Call Search
     

New to Ham Radio?
My Profile

Community
Articles
Forums
News
Reviews
Friends Remembered
Strays
Survey Question

Operating
Contesting
DX Cluster Spots
Propagation

Resources
Calendar
Classifieds
Ham Exams
Ham Links
List Archives
News Articles
Product Reviews
QSL Managers

Site Info
eHam Help (FAQ)
Support the site
The eHam Team
Advertising Info
Vision Statement
About eHam.net

   Home   Help Search  
Pages: [1] 2 Next   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: What's good to do?  (Read 2519 times)
NEVBEN
Member

Posts: 43




Ignore
« on: July 18, 2011, 05:58:38 PM »

I recently started learning about radio.  I was building a 4x4 and my wife suggested I get a radio so I can communicate from the wilderness when I am not able to via cellular telephone.  I live in a rural area where there is adjacent wilderness that is extends to the very remote.  I understood that 11m AM or SSB could work, but not with the power limits of CB.  I knew for anything else, I’d need a license so I took care of that.  I don’t have an aircraft, boat or business so I obtained an amateur license.  I needed to do it quickly because the next test dates in my area are not until September.  At that time I could upgrade to Extra if I decide to go that way.

So I have a license but no radio.  I was thinking I’m just going to get a VHF radio.  I started looking at the commercial radios because the amateur-specific ones don’t have transmit capability on the business bands for Section 403 coms.  I learned that the business channels are going narrowband.  That’s putting more and more agencies in rural areas like mine on migration paths to digital systems even if they don’t need trunking.  Non-trunked system agencies will probably go to 12.5MHz analog for the time being, but are more and more likely to adopt Project 25 or P25 capable systems.  When they come down to facing 6.25MHz requirements, it’s not yet clear whether they will TDMA or FDMA a 12.5MHz band.  At some point, FIPS, HIPAA or something else is going to force all the fire, ambulance and police transmissions to go encrypted anyway.  Besides, the vendors aren’t friendly to low-volume pricing on the systems, and I’m not buying on a grant.  I decided that I don’t need the headache of trying to keep interoperable with public safety agency’s P25 systems – isn’t that ironic?  My best bet would be an analog FM transmission and hope they know how to work their backward compatibility.  Even if I had the capability, it’s something I’d hope I never use.

So I thought maybe there was something more interesting I could do on the amateur bands where I am licensed to transmit.  I thought about building my own NXDN system with a mobile, a repeater and handhelds.  I thought I’d like to try to figure out a UHF to VHF cross-band repeater setup, but if I configured it, I have no idea who I’d talk to, especially in digital on the local area amateur bands.

I have an old VHF/UHF scanner (30MHz to 900MHz) I brought out and programmed for all the local frequencies I could find.  It’s not too lively.  Remember it’s a rural area.  From what I can tell, the local agencies are on analog for the time being, but there’s not much traffic.  The amateur bands are mostly quiet too.  Occasionally I hear some CW or PSK31.  The CW is mostly beacons, but there might be some old timers out there on 6m.

I thought I might be better off trying out an HF capable mobile instead of spending the money on digital VHF.  I read that amateur radio is something you do, not something you buy.  That sounds nice, but exactly what is it that you do?  I know there’s some ARRL’ers around my area but I’m not hearing them on VHF so I’m thinking either they’re heating up the ionosphere with HF or they’re smoking rosin hovering over their latest double-superheterodyne contraption.

I don’t know.  Maybe this hobby is a dead end for me and I should just install a mobile VHF transceiver in the 4x4 “just in case,” and forget about it.  Or maybe I should build my own straight-key shortwave tube rig.  I’m just looking for ideas.
Logged
W5FYI
Member

Posts: 1044




Ignore
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2011, 06:57:53 PM »

Several thoughts: First, I'd get ideas from local hams. There has to be a club somewhere nearby with members who share your interest in exploring the wild. They'll have valid input for the type of radio/bands for you, and may agree to monitor for your signals when you're out and about.

