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 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 

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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…

 

Setting up a modern APRS mobile station…

This is a post about my journey in getting a compact portable APRS station going for portable and emergency use…it will be over a few posts as I try a few different methods of implementing my system…enjoy!

APRS stands for “Amateur Packet Reporting System” – APRS has been developed since the late 1980s by Bob Bruninga, (call sign WB4APR), He still maintains the main APRS Web site. The initialism “APRS” was derived from his call sign.

First a brief history of my packet and APRS setups…

I have run packet Radio, off and on since 1995, when I was first licensed as VK5XAW. My first Packet Rig consisted of an Apple Mac Plus, a VK7TM (Sadly, long now a Silent Key) “Pocket Packet” modem I built from a kit, and my first 2m Radio, an Icom IC2GXAT 7watt handheld radio,  plugged into a pole mounted vertical up at about 10m high.21DA2C36-D048-4DEB-A013-974BD1EBE7A0

Everyone said it wouldn’t work, but work it did. As far as I knew I was the only one in SA using a Mac for Packet.

D0B662F1-8C16-485B-A430-D062F18D7BBBThe VK7TM kit modem worked
well and the software for the Mac impressed. I had a lot of fun on the VK5TTY bulletin board, and many direct contacts with Stef, VK5HSX.

I went to my first PC, a 486DX100, (!) and then a PK232 – a 424A8507-D7A7-4CE8-95B3-B45B0F806CD6real proper modem. The 232 soon got relegated to RTTY duties in contests, so I graduated to the PK88 and the MFJ TNC2 clones. I’m sorry to say I can’t even remember the name of the terminal software everyone used to use, written by a French ham? It was a long time ago.

Packet usage began to decline and started to go the way of the Dodo, When it was well and truely elbowed by the newly emerging all singing all dancing APRS.

I believed my first system, from (fuzzy) memory was a MFJ TNC2 clone with a custom ROM, not even a GPS, just  home lat/long entered in to the software as a home station. Quite boring really!

I then moved on to a couple of mobile setups, including a BD5C7FD5-A29C-4063-B62D-F3DCC85FDB52Byonics Tiny Trak3 with a Garmin GPS and Yaesu VX6R 5 Watt handheld, then neat system with an Alnico DR135 Mk111 2M Rig with an Argent Data Systems T2-135 internal modem fitted, with data display and FFD3BA14-A8D5-4189-9EC0-2EA0962494BEmapping/messaging from a dash mounted Garmin c510 StreetPilot in-car GPS/navigation unit. Luxury!!! The argent data setup used the proprietary Garmin sentences to do the overlays on the Streetpilot.

That system served me well despite its warts. It tended to D5C72EFE-8F88-44B7-B238-C16CD45AFCE8be erratic with keeping my own path on the GPS map, but did quite a good job of updating other stations. I found the Alnico Radio to be a good performer with bomb proof front end.

I hadn’t run packet for a number of years until recently. My needs with APRS have now changed, and as I’m quite often out doing Park Activations for the WWFF program, so I like the ability to map for two reasons.

A) As proof that I was where I said I was…and

B) Safety. If I’m lost, it should be easy to find me!

After doing a bit of trawling on the ‘net, it seems that there is quite a few options for APRS these days.

Kenwood and Yaesu both seem to have full function units, both high power mobile and Handheld, that are ready to go out of the box – just put your callsign and SSID in and you’re  away. These are a few generations in now, and have matured into 1 box solutions. Both have limitations with the information that can be displayed

As tech has moved on, so has software and by far the best 3571B18B-5DAF-4681-908F-A37F5C756F6Away to display yours and others APRS data is on aprs.fi, a web based app that uses google maps to plot positions and  track stations world wide in a web page.

Tablets have revolutionised mobile computing and this is the way I have chosen to go as a display for my vehicle APRS system that I’m currently putting together.

I have recently acquired a Samsung Galaxy Tab A, as the dash mounted Display for my APRS set up. It is simply Velcro’d to the dash surface, when in use, and removed when not required to reduce the risk of sun/heat damage or theft. It seems to work extremely well. The tablet doesn’t have to be flash, as long as it has an inbuilt GPS, most reasonably recent ones do, it should be suitable. not that you can even use an Android phone at a pinch. 20180706_163906

It is a perfect size for this application, and is a bigger, brighter and clearer display than any currently available out of the box APRS Radio, and can be used as an Android tablet when not pressed in to APRS duty.

