2019 BRL Gathering

* Announcing *

The Riverland Radio Club Inc.

2019 BRL Gathering

To be held at the Overland Corner Hotel Goyder Highway, Overland Corner, South Australia

Saturday, 6th of April, 2019

Ok Folks, come one come all, it’s on again, the BRL Gathering for 2019 is on Saturday, the 6th of April, at the same sensational location, famous for its picturesque setting, Fantastic Hospitality, Great Food and Cold Beer.

*Please Register online here if you’ll be attending*

(Registration isn’t compulsory, but it really helps out with catering, and you’ll go in the draw to win lunch for two on the house courtesy of the Overland Corner Hotel. It also helps us make sure your visit is the best it can be…)

Breakfast – Bacon and egg Sandwich and coffee will be available from 7:30am on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Lunch –  Lunch at the Hotel is a must! Check Printout the menu and get your taste buds excited for April. The Hotel’s food is renowned for its quality and value!

*Dogs are welcome at the Overland corner Hotel*

Mallee

Dinner – Will be at the award-winning Mallee Fowl Restaurant for those wishing to catch up with friends old and new! Please let us know if you wish to attend. Check out their Menu here.

* Getting There *

The Gathering is in the Beautiful Riverland in South Australia.We have more sunshine than the Sunshine Coast!

BRL map

* Accommodation *

Accommodation – The Riverland has many accommodation options catering for all budgets. See here for some ideas. Got an RV, Motor Home or Van? The Overland Corner Hotel has an RV staging area “out back” that is a stones throw close to the Gathering action. There are 4 powered sites. (Bring your power leads) and room for many self sufficient vehicles. Many BRL-ites stay here, and enjoy the added camaraderie!

VK5BRL has planned a fun day of Activities, Awards and guest Speakers. There’s also a

* Home Brew Award *

Have you made something for your shack? Then enter it in the BRL Home Brew competition. There will be two prizes awarded, a “People’s Choice” award, judged by the BRL gathering attendees, and the prestigious BRL “Constructors Award” for the best piece of Ham Radio related gear presented for Judging by our panel. It can be anything radio related, from something simple like a Balun, to a complex microwave transverter!

* Contact us *

If you need any help with any aspect of getting to the venue, accommodation, special dietary requirements or other issues, feel free to Phone the Secretary Andy, VK5LA on 0488778154 or email him.

The 2019 Riverland Radio Club BRL Gathering – The Friendly Gathering!!!

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New Site Page – ‘Foundation Course & Assessment’

flcoverWe thought we might try and make entering into the world of Amateur Radio and radio experimentation a bit simpler, so we have added a new page to our site.

The new page provides all (we think) the information an interested person might need to understand how to go about getting into radio.

The page talks about the process, how much everything costs, where to get the learning material, how you can be supported. As I said we think we’ve got it covered.

If your interested have a look by clicking on the book image or click HERE. Or you can hunt it down under the ‘Callsigns and Licencing’ menu heading above.

Horus 50 Repeater & SSTV

201811040104Peter VK5PE and Ivan VK5HS monitored the Horus 50 launch today. We concentrated on the cross band repeater and Slow scan TV modes. Normally we would track the flight, but as there was a good number of stations setup to track the flight and 5 chase cars we decided our input was not required. There is  strong interference in the Riverland area on 434.640MHz which affected our receive stations on the new telemetry mode. Peter and I set up our tracking gear on Saturday and found one of the irrigation, moisture monitoring  transmitter stations, now to try and resolve that problem before the next launch!

20181104_111447

We traveled out into the scrub to get away from the interference just west of Renmark to monitor the flight. soon we were hearing the cross band repeater and we both made 20181104_111441contact with the net control station VK5ARG operated by Grant VK5GR.  Ivan had a contact with VK5IX mobile, thanks Grant and Darrin. We used an Icom dual band radio running 50 watts and a diamond dual band vertical for access into the repeater.

