Balloon flights and ZL1RS ocean buoy news – IOT

Balloon flights and ZL1RS ocean buoy news

February saw the first QRP Labs High Altitude Balloon flight launches of 2017, both on the same day, 20-Feb-2017! The first was flight S-21 by Dave VE3KCL from Toronto, Canada; followed close behind by flight U3S-7 by Jim N2NXZ.

These are Internet of Things (IOT) or RIOT Radio INternet of Things

Dave VE3KCL used the special QRP Labs Ultimate3S transmitter firmware installed on his own board assembly, with the WSPR telemetry overlay first developed by QRP Labs. The entire payload weight was only 10.26 grams and flew on a single Qualatex mylar film “party” balloon. S-21 made very rapid progress South across the US and the following morning, woke up over Puerto Rico! However there appears to have been some new problem with the GPS, a reminder of how difficult this type of balloon flight is. The position reports were transmitted all day, but stuck at the same point over Puerto Rico without updating. The following morning (day 3) there was no sign of S-21. So presumably it hit bad weather, a high altitude storm, that could have brought it down. Full details here: Dave has already built two more transmitter payloads, which will fly on S-22 and S-23 (they use a different GPS module!).

S21 S21map

Jim N2NXZ used the standard QRP Labs Ultimate3S firmware installed on a bare ATmega328 chip, carried by two balloons. His position was reported over WSPR and JT9. The flight path was quite similar to Dave’s but a little further East. The same as Dave, nothing was heard from the U3S-7 balloon on Day 3 so again, it must have taken a swim in the Atlantic ocean. Full details here:

U3S-7 U3S-7 map

Over in the South Pacific, Bob ZL1RS’ “ocean floater” project has now been at sea for 285 days (more than 9 months). An amazing endurance journey! It uses the QRP Labs Ultimate3S transmitter sending WSPR and JT transmissions. The position is now RG93SQ, near New Caledonia. Relatively speaking, it has made a lot of progress West since last month, having evidently seen a period of steady winds (the loops are thought to be more due to wind than ocean currents). The power onboard is 18 D-cell batteries. The battery voltage decline will accelerate as more current is drawn from the batteries by the boost regulator circuit, to maintain the operating voltage.

RDF Handbook V3 by VE3RDD

a very big thanks to Al Duncan Ve3RRD for sharing


Radio Direction Finding
Al Duncan – VE3RRD

v3 – March 2012
Radio direction finding or RDF has been around since before World War One. From the time of the invention of radio, there has been a desire to know from what direction a radio signal was arriving at the listener’s radio receiving antenna.
Amateur Radio has found several uses for RDF:

Hunting down interfering radio signals, both accidental and malicious interference to repeaters (affecting both ham and commercial communications, including emergency services).

Helping to locate downed aircraft by DFing their emergency locator beacons (ELT).

The entertaining sport of “fox”, “bunny” or T-hunting.
It is “fox hunting” that has spread through many ham radio clubs around the world as a very exciting and fun aspect of the hobby. Fox hunting can take many forms of transmitter hunting, from a person hiding within a few blocks of the starting point with his handheld and periodically making a transmission while others try to find him on foot using directional antennas; to a competition with multiple unmanned automatic transmitters scattered over a course that can be several hundred kilometers long – the entrants being required to find each transmitter in proper order with a minimum number of kilometers driven. Another variation called ARDF or radio orienteering is popular in Europe (just gaining popularity in North America) and includes jogging or running from one low power hidden transmitter to another while carrying RDF equipment in a timed race.
What makes fox hunting so popular?

The social aspect of getting together with others with similar interests.

Anyone can take part – you don’t need a ham license since only a receiver is required.

The satisfaction of building your own equipment such as an antenna or attenuator for use in RDFing.

The fun and competitiveness of the hunt, which also can involve both physical and mental exercise (walking while searching, and the calculations and map plotting required to determine where the fox may be located).

The outdoor aspect of the sport (sunshine and fresh air).

After the fun of the hunt, there is always coffee and conversation at Tim Hortons to look forward to.
The “fox” has several basic requirements:

Be able to move to a location unobserved by those who plan on taking part in the hunt.