Check with the local emergency management office to see if they monitor ham or CB frequencies. Same for the truck stops.

Depending on how far you wander from civilization, you might want to take an HF rig with you instead, and enough wire to string up a decent resonant antenna for 40, 20, and/or 15 meters, and you should be able to find someone able to summon help if you need it.

What would Daniel Boone have done?  Have fun!

Logged
N2RRA
Member

Posts: 646


WWW

Ignore
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2011, 08:19:58 PM »

Obviously your new to Amateur Radio so questions are valid but there should be absolutely no problem what so ever in what your capable of doing and how to benefit out of this hobby.

Being your in a rural area there's no doubt HF will be your best bet and interfering with any public, commercial or government repeaters should not at all be an issue. Power levels, frequency and distance from them can all be controlled.

To be cost effective wire antennas is your best bet and being you seemingly have all the trees and room in the world the amount of mono band wire antennas seems endless for you. Of course that is if money is not an issue then getting towers up is always a possibility and if you have money anything can be done.

Your gonna want to consider solar and generator power. As well as running "QRP" Power levels which will be "10 watts or less  phone" or "5 watts or less CW/digital".

Trust me! QRP work is not only gratifying but more than enough power to reach help if needed. With as little as 2 watts to 25 watts you will be able to send S.O.S ,or gain help from Amateur op's from all over. Someone is going to hear you for sure. Especially running some form of digital weather be at the base or mobile. These power levels are of course if for some reason 100 watts becomes a problem but I just don't see there being any. QRP IN THE FIELD IS A MUST AND MORE THAN ENOUGH!

VHF/UHF!

This is where things get tuff and fun! Your talking length of coax, line loss, loss in connections, gain is crucial, SWR's and all the things you get away with on HF goes out the window on the higher bands.

Cross band repeat is definitely something you want to look at. Height is might and is far more crucial than on HF but does apply to HF as well. Being that your in such a rural area your definitely gonna want a vertical high as possible when your cross band repeating from the field ,or if your gonna build a repeater. From home a Yagi both vertically polarized and one horizontal will be necessary. Some may think not ,but if I were in a rural area like your describing I'm covering all basis. Not to mention I'm quite familiar what can be done with all forms of antennas in your situation. There are many variables to risk taking and too many to take advantage of.

As far as power levels its extremely crucial and not as forgiving as HF. Simply as much power as you can run should be quite a bit with no interference to cell towers. If anything it's all in the antennas and that's for HF as well. Gain Gain Gain! That's why I mentioned beams (yagis) for you.

Make no mistake! VHF/UHF is not all about FM use. Use of the SSB and digital modes are alive and well. All you have to do is learn the science behind it all which will teach you when and how to look for the right moments to get the best out of these bands. Using the wrong polarization will kill you so horizontal is a must for the sub bands. If you been using a vertical for 6m on SSB well enjoy hearing whispers. Even more crucial the higher in band you go. Running a loop your better off but running a beam "opens you to the world". Just that simple!

Lot to take in I know!

If you simply said "here's my budget under my circumstances. Which way would you go?" it be easy in my experience to say "buy this this and this".

I'm sure they'll be lot more suggestions but keep asking as many questions possible. Get on the air with QRP TO 100 watts and pick operators brains.

73!






 



« Last Edit: July 18, 2011, 08:52:51 PM by N2RRA » Logged
N2RRA
Member

Posts: 646


WWW

Ignore
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2011, 08:40:58 PM »

Quote: "I thought I might be better off trying out an HF capable mobile instead of spending the money on digital VHF.  I read that amateur radio is something you do, not something you buy.  That sounds nice, but exactly what is it that you do?"

We experiment with technology and use earthly phenomenas for study and communication. For some its just picking up a microphone and talking with some one. For others it's like looking for that one radical ocean wave to ride. For some others they like volunteering in emergency communications for various agencies.

