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!

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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

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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 

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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..

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.

Ivan VK5HS Radio Sonde Hunt

It’s not often Radio Sondes travel as far as the Riverland, but on Friday evening Mr Balloon aka Mark VK5QI sent me a message advising the predictions looked good for us to maybe have a go at retrieving a Sonde. The seed was sown, I quickly hobbled a bit of kit together and prepared for the chase.

After a successful  first chase attempt along with Danny VK5DW on the Saturday morning flight I watched the Saturday evening flight hoping to learn more about the tracking program and flight information.

Observing the data as it was displayed on Habhub,  https://tracker.habhub.org, I took great interest in learning about the speed the balloon travels at and the varying temperatures, balloon height and other variables.

HabHubI watched the Adelaide area reporting stations data as the balloon drifted to the East and after a while the stations of VK5THB and VK5TRM started reporting the data. I also monitored the prediction software, comparing the accuracy of the program and the actual landing location.

The  balloon finally landed very close to the reporting station of VK5THB.  The last heard position of the balloon was at 51m and travelling at 31km/h and 88 degrees.

So with the data in mind I thought I might head out early Sunday morning to try and retrieve the equipment. With the data from the HabHub and APRS, https://aprs.fi, websites I then used google maps satellite view to look at the terrain the balloon had likely landed in. It looked to be cleared scrub land, so I made the decision… I will attempt an early Sunday morning  retrieval.

In preparing the necessary equipment for the retrieval, I mounted a quarter wave 402MHz vertical on the Cruiser roof attached to a Yaesu VX7 handheld. This was to alert me when I was getting close to the landing site. I loaded up my 70cm yagi along with a AOR8000 scanner set to USB, this was to be used while on foot to locate the Radio Sonde. I recorded the location info from HabHub  by means of a photo of the screen on my mobile.

OziExp2I then entered the last known position of Radio Sonde in to the OziExplorer software on my laptop. I also attached my GPS receiver so I could run the moving map function. I also entered the last known position on my hand held GPS unit.

Setting off at 0600hrs Sunday morning I headed of to the last known location. When I got within a couple of Km’s from the site I turned on my VX7 with external antenna attached so I could hear the transmitter. To my dismay… not a peep from the Sonde!  I then pulled up as close as I could to the last known position and put my direction finding gear together. Sweeping around in all directions, still no signals. I hadn’t thought about the battery life of the Sonde.

After a calming coffee and a bit of thought I grabbed my hand held GPS, 402MHz receiver with yagi attached  and started walking in the general direction of the Sondes plotted location. After about a 500m walk I was rewarded with a visual location of the silver radar reflector. I collected all Reflector and GPSthe equipment up and proceed back to the vehicle.

Lessons learnt from my 2 Sonde chases are:

  • Don’t rely on the internet when chasing balloons in remote areas where you may loose phone signals
  • Consider the battery life of the Sonde, I had been told it is approximately 6 hours
  • You do not need expensive tracking antenna’s, mine is home brew the plans are on the   https://rrc.org.au/2018/03/27/tech-night-march-2018/

This Sonde landed not far from Bob VK5FO’s receiving station so I sent Bob a quick early morning text message so he knew I was chasing this Sonde. I didn’t want either of us wasting our time, luckily for me I had it all to myself. Interestingly Bob has setup a site, http://vk5fo.com/553/wx-sonde, so you can enter planned chase. This is to advise other chasers you are out retrieving a particular Sonde so they don’t travel big distances to find the Sonde has been retrieved by another chaser.

Sonde and GPS

My plans for the recovered Sondes are to have them reprogrammed so they can be used for future Riverland Radio Club projects.

I would like to thank Mark VK5QI for all his work in the Sonde tracking programs. All the RX stations need a special mention, without them we wouldn’t be able to have accurate data to retrieve the Sondes. Rob VK5TRM tracked the first Sonde Danny VK5DW and I found down to approx. 150m and Bob VK5THB tracked the second Sonde down to 50m, this assisted in a speedy retrieval of both units.

As Mark VK5QI always mentions the bakeries on his chases, I stopped at the Waikerie Bakery to have a coffee and cake. Have to keep the tradition up, Hi Hi.

Thanks for reading,

Ivan VK5HS