The software that makes this all modern day APRS happen is an Android app called APRSDroid. It is a free download from the Google Play store. There is no equivalent iOS app, as iOS lacks support for Bluetooth Serial Port Protocol (SPP). The software supports the following connections…

1.via TCP/IP ( needs an internet connection), 2. via AFSK ( audio in and out using the headphone socket to a Radio, 3. via a Bluetooth to a TNC (like the Mobilinkd TNC) and finally, 4. Kenwood (NMEA waypoint)

At the moment, to get my position on the APRS network, my setup is operational with the2018-07-06 22.14.00 Samsung tablet > an ASFK connection via a simple interface> Yaesu FT7800R mobile radio.  APRS RX displays the incoming packets from the 2M Radio, and everything is displayed on the Galaxy tablet in the APRSDroid app. The only disadvantage is that it is not a wireless solution from the Tablet at present, but it’s cheap and it works. The goal is to have say a Pelican style case, with a 2M mobile radio and a Bluetooth capable TNC and all connections ready to go. Just plug it in to some power and an antenna and you’re on APRS, using the Bluetooth connected Tablet as a remote display. A picture tells a thousand words… I have started on the case for the setup, adding an auxilliary USB charging port shown here being tested on the way to help out on a Horus ballon launch with the club…

Until the next instalment on this build, here are a few links to the software and hardware I’m using…

Mobilinkd – http://www.mobilinkd.com/?gclid=CjwKCAjwj4zaBRABEiwA0xwsPwKCAQ68kaig3HeXiN_SCh4bcOryoV-f3G_yN9r2dX8ZgxSLVvXx1RoCXFgQAvD_BwE

APRS.FI – https://aprs.fi/#!lat=-33.86670&lng=151.20000

APRSDroid – https://aprsdroid.org/

Samsung Galaxy Tab A6 – https://www.samsung.com/au/tablets/galaxy-tab-a-7-0-2016-t280/

Andy

VK5LA

Been a bit quiet… Update Time!

iciclesOK… it’s been a quiet month for us in the RRC. Perhaps the cold weather has been getting to some of us.

Andy VK5LA has still been busy activating parks up and down the Murray etc, Ivan VK5HS has also been out chasing Sondes and also been putting together chase car rigs.

Rob VK5TRM gave the club a presentation on his tracking station setup and I, Danny VK5DW, am working on putting together a HF APRS iGate, but early days at the minute so we’ll see what happens there. Others have been busy too, Ron VK5MRE has finished his Crossed Yagi and it looks really good so keep an ear out for him on the birds. And of course a number of our members helped out on the Riverland Paddling Marathon.

Speaking of APRS some of you may have noticed a couple extra callsigns appearing on APRS.FI about the Riverland, Andy VK5LA and I (Danny) VK5DW have been playing around in this space. Andy has transitioned from TCP/IP (VK5LA-10) to VHF. While I am still fluffing about on TCP/IP I am interested in setting up a HF (VK5DW-15) system, most likely on 30m I think.

gold-trophy_1284-1735Unfortunately posting to our website has gone a bit quiet but none the less the numbers keep ticking over. We have already surpassed our previous best year to date figures for unique visits, likes and comments… and we’re only 6 months into the reporting year. A really pleasing effort I reckon.

The club has been meeting twice a month as per usual and a sub-committee has been put together to start the ball rolling for the BRL Gathering in April next year. I’m sure Ron VK5MRE, Andy VK5LA and Ivan VK5HS will have this all well in hand by the time April rolls around. We’ve got a couple more Tech Nights planned out and we will be building a couple different HF field antennas, members choice, starting next session on Monday night July 23rd.

With July just around the corner it will soon be time for our Annual General Meeting in September. And so some thought has turned to the currency of our Constitution and Rules. It may be that some amendments are tabled for change.

A few little things on the radar for us includes the acquisition of a banner for use at club promotions and activities such as the upcoming Remembrance Day Contest in August in recognition of VP Day. We’re planning to activate for this special event somewhere, somehow.

Anyway that’s enough of an update for now, hopefully when the weather is a bit more kind to us we’ll be out nd about in force again.