"What do we do?"

Bounce signals off the Moon and Meteors to communicate and communicate using Morse Code. Experiment with bouncing signals off airplanes yes.....airplanes to communicate. Not usually but it works! Then there's the hunt for Troposheric Inducting and hunting down that one grid you need for an award or just to test your abilities to see if your right. Experimenting with bouncing signals off rain drops.....yes rain drops higher in the microwave bands to break distant records using this method.

Experimenting with new digitals modes that allow lower power levels and under noisier conditions possible by using JT65 and other computer programs.

We push our abilities under all adverse conditions and situations to improve signals or just let alone get a signal out using any metal object we can get our hands on. Then theres building our own transceivers and antennas.

Hope that's enough info?

73!
« Last Edit: July 18, 2011, 08:46:09 PM by N2RRA » Logged
K8AXW
Member

Posts: 3722




Ignore
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2011, 09:05:45 PM »

NEVBEN:  I couple of thoughts.  Perhaps your 'problem' isn't a problem after all, unless I missed something in your post.

Obtain a map, consider the places you travel and then determine if there is 2m repeater coverage for that area.  If so, then your problem is solved with a 2m HT.  If you find the repeater "foot print" is marginal for your area of interest then fabricate a portable antenna that will give you better transmit and reception range.

If this is out of the question, then it becomes much more complicated.  To carry enough equipment for emergency communications it has to be small and light.  This pretty much limits you to QRP.  99% of the time QRP is synonymous with CW, not SSB.  Using CW you can assemble a very light transceiver, antenna and battery that is quite light. 

If you have to use voice, then your situation is indeed a 'problem.'


One final thought.  Your opinion that "Amateur radio is something you do, not something you buy" cannot be further from the truth!  I would guess that 99% of the hams in this country use commercial equipment.  Building is just another of the may facets of ham radio, not a prerequisite to become or be a ham.
Logged
N2RRA
Member

Posts: 646


WWW

Ignore
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2011, 09:40:25 PM »

NEVBEN:  I couple of thoughts.  Perhaps your 'problem' isn't a problem after all, unless I missed something in your post.

Obtain a map, consider the places you travel and then determine if there is 2m repeater coverage for that area.  If so, then your problem is solved with a 2m HT.  If you find the repeater "foot print" is marginal for your area of interest then fabricate a portable antenna that will give you better transmit and reception range.

If this is out of the question, then it becomes much more complicated.  To carry enough equipment for emergency communications it has to be small and light.  This pretty much limits you to QRP.  99% of the time QRP is synonymous with CW, not SSB.  Using CW you can assemble a very light transceiver, antenna and battery that is quite light.  

If you have to use voice, then your situation is indeed a 'problem.'


One final thought.  Your opinion that "Amateur radio is something you do, not something you buy" cannot be further from the truth!  I would guess that 99% of the hams in this country use commercial equipment.  Building is just another of the may facets of ham radio, not a prerequisite to become or be a ham.

The only thing I disagree is that CW IS NOT only synonymous with QRP. Not only with my own experience do I know this but watch the many QRP videos on You Tube. Look up S.O.T.A. as well.

Being an huge QRP operator I use both CW AND PHONE. CW will greatly improve the number of QSO's you'll make but using voice works quite well. Comes down again to how efficient your antenna system is and location. As well greatly due to propagation!

I run QRP mobile as well as hike many times operating phone quite successfully. Either way if your out in the field you have no choice but to run QRP.

The only way your gonna find out what suits you is to dive in and experiment. You have nohing to lose but everything to gain.

« Last Edit: July 18, 2011, 09:43:16 PM by N2RRA » Logged
NEVBEN
Member

Posts: 43




Ignore
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2011, 10:31:43 PM »

I appreciate all the responses.  I have an important practical use for radio, but a growing avocational interest in it and the methods and practices only partially overlap.