The SSTV station consisted of a laptop running MMSSTV, coupled to a Icom R10 scanner. The antenna was a dual band crossed Yagi, constructed at a earlier Club practical night (the build details can be found on our web site)

Both Peter and I enjoyed our time today, we would like to thank the Horus team for all their efforts in planning and running the Horus 50 flight.

Regards Ivan VK5HS

201811040056

BRL Net goes Portable

This morning Ron VK5MRE took the Riverland Radio Club BRL Net portable with his newly home brewed linked dipole.

Ron made the linked dipole as part of a Club tech night project for himself, and with a helping hand from Rob VK5TRM to get it all tuned up a few days back Ron thought it time to test out his handy work. So linked dipole and squid pole in one hand and radio under the arm off he went.

VK5MRE Portable - Lake BonneyAs you can see from the photo here he was in a beautiful location along side the terrific Lake Bonney, Barmera. What a view!!!

Based on my very quick and flying check in to the group this morning it seemed to working an absolute treat, probably better than from his home QTH but we won’t tell Ron that!

Gotta say though I can’t see a deck chair, I think he might have had a bit more comfort than that!

I trust Ron had fun out there near the lake with the 16 stations that checked in, congratulations Ron on building the antenna and getting it on the air, and in a terrific setting too boot. Well done mate!

Danny VK5DW

UPDATE – Business Meeting with Presentation!

Hey all,

The Riverland Radio Clubs next Business meeting is on Monday night coming, November 4th 2018. Club members Bob VK5FO and Ray VK5RR are both staying in the Riverland after our Club Christmas luncheon and will be joining us for the meeting.

SES Berri MapWhile they are here we are taking advantage of a presentation that Bob has offered us on antenna modeling, which he did as part of the Oceania DX Contest recently.  As a result the meeting is being relocated to the State Emergency Service Headquarters training room at 11 Hughes Street, Berri.  I’ve got a map here for those in need.

Bob will be demonstrating antenna modeling software and is encouraging attendees to download and install the 4nec2 (link: http://www.qsl.net/4nec2/) software for those that would like to have a crack at it first hand.  Take advantage I say!  What an opportunity!

As always non members with an interest in radio experimentation are welcome.  With a bit of luck Rob VK5TS will bring along some cake and I’ll make sure the kettle is hot.

Hope to see you there,

Danny VK5DW

JOTA 2018 – Loxton Scout Group

20181020_113007What a great day we had with a few of the Loxton Scout Group. Andy VK5LA, Pete VK5PE and myself, Danny VK5DW, got together this morning to join up with the Scouts for some radio fun.

In negotiating the days activities with Sam, one of the Loxton Scout Leaders, we discussed a desire to do a bit more than just talking on the radio. Given propagation is problematic lately we also wanted to ensure the kids had other amateur radio things of interest.

I visited the scout group Monday night and we settled on a couple activities we and the kids thought would be a bit of fun. So in order for the kids to get on the air they were offered a challenge of building and erecting a 40m band antenna. Andy VK5LA led the 20181020_100742group through a bit of theory fundamentals and much to our surprise these kids were really switched on! OK time for the kids to build a dipole. After a bit of math of they went and cut a couple of wire elements. Andy had a bit of plastic suitable for the centre insulator and I handed over a bit of coax. Next thing you know they had a 40m dipole built ready to hoist, OK it didn’t have a balun… in fact the wire elements were simply twitched onto the coax but we had a dipole!

Right, let’s get this thing in the air. A couple kids had come up with a few ideas and so to simplify the process we offered a 7m Squid Pole. Up she goes… the kids were soooo engaged with the build it was quite exciting to see! A quick lesson on how to use an antenna analyser and a bit of supervision the kids learnt the wires were a bit long, so time to make a minor adjustment. One adjustment and we were resonant… that never happens for me, I usually fiddle around and fiddle around but not these kids.

20181020_100725Time to get on the air! We only had a small keen group so now we thought we could split into 2 smaller groups. Half the group stayed with Andy VK5LA for on air time while the other half went with Pete VK5PE for a bit of FOX Hunting. Pete had bought along some re-purposed WX Radio Sondes as FOXES along with some directional antennas and receivers. After a bit of training and a slice of supervision they got the hang of that pretty quick.