Be able to hide well enough at the location he has chosen so he will not be accidentally spotted. The hunters should have to almost stumble over him in order to find him.

Be equipped with enough handheld battery capacity, water, lunch etc. for the expected duration of the hunt – it could be one or two hours or more in length, depending on the distance the fox is from the starting point and how well he is able to confuse the hunters as to his probable location.

Pleas download the complete book


AM Rally, April 1-3 (“No fooling”)

Ever wonder what that “AM” button is for on your transceiver? Well, if you don’t know about full-carrier amplitude modulation (AM) or have never used it on the air, you’ll get the chance during the AM Rally, April 1-3, on the HF bands between 160 and 10 meters (except 30, 17, and 12 meters) plus 6 meters. Amateur Radio voice-mode transmissions on the HF bands into the 1960s were AM, the same mode that used to predominate in radio broadcasting. Single-sideband (SSB), a form of AM, gradually took over the phone bands, although not without some pushback!

Today, a group of dedicated radio amateurs keeps the magic flame alive, getting on AM frequently, and for many of them, AM is their primary operating mode. The AM Rally gives the uninitiated a chance to dip a toe into the pool, so to speak.

A cooperative event organized by AM, SSB, and, yes, even CW operators, the AM Rally aims to encourage fellow operators to take this “sister mode” for a spin, make a few contacts, and have a shot at earning some nice certificates.

“We plan to make the AM Rally fun for everyone, but we also want to help ops who might be new to the mode get their rigs set up and sounding the best they can in time for the event,” said Clark Burgard, N1BCG, who is spearheading the event with Steve Cloutier, WA1QIX, and Brian Kress, KB3WFV. “Whether your rig is software defined, solid state, vacuum tube, hybrid, homebrew or broadcast surplus, you’ll be a welcome part of the AM Rally.”

The event website ( has complete AM Rally details, contact information, award categories, logging, and tips on how to get the most out of your station equipment in AM mode.

The AM Rally begins on Saturday, April 1 at 0000 UTC (Friday, March 31, in US time zones) and concludes at 0000 UTC on Monday, April 3.

It’s open to all radio amateurs capable of transmitting full-carrier AM, using any type of equipment, from vintage to bleeding edge. The event is sponsored by Radio Engineering Associates (REA), in cooperation with ARRL, which supports all modes of Amateur Radio operation.

If you like to get on the air and have fun and now operate — or would like to operate — AM mode, then you’re good to go!

Participating stations earn 1 point for each station worked per band, and you may work the same station on more than one band. They also earn 1 point for each state, Canadian province/territory, or DXCC entity worked. Both stations must be using AM for a contact to count.

Certificates will be awarded to stations scoring the highest number of points in each of the five power classes, regardless of rig category, both for most contacts and most states/provinces.

“All it takes is a turn, push, or click to participate!” There’s also plenty of time to dig out and dust off that old AM-capable tube gear sitting in your attic or basement.

(from the ARRL website)

NVIS WhitePaper a Great read for those on 60m

Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) propagation can be used for radio communication in a large area (200 km radius) without any intermediate man-made infrastructure. It is therefore especially suited for disaster relief communication, communication in developing regions and applications where independence of local infrastructure is desired, such as military applications. NVIS communication uses frequencies between approximately 3 and 10 MHz. A comprehensive overview of NVIS research is given, covering propagation, antennas, diversity, modulation and coding. Both the bigger picture and the important details are given, as well as the relation between them.

The Normandy Invasion communications were NVIS, designed to cover from the
center of Britain, across the Channel, to the landing area in France, and to
be effective from ships, shore stations and man-pack radios. The principal
problem concerned advance lookouts directing bombing runs, which were
initiated from airfields in England. Ground wave was too short and skywave
reflection was not dependable. Dr. H. H. Beverage redesigned the
communications shortly before the landing

nvis range


Hams Blank Fake News – Russian WoodPecker Revisited

Thanks to Jeff K1Nss for this treat

Homeland Helmet625.jpg

When all else failed miserably in Washington to protect the Homeland from fake news, hacked presidential elections and like really strategic Vermont electric companies, it took but a few amateur radio operators and rocketeers to solve the problem on New Year’s Day, 2017.