For backcountry emergency communications, I am pretty sure that the simplest, off-the-shelf 50W mobile VHF transceiver would make an immense difference compared to a handheld cell phone.  The area where I live is near where Steve Fossett took off from on his last flight in 2007.  It is most likely he died on impact but I don't know the stories of the other eight previously uncharted crash sites discovered by the CAP in their 20,000 square mile search of the very area where I play in my 4x4.  It has happened that pilots of downed craft have hiked out of this area.  Most of it actually has pretty good repeater coverage if you can transmit from a high point, not down in the bottom of a canyon.  The most likely scenario would be where I come across a hiker, climber, or pilot of a small aircraft that needs medical attention and has no communications capability.  While I appreciate the greater ability of CW via QRP to extend into extreme circumstances, if I can talk to dispatch and get a Care Flight in route while I carry on QSO in detail on the victim's condition and circumstances, I'm going to do that rather than try to see if I can do a moonbounce with a coke bottle, some tin foil and barbed wire.

Now avocationally, I'm interested in some of the frequencies and modes that are more obscure outside the ham community.  I guess I'm just trying to decide where to start.
Logged
K9YLI
Member

Posts: 857




Ignore
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2011, 08:40:34 AM »

 nevben..   in your last  post  you mention  talking direct to a dispatcher and passing on  medical conditions..etc..


unless you are a  policeman or  fireman  or  emt   you are not going to be able to talk directly  to a dispatcher.
If you can not be identified as a legal user  the dispatch will tell you to get off the air.

scenario..   you talk to dispatch,  get  life flights  up in your area, ground persons on the way,, when they are all out of town  
your buddies   blow up the local hospital or something......

in the present state of alert, and terrorists,, resources  would never be sent out on the word of an  "unknown"  no matter  how convincing you seemed to be.

now if you call in on amateur radio, perhaps with  local assistance or  autopatch,  then you are just a citizen  doing good and with your name and address, some kind of ID  to follow up on , your good to go..

but you get on their radio  illegally  and they will be  unhappy..

« Last Edit: July 19, 2011, 08:45:08 AM by K9YLI » Logged
K8AXW
Member

Posts: 3722




Ignore
« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2011, 09:05:59 AM »

NEVBEN:  Forgive me if I'm wrong but instead of wanting a solution to a specific problem it appears to me you're a wannabe hero.

I've tried to follow your reasoning but I have failed.
Logged
N2RRA
Member

Posts: 646


WWW

Ignore
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2011, 09:30:02 AM »

nevben..   in your last  post  you mention  talking direct to a dispatcher and passing on  medical conditions..etc..


unless you are a  policeman or  fireman  or  emt   you are not going to be able to talk directly  to a dispatcher.
If you can not be identified as a legal user  the dispatch will tell you to get off the air.

scenario..   you talk to dispatch,  get  life flights  up in your area, ground persons on the way,, when they are all out of town  
your buddies   blow up the local hospital or something......

in the present state of alert, and terrorists,, resources  would never be sent out on the word of an  "unknown"  no matter  how convincing you seemed to be.

now if you call in on amateur radio, perhaps with  local assistance or  autopatch,  then you are just a citizen  doing good and with your name and address, some kind of ID  to follow up on , your good to go..

but you get on their radio  illegally  and they will be  unhappy..



Absolutely 100%!

Your good deed will turn into a bad day for you if you were to attempt this.

We mentioned building! Building your very own high powered VHF/UHF Man Pack is one way of accomplishing your goal. Transporting with you a portable 5 element yagi for VHF/UHF like the ELK Antenna is very effective and usefull in a valley and better at high ground.

Man Pack can consist of military pack from surplus. Mounted in it the lightest weight rechargeable battery's with mobile/HT Transceiver and amplifier of any power level you choose that the battery system you develop will support. Antenna will be a high gain vertical of sort mounted to side of pack. A portable yagi that will disasemble and deploy in seconds like the ELK Antenna (look it up its awesome) for that extra gain and coverage.