20181020_100813Pete also talked with the kids presenting a bit of information about weather balloons along with some HABHUB tracking info and website demo.

I bought along my Satellite Cross Yagi kit and the kids were interested that we even used our own amateur satellites. They and the leaders were fascinated about the compact size of the satellites.

The kids kept swapping around and everyone had plenty of time on each of the activities. Even the Leaders were having a great time. To round out the happiness the three of us Club members also had a good time as well.

After the Loxton Scout Group presenting the three of us with our ‘Communications Proficiency Badge’ and ‘JOTA Badge’ we wrapped up the day all smiles, but before leaving we and the leaders started to chat about next year. I’m pleased with the impact we made and interest we generated, needless to say we intend to do this again.

Thanks to the other scouts we had the chance to make contact with and the amateurs that made themselves and their equipment available for the kids. JOTA is a really good Scouting initiative.

Thanks for reading,

Danny VK5DW 

Update on VK5FO’s Contesting

In a recent post, Bob, VK5FO described a bit of the background and his upcoming efforts in modelling antennas and then putting them into use during the OCDX (Oceania DX Contest).

Bob participated in the OCDX last weekend and he enters the contest as a Single Operator Single Transmitter All Band QRP – a real challenge indeed.

He has made a full write up around his activities and participation and goes on to explain in detail how he modeled his antenna’s, then went on to build them and how they performed for him in the contest.  Jump over to his blog to read his very interesting post OCDX – Of Contesting and Antenna’s 

Another Benchmark Achieved!

gold-trophy_1284-1735

This year is looking pretty good for our website, so far this year we have over 1000 visitors. That’s more than double last year already. Not only that we’ve hit over 50 countries.

We try to have our site ticking over with new content as much as possible, not easy for a little club like ours but we think we do ok.

Our content is always changing, if not new stories we are updating and freshening up various pages.

Please drop back from time to time and leave a comment here and there… we really do want to hear your feedback.

Thanks,

Danny VK5DW

VK5FO’s OCDX Contest Journey

Hi all,

Bob VK5FO here, I just wanted to share a little about something that I do in Radio …

I enter the OCDX Contest each year. A bit more info here: http://www.oceaniadxcontest.com/index.html

This is the contest where all beams are pointed to VK and… you work em!

Now, I do it the hard way, I enter the Voice QRP Single Operator Category and in 2016 I was 1st in Australia, 3rd in the World. In 2017 I was 1st in Australia and 2nd in the World. Here’s hoping that the first weekend of October 2018 is kind to me and I can jump up to Number 1.

Now, the last couple of years I have been pretty casual about my set up and not really hitting it too hard, but this year, I have been doing a whole lot of stuff with Antennas. And let’s face it, QRP means that I need to best possible Antennas. I concentrate on 40M, but contacts on 80, 160, 20, (and 15) all help give multipliers, with the points favoring the lower bands.

The last couple of years I have just used very basic antennas:

  • a ~55M end fed wire for 160/80/40;
  • a 40M inverted V (also used on 15M);
  • a 20M dipole; and
  • the Multi-band vertical which covers from 160 thru 10.

So, this year, I have already started to go “all out” in the antenna department and this weekend just gone, I put up a monster 40M antenna that has already proven to be awesome, onto that a bit more in a minute.

What I have done is taken a bit of time and learnt a tiny bit about modelling Antennas with 4nec2 software, available from: http://www.qsl.net/4nec2/. And yep, it’s free software.

So I learnt just enough about how to use 4nec2 and do some modelling and started off with simple inverted V which I used as a basic “reference”, basically confirming that what was modeled is what was happening… which is pretty close.

From there, I then put in the details of the end-fed wire I used last year and modeled it across the 3 bands I used it on. And this is where I learnt what a crap antenna it really is and started looking at what I could do within the confines of what I had to work with, space wise and of course elevation for the Antenna itself.