Cheers and 73’s,

Danny VK5DW

Riverland Paddling Marathon (RPM)

Image result for riverland dinghy club photosThe Riverland Radio Club (RRC) assists the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group (AREG) provide communications and a safety network for the River Murray Marathon (RPM) a canoe paddling event http://riverlandpaddlingmarathon.com/paddling held over 3 days on the June long weekend. The AREG team spend many hours of work planning the event in conjunction with the canoe committee. The event is held over 200Km of river, starting at Berri and finishing down stream at Morgan. High cliffs and the meandering river presents challenges for providing continuous radio coverage.

A total of  87 various class of canoes with 124 paddlers entered the event. One of the AREG senior members had a shock when a race boat practicing for a upcoming event went passed his check point, going at 90Km/h it was a bit quicker than he was expecting 

20180611_093641

RRC members Nat, Peter VK5PE, Andy VK5LA, Ray VK5RR, Rob VK5TRM, Bob VK5FO, Ivan VK5HS participated in the event which provides a very welcome donation for our efforts. This event is our clubs major fund raising event for the year.

The RRC local 2 meter repeater situated at Rob VK5TS property provides Amateur voice communications as well as APRS for the Hams at the various check points. A commercial repeater is also setup to provide communications with the safety power boats. As the event moves further down stream away from the repeaters coverage, temporary communications equipment is deployed to maintain continuous communications coverage. The use of mobile phones is limited because of the cliffs shadowing reception from phone towers. 20180610_105800

This year RRC members, Rob VK5TRM club president, Andy VK5LA club secretary, Peter VK5PE with his wife Nat and  Ivan VK5HS  all operated check points with various activities ranging from spotting and reporting canoe numbers as they passed our check points, to assisting at race control with erecting masts , antennas and tents to operate out off.

Martin the race director at a 100Km start.

It had finally rained in the Riverland prior to the event, approximately 20mm had fallen making the clay mud flats very boggy for all to get to check points Rob VK5TRM had taken delivery of his Rav 4 on Friday and was keen to play in the mud along with a couple of the AREG team. Race control was quickly advised by the trio to tell the entrants to park on the high ground and walk into the start points at a couple of locations. Boys!!!

The teams are a mixture of members from both clubs, meeting people, putting faces to call signs and a lot of chatting about radios and many other subjects fill in the time between waiting for canoes to pass their check point.

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Andy VK5LA & Scott VK2JAX at a check point, they had to put the FT817 mic down for a photo opportunity.

One RRC member managed to make some Parks and Shire contacts on HF during his time at a check point. I am sure I read somewhere we were not to play in the Shires contest !!!

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  The River Murray provides some stunning views for the visiting paddlers. Below Peter and Nat enjoy a quite moment on the river bank

 Thank you to the club members who participated in this great fun event, all the necessary activities were handled well by the RRC members. Several Shire and Park contacts were made. To top the weekend off Andy VK5LA and Ivan VK5HS retrieved a Sonde after completing our Saturdays duties.

 

Thank you for reading my article and please leave a comment,

Ivan VK5HS..

White Dam Conservation Park

On Sunday, 3rd of June, I headed of early to activate the White Dam Conservation Park VKFF-1122.

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It was a very frosty -2.1 degrees when I got up to get ready to head out to the White Dam Conservation Park, VKFF-1122. First things first, COFFEE STOP!!! No affiliation, but Pit Stop in Barmera, SA is a favorite place of mine to grab a traveling caffeine fix when heading past…

20180603_072707The Park is located around 115Km from my home, just west of Morgan, on the Morgan -Burra Rd. It was a beautifully crisp and clear morning, perfect driving conditions for the 1 hour 20minute drive. I stopped at Waikerie to have a look at the low cloud/fog  in the river valley.

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Then on to Morgan and across the ferry…

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Then a short drive up the Goyder Hwy on the Burra Rd for about 14km until you get to the park…

The maps show the location of the park and my operating position just off of Powerline Rd, in the north west corner. This was one of the few places I could gain access to an area that looked suitable to set up. X marks the spot!