I know of one Ham that has the only and is the only operator to build such a Man Pack for HF that is capable of running 600 watts and a Tarheel Screwdriver multi band antenna strapped to his pack. All battery operated and radio is a Yaesu FT-817 driveing the amp with 5watts which he modified to do.

Again! If you want to perform the duty of search and rescue good samaritin deed then you'll have to do a few things. Talking and doing are two very different things. Just buy a radio what ever it is. Buy an antenna which will be a beam and vertical. Buy a repeater call book or look up on the Internet for any listings in your area closets to you. Dial them into memory and start finding out which you can hit or not hit. Doing this will tell you at what power levels you will need. If you have no luck then go hiking to highest peak running portable and experiment there.

It'll be work but its the only way. No one here can tell you diffinitively what's going to work for you. No one! We could only give you suggestions. You need to experiment!

Regardless you'll probably have to go through relaying to another operator if you can't reach a repeater. In some cases maybe there will be no one on that repeater let alone get into one. Maybe simplex or SSB phone may not work either. That's why I mentioned HF!

Either way on HF they'll always be many world wide that will be able to hear you regardless weather running QRP or high power someone will hear you. VHF/UHF is not as forgiving. This is what I'm saying and I'll say it again. You need to buy a radio or radios and antennas and experiment in the field. It's the only way your gonna know.

Just stay off the police, FD and EMS bands! For your own good. Wink

73!
Logged
NEVBEN
Member

Posts: 43




Ignore
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2011, 09:31:18 AM »

Sorry if I confused any understanding.  I am not interested in transmitting on frequencies where I am not authorized.  Neither am I wanting to be a hero or a one-man SAR operation.  In the most practical terms, I spend a lot of time in the backcountry where there are real risks and the ability to communicate by conventional means is poor.

Part 97 Section 403 makes it clear that I can use the means necessary to communicate lawfully when the circumstances require it.  This method has already been vetted.  It's not accurate to say that dispatch is going to ignore a legitmate and lawful transmission or incorrectly order the RP off the air.  That is utterly false, and experience has already proven it wrong.

Read this article about two victims in aircraft crash and fire last year in my local area:  http://www.recordcourier.com/article/20101211/NEWS/101219995&parentprofile=search

The pilot left his burnt wife in the bush and hiked 7 hours to find a camper who had to drive to the fire station because he didn't have the means to call them on the radio.  Would I use the radio in the same situation?  Absolutely.  Would it be lawful?  Absolutely.

My worst nightmare would be that I am the one stranded in the bush.  I don't plan on that but I have to plan for it.  If I'm really “ok” then I might make contact with another ham and ask them to advise interested parties on my new ETA.  If I was really in trouble and the Sheriff’s SAR team was already out, I rather think they would appreciate a call instead of many extra hours of work only to find me unwilling to help them because I was uninformed with regard to Part 97 regulations.

An example of lawful business-band VHF use in the backcountry:
http://www.traditionalmountaineering.org/Trip_VHF.htm
Logged
AE4RV
Member

Posts: 937


WWW

Ignore
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2011, 09:54:39 AM »

Get some amateur gear for fun and it might even help in an emergency where you plan to be. Maybe.

Get two GPS units and at least one satellite phone for emergencies.
Logged
N2RRA
Member

Posts: 646


WWW

Ignore
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2011, 09:55:14 AM »

Sorry if I confused any understanding.  I am not interested in transmitting on frequencies where I am not authorized.  Neither am I wanting to be a hero or a one-man SAR operation.  In the most practical terms, I spend a lot of time in the backcountry where there are real risks and the ability to communicate by conventional means is poor.

Part 97 Section 403 makes it clear that I can use the means necessary to communicate lawfully when the circumstances require it.  This method has already been vetted.  It's not accurate to say that dispatch is going to ignore a legitmate and lawful transmission or incorrectly order the RP off the air.  That is utterly false, and experience has already proven it wrong.