That end-fed wire was so rubbish on 40M it is a wonder I made as many contacts as I did; with massive lobes and nulls and horrid very high angle radiation.

So, a few weeks ago, I did a log analysis from last years contest and looked at where in the world I needed to send RF and started to work on a 40M Model. I came up with something that I am very happy with… 40M Bob OCDX Special

40m_Bob_OCDX_SpecialLet me explain a little about this pattern:

The red line is the horizontal pattern and there is a very nice lobe sitting towards the 90 on the plot (which I have pointed North); within the 3db points of the lobe it nicely covers EU for the morning greyline and the US for the evening greyline, as well as all of Asia due north as well.

By not transmitting out the back and pushing it forwards, where it is needed, already compared to my model of last year’s antenna there is around 12 to 14db more signal where I need it compared to last year. Or effectively taking my 5W signal and running around 120W – equivalent!

That is not the whole story… look at that wonderful blue elevation on that plot, it peaks at around 30 degrees and again a nice null off the back where It is not needed, but still “just enough” high angle signal so that the NVIS contacts during the day can be made.

We put this antenna up on the weekend and used it on Saturday night, when we were swapping it in and out against our reference antenna it was chalk and cheese – Massive improvement! US voice went from 3×7 reports to 5×9 +20+ and we could also hear all the other stations on the net as well!

So we will be giving this a bit of a work-out over the coming weekends!

Now, the next challenge is 80M and as I cannot get a dipole up to 40M high (nor can many people) I set about doing some further modelling and I will be putting up an 80M antenna on the weekend and seeing if the model actually does what I see on paper.

80m-REF-Inverted-VJust like the 40M model, I worked with what I had and looked for how I could do something with what space I have.

See the 80M REF Inverted V plot – this is an 80M dipole at 8M high – something along the lines of what most of us can do – and as you see – it is ONLY an NVIS antenna – everything is up baby – not much below 45 degrees – and of course – the lower the better for DX.

Now look at the 80M low and low plot – This is what I 80m-Low and Lowam going to install this weekend and try.

First off – the Red line – horizontal pattern – it has to nulls off to the sides of around 4db, which I can position such that my signal goes where it is needed in the other direction.

The big 1 here is of course the Vertical pattern – you will see that I have managed to create a pattern that is pulled right down low – right down to about 30 degrees – so a LOT more signal is going out and not straight up!

Now, if this works as modeled, and if we look at 30 degrees elevation vs the reference it is around 4 or 5db better – which should be a big improvement.

The best part is this antenna is NOT BIG! and not tall, but does need a fair bit of open and clear space (being 80M and all!) It is not a lot bigger than the inverted V – and yes it is only 8M high as well!

On 80M, the reference dipole is very similar to my end-fed wire used last year – with it being mostly a sky warmer.

So far, my modeling for 160M means I am going to be stuck with pretty much whatever length of wire I can put up that doesn’t interfere with the other antenna’s – this is a harder one to improve, but hey, if I can managed 10 or more contacts on 160, then that is about what I expect.

20M well, I have a suitable antenna – and 2 elements that I use when portable will be put into play – and it is a known performer.

If you have got this far thru my ramblings – congrats!

What I am hoping is that I can get along to the Nov meeting and show you guys some 4nec2 modelling and how you might be able to do some basic things such as putting in your antenna, then we can play around and see if we could improve it – no promises, but I hope I can make it.

And…. If you happen to hear me on the contest weekend – I would love extra contacts on as many bands as you can muster for me.

Also, given that I do this contest from the Riverland (where I have the space to put up a very large antenna on 40M) There is an open invitation to pop along and see what it takes to set up and run a contest station like this – We just need to know if you plan on coming and when over the weekend.

And as a final footnote – whilst my callsign has a certain schoolboy smut amusing factor to it, it is an absolute nightmare in a contest!

So I have applied for and been granted a new callsign of VK5HC which I will be using for contests only.