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The Park is described in DEWNR website as such, and I quote:

“Habitat: The landscape is flat to gently undulating, with much of the park comprising low open woodland of Black Oak (Allocasuarina cristata) with an understorey dominated by Bluebush (Maireana sedifolia). Other understorey species present include spear grass (Austrostipa sp.), Emubush (Eremophila sp.), Bullock Bush (Alectryon oleifolium), False Sandalwood (Myoporum platycarpum), Quondong (Santalum acuminatum), and Nitrebush (Nitraria billardierei).”

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I will now give you the description in layman’s terms:

“Hard Sand. Small, dead looking bushes . The few short trees look like they will die soon, and it’s too cold for Kangaroo’s or birds!

This is harsh country. The Park is intersected by the Goyder highway and there a a set of ruins in visible from the road in about the middle of the park on the northern side. It’s quite obvious that the park hasn’t seen a decent drop of rain for many, many months.

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It was still quite fresh when I parked the car and began to set up the station. I decided to run the 80M End Fed Half Wave (EFHW) again, as I have had good luck with it so far, and wanted to give any VK5 operators a chance to work me, as the close in propagation isn’t working too well at the moment on 40 M. Rob, VK5TRM was the first in the log, and I soon had the park qualified on 80M. I went to the 40M band after about 22 contacts in the log on 80M.

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40M was quite busy with the usual suspects calling me.

These stations made it P2P, most on several bands.

VK2JNG/P, VKFF-1165

VK4HNS/P, VKFF-1675

VK4AAC/3, VKFF-0622

VK3ZPF/3, VKFF-0622

The big surprise for me was 20M. The 80M EFHW Antenna is 2 wavelengths on this band and seems to work well. I had several contacts this activation and some quite close in VK3, not what I’m used to.

I finished the day with 55 contacts across 80,40 and 20M in the log.

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As it was a beautiful day I decided to stop again in Morgan for lunch. Last weekend, in between activating 2 parks, I went to the Terminus Hotel.

This week, I thought Id try the pub directly opposite…The Commercial Hotel…Not Bad!!!

 

 

VK5LA Murray Activator 10

I recently received my Murray River Parks Award 10 as an activator. This is a great motivator for me to get out and add to the tally. I am enjoying the activating in this nice weather, lets hope it lasts!

Thanks for reading,

Andy VK5LA

 

Fox / Sonde hunting

sonde7After 3 previous day time successful sonde recoveries, Peter VK5PE  and myself Ivan VK5HS thought we would attempt a night time sonde hunt using the chase car software. This was the first time I had used the software and Peters first attempt at a recovery.  I had been using a home brew 5 element yagi with a R10 Icom receiver, which can be seen in the below picture along with a phone antenna used for internet access in the vehicle, the old chassis houses the raspberry pi, RTL-SDR and antenna switch.  A quarter wave vertical and a home brew crossed dipole, is some of my other equipment I use.

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I decided to make a new directional antenna. After some research on the net,I decided on the HB9CV design. http://www.qsl.net/dk7zb/HB9CV/Details-HB9CV.htm   There is also a handy online calculator,https://www.changpuak.ch/electronics/HB9CV.phpWith the dimensions from the calculator I set about sourcing the necessary components all from the junk box.Some 10mm alloy tubing for the boom, a couple of stainless steel tapered whip sections which were off cuts from commercial whips, and a wire joiner terminal strip. I removed the brass wire joiners from the plastic housing and cut them in halves, a small screw and eye terminal for the coax ground.I drilled the boom as required by the plans.

sonde6 The element holes were drilled  to 1.5mm. The tapered elements are then tapped into position until they locked tight into the boom, the elements start at 1.2mm and finish at 2mm.  I then constructed the matching section from another off cut of whip.

Next I installed the matching section using heat shrink to lock the screws into place. Then the variable capacitor was installed to aid in tuning the antenna.

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I made up a coax to suit and then tuned the antenna for 402.00 MHz.

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The next test was to see if I could hear the sonde signals from Renmark, I started with listening for the Adelaide sonde which was a good signal at approx 6000m. Next I listened for the Melbourne sonde which I received with good signals at approx 20,000m. Then a test to compare front to back and vertical and horizontal polarization. All appears to work as I had hoped, now to wait for a sonde to travel towards the Riverland so the real test can be conducted. And yes we were successful in recovering our first night sonde.

I hope you enjoyed this article.  Ivan VK5HS.