Read this article about two victims in aircraft crash and fire last year in my local area:  http://www.recordcourier.com/article/20101211/NEWS/101219995&parentprofile=search

The pilot left his burnt wife in the bush and hiked 7 hours to find a camper who had to drive to the fire station because he didn't have the means to call them on the radio.  Would I use the radio in the same situation?  Absolutely.  Would it be lawful?  Absolutely.

My worst nightmare would be that I am the one stranded in the bush.  I don't plan on that but I have to plan for it.  If I'm really “ok” then I might make contact with another ham and ask them to advise interested parties on my new ETA.  If I was really in trouble and the Sheriff’s SAR team was already out, I rather think they would appreciate a call instead of many extra hours of work only to find me unwilling to help them because I was uninformed with regard to Part 97 regulations.

An example of lawful business-band VHF use in the backcountry:
http://www.traditionalmountaineering.org/Trip_VHF.htm


You actually make a very good point! We seem to forget that there is very little room for flexibility for such extreme situations. If we're in very big trouble we can use any means necessary to aquire help, but its still a grey area. We also can't just jump in and abuse it or we'll be questioned weather that rule should be changed.

Despite being in a rural area there are still other options at your disposal. You need to throughly do the work to find those options you yet haven't even explored. This will still remain at question come after the fact if you were to disrupt local authority communications. Sad but true!

Just contact now your local Ham A.R.E.S. organizations via email, phone or repeater and work with them. This will keep Ham operators in good standing with authorities.

Again! If you can't get into a Ham repeater your not getting into your local police or EMS repeater.

73!
Logged
NEVBEN
Member

Posts: 43




Ignore
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2011, 10:23:12 AM »

Ok then.  With that point clarified, it is fully my intention to experiment, hobby, and spend my time on the amateur bands.  There is no question that is where I am always welcome and where I want to be.  We have amateur VHF repeaters on mountaintops around here, and amateurs are not limited to VHF/UHF like the public safety agencies, so in the overwhelming majority of situations I should actually have more options and capability on amatuer bands than really anywhere else.  That's why I'm interested in mobile HF -- not just for rescue situations.  The hobby would be very unappealing if I had to wait around for a rescue situation to happen just to get to use my radio.
Logged
NEVBEN
Member

Posts: 43




Ignore
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2011, 10:50:42 AM »

Get some amateur gear for fun and it might even help in an emergency where you plan to be. Maybe.

Get two GPS units and at least one satellite phone for emergencies.

I am looking at prepaid sat phones.  If I could have one, I would definitely go to it first.  But they are very expensive.  If I paid the price, I would need a plan that didn't have further recurring costs with non-use.  What I am seeing is $1200-1600 for a phone or phone with accessories, and then $40/month plus airtime charges.  The prepaid plans are actually more expensive with non-use because the minutes expire after 6 months.  There's also activation fees.  So I estimate these phones cost about $2000 for the first year and nearly $1000/yr after that provided you never use it.

The Spot GPS units look very promising, but I think the functionality (predefined messages) at this point is too basic.  It may be a better option for a consumer not willing to learn VHF, get a license, program repeater frequencies etc.  When the functionality/features improve in future generations of this technology, then I believe it will be a better option for rescue location than VHF in any case because 911 operators will adapt to public contacts through this means whereas more complex VHF operations are not likely to ever become popular with the public.

Notwithstanding, this is eham, so I'd rather get some ideas about ham.  To recap: I became a ham to learn and gain the capability for responsible emergency (non-disaster) communications from the backcountry.  Now that I am a ham, I'm wanting to know what's actually good to do when not in any such scenario.  With the sat phone and Spot, the only practical thing to do is park it.  I'm hoping I find something better to do with ham.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2011, 11:12:53 AM by NEVBEN » Logged
Pages: [1] 2 Next   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!