Cheers,
Bob,
VK5FO

RRC & Horus 49 – July 7, 2018

OK, so what is Horus 49? The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group Inc. (AREG) periodically launch High Altitude Balloons for experimental purposes. These balloons carry various payloads to near space, in this case over 36000m high. The payloads of this flight included:

  • 20180708_125301RTTY Telemetry – ‘HORUS’ – 434.650 MHz  (100 baud, 425 Hz Shift, 7N2);
  • WENET Imagery – 441.200 MHz (WENET 115kbps FSK); and
  • Experimental Horus Binary Payload – 434.640 MHz (100 baud 4FSK)

And a special passenger named Anstey the Echidna making his second trip to near space. 2018-07-08--02-11-59-HORUS-20359Anstey the Echidna is a project run by the Tea Tree Gully Library to teach young children how to discover information in the library. Anstey is the library Mascot.

For the Riverland Radio Club this was the second time we have had the fortune of being part of this most interesting and exciting part of the Amateur Radio Hobby. The last time was launch Horus 44 from our club BRL Gathering of April 2017 (no Anstey that time though).

Predictions for this flight had Horus 49 tracking toward Loxton in the Riverland, and while various landing models, based on burst (remotely triggered by ground crews) altitudes, were considered, it was determined that the target landing area would be in the Murray Mallee, with somewhere west of Loxton being the most likely.

A few weeks prior to this when it was realised the flight would carry this far East, Mark VK5QI from the AREG team contacted RRC member Ivan VK5HS asking if the RRC would Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 8.23.25 am.pngbe interested/able to assist in the recovery/chase for this flight. Ivan had only a couple months prior started to set up ‘Chase Car’ equipment, primarily for chasing weather Sonde’s. Ivan was sold on the chase straight away but he couldn’t drive and operate the Chase Car equipment by himself. So other active Sonde chasers from RRC included myself (Danny VK5DW), Pete VK5PE, and Andy VK5LA were all contacted and asked if we could help Ivan with the chase. We three had to give this much thought prior to committing, indeed I reckon it took us a collective few milliseconds to confirm.

Our plan was pretty simple… meet up at my QTH for 0900hrs, set up and get the equipment running and go get it… SIMPLES! Fortunately some of the software and systems being used had been used to chase WX Sonde‘s by a couple of us and thankfully with pretty good success. That said there was a bit riding on this chase… our reputation to start!

So Ivan with Pete rock up at my QTH and Andy not far behind. Ivan and Pete had installed all the equipment into Ivan’s Land cruiser, several antennas appeared on the roof consisting of a 70cm 1/4 wave, a dual band hi gain, a crossed dipole and a high gain 20180708_101032phone antennas to improve phone coverage for uploads to the net. A 240 volt inverter to run 3 laptops was also included. One laptop used for Mark’s VK5QI LoRa tracking software, another for RTTY and the last one for WENET which was used to download photos from the payload. I must say Ivan’s car was looking much like an Echidna, which is kinda ironic given the payload we were about to chase. With this setup we had the capacity to track the flight via multiple signals, allowing us to keep the chase up even if we had system failures. Additionally we had hand held GPS receivers, hand held scanners and hand held radios along with Yagi antennas so we could Direction Find (DF) the payloads if the situation commanded so.

Our team consisted of:

  • Ivan VK5HS (driver seat), Driver and Systems Administrator
  • Pete VK5PE (front left), WENET Operator
  • Andy VK5LA (rear left), RTTY Operator and Navigator
  • Danny VK5DW (rear right), Navigator and LoRa Operator

2018-07-08--00-22-24-HORUS-202E0Chase step 1… Loxton Mini Mart for coffee! Then based on our chase system we headed out to Stott Highway and pulled up at the Stott Hwy/Mindarie Rd intersection (Staging 1 (see map below)) to monitor the launch and wait for some signals to poke their head over the horizon. Right about now I started to experience some issues with the GPS engine attached to the tracking laptop, meaning I could see the live predictions OK but couldn’t see my exact location. Thank goodness for my map reading skills I was able to dead reckon our location most of the time. At the same time Andy had issues with getting a good signal from the RTTY payload along with its laptop playing u20180708_105756p. It’s about now we started to get a bit concerned we weren’t going to have enough contingencies up our sleeve… time to get our heads sorted and solve a few glitches! Right… a quick DF, a swap out of a dodgy GPS engine, a couple restarts, and swap the LoRa data for RTTY data into the tracking laptop and we were GO again. While this was going on Pete was trying to aquire signal on the WENET downlink so he could get some pictures coming through, but alas not enough signal yet! By this time Rob VK5TRM had tracked us down via APRS and turned up in his car, playing chase the chasers.