Hamland Security Systems is the latest private space venture, but worlds away from big-budget high-flyers like SpaceX, Blue Horizon and Virgin Galactic.

From a back yard launch facility in New York’s Hudson River Valley, utilizing a whole bunch of Estes rocket boosters all tied together, HSS lofted an off-the-shelf Cold War era ham radio accessory into high polar orbit, effectively placing an impenetrable electronic tinfoil helmet over every square inch of our Glorious Affordable Lovely Mother Homeland.

“We were going to call ourselves “Gloriously Affordable Lovely Mother Homeland Security” to dramatize our advantage over the plain old Department of Homeland Security,” exclaimed an HSS spokesperson who declined to be identified. “But then somebody suggested “Hamland Security Systems,” which sounded all bluff and buff and Men in Black Tahoes and everything, only with ham radio, so we went with that.”

HSS claims to have purchased the Woodpecker Blanker for just five dollars last summer at a local hamfest. To counter the growing strategic threat in the South China Sea, the group is currently modifying a second Woodpecker Blanker found in the basement of an abandoned S.S. Kresge Five & Dime.

“You couldn’t beat Nicholls’ patented Ninotchka Filter for blanking Soviet over-the-horizon radar interference,” allowed an HSS geek who spoke in a funny voice for the purpose of anonymity. “But that whole Spratley thing is a different kettle of Kung Pao Shrimp. We can’t reveal exactly what we’re doing, but not for nothing, MSG is the new DSP.

DX Code of Conduct

I will listen, and listen, and then listen again before calling.
I will only call if I can copy the DX station properly.
I will not trust the DX cluster and will be sure of the DX station’s call sign before calling.
I will not interfere with the DX station nor anyone calling and will never tune up on the DX frequency or in the QSX slot.
I will wait for the DX station to end a contact before I call.
I will always send my full call sign.
I will call and then listen for a reasonable interval. I will not call continuously.
I will not transmit when the DX operator calls another call sign, not mine.
I will not transmit when the DX operator queries a call sign not like mine.
I will not transmit when the DX station requests geographic areas other than mine.
When the DX operator calls me, I will not repeat my call sign unless I think he has copied it incorrectly.
I will be thankful if and when I do make a contact.
I will respect my fellow hams and conduct myself so as to earn their respect.

Hamex 2017 – Photos

A great day at the Hamex with deals for everyone and some great exhibits

I did manage to buy some “worked the last time I used it” broken and garbage items which seems to be a part of the ham radio experience

Mike VE3MKX took some photos to share on my blog


A complete Heathkit Novice station was sold


Not sure if that was a Magnum FM Preamplifier?



nice vintage tube based audio amplifiers for the vinyl lovers


i did buy the MFJ Tuner, the homebrew tuner (blown dummy load resistors inside is an easy fix), the Hamtronics Exciter, and he did sell the CB radios


HF radios were sold to new hams looking for the entry level radio to get them started


Yaesu Musen collectors were rubbing their hands on this sweet find…works! Poor Jim JIW missed out on this one  or did he buy them?


This guy did a brisk trade and also sold his yellow jacket to Robert from ARES


The SBX’s spillsbury went fast as they included the rare and i mean rare 12 volt power supplies for  base camp use . Catch you on the Trappers Net

Mine works great


The Guitar amps were eventually sold


The ARK 40 is an oddball qrp radio from the old days and the push switches was an odd way to tune the radio. Just leave it on 7040 and call CQ

It didnt get sold at that price

The AEA DX Handy (Mizuho MX-28s) was a nice find and seems to work. Thanks Mike


Syd, Mike and Rick doing their thing!


Australian Vintage radio Society AGM 2016

While in Melbourne on business I had the lucky chance to attend the Annual General Meeting on Sept 3 2016. The AGM was held at the wonderful St Faiths Church hall. I was warmly welcomed as an international visitor by all the members.

There was an interesting exhibit of Bakelite radios from Australia and New Zealand as well as some members radios. They also had a small flea market and I was able to purchase some cloth covered wire for a rebuild project and this wire is getting harder and harder to find in new old stock condition.

After the members voted on the new Board of Directors, there was tea and a rare chance to see a video