hours 1900 UTC to 2100 UTC. See the rules at this link. The goal is to work other members of the QRP Field Ops group. However, any contacts you make will count. Therefore, you can leverage off of other events like the SKCC Weekend Sprint.. Likewise, I have a cadre of local chasers. They find me on HF and 2 meters simplex. This is good practice for RaDAR ops where you need five contacts anyway you can get them before moving to the next stop.

N6BT Bravo 7K Vertical

My favorite picnic table next to Grand Lagoon
This month, I chose to operate QRP portable from St. Andrews State Park. I was involved with salt effect tests during the first part of the day. Dennis WA6QKN assisted. I continued using the Bravo 7K vertical for the sprint. The rig was the Elecraft KX2 running 5 watts. I am enjoying the Alex-Mic I ordered from HRO. It provides an amplified speaker and a microphone.

The Elecraft KX2

My new Alex-Mic


I cycle through 40 CW, 40 phone, 20 CW and 20 phone, My out of town contacts included PA and Orlando on 40 CW, PA and ON on 20 CW, and PA, OK and FL and 20 Phone. The rest of the contacts were local chasers including Bob WB4BLX, Don KK4DWC, and Steve N4VSP. I had fifteen contacts for the two hours. The Bravo 7K vertical did well. I was right on the shore of Grand Lagoon taking advantage of the salt water effect.

Suzy