With enough glitches sorted, but still not at 100%, and signals picking up we headed off toward Wunkar with confidence we were still on track. We got to Wunkar and turned South onto Curtis Rd (Staging 2), pulling over again to monitor Horus 49 for a short while. 20180708_113914 (1)Very shortly after we moved on further and turned East onto Farr Rd (Staging 3). Here we pulled up again, by now very confident we were on the money for a recovery, there was no way we weren’t going to track this thing!!!. That said we weren’t yet 100% operational. So while Ivan and Pete were working on getting more signal to support the required band width of WENET, Ivan seen here with a 3 element Yagi, Andy and I were working on getting other systems sorted. What a team the four of us make!

Cross Dipole w Pre AmpAt some point about here the elevation angle of the flight was at 25 degrees so we swapped to the crossed dipole with a Mini Kits 70cm Pre Amp installed, the predicted landing location was fairly stable now so we moved in closer and pulled up waiting for the balloon to burst. And burst it did at 36306m (36.306kms) up.

We had to run RTTY into the tracking laptop for a while as we lost the LoRa signal, but after a few more kms down Farr Rd and a software restart back onto LoRa all was good again. Cool… we had everything, except internet service, running as required. All was good again! Failure was still not in our thoughts, we were going to win!

 

About 7.5kms East down Farr Rd we identified a track to the South… this was going to be our best access for the recovery, we had less than 10 minutes to get to the predicted landing site. OH NO… lost the GPS again. With total calm, OK maybe a little panic, we pulled up on a small rise (Staging 4), did a bit more DF while we rigged Andy and the RTTY laptop for ‘Moving Map’ onto OziExplorer so Andy and I could work together to guide Ivan into an area adjacent to the landing site (Staging Final). Pete in the meantime was downloading some amazing images via WENET. Rob still in train, albeit very dusty by this time.

20180708_122534We now moved again to the predicted landing spot, with very low cloud and not being able to see the balloon we used a combination of the tracking software, our direction finding antennas and skills we were able to look in the right direction to see Anstey appear out of the clouds and land about 300m West from us in some Mallee scrub (Landing Site). Mark VK5QI and Will VK5AHV called us on HF radio and asked us to wait for them as they were about 3 minutes away, Danny informed them we had just watched it land,

Map Generalsoon Mark and Will arrived, followed by Marcus VK5WTF.

With DF gear in hand and a GPS or two we set off only to find Anstey 8m up a Mallee 20180708_125921tree. Mark had Map Landing Satbrought a squid pole along to our amusement, not initially knowing what that was for we soon found out… Mark had obviously done this before. Anstey needed a bit of gentle prodding with the squid pole to be persuaded from the tree, falling to the ground only to be safely caught by Danny.

 

Marcus then took several group photos of the recovered gear, vehicles and the chase teams. We then packed Anstey 20180708_130050and all the gear away and departed. The AREG members headed back towards Adelaide stopping to recover  a Sonde from the mornings launch. Peter had recovered the Saturday night Sonde earlier. The RRC members headed back to Loxton for lunch, catching up with Bob VK5FO and Ray VK5RR. We then all departed and headed home where Peter and Ivan decommissioned the tracking equipment from Ivan’s vehicle.

We had a lot of fun, watched Anstey safely land, recovered the payloads, and recovered 2 Sondes, learnt a lot and most importantly had heaps of fun. A special thanks to Ivan for his chase car and Pete for assisting Ivan with the setup and decommission thereof.

This story is a combined effort of the RRC Chase Team.

Thanks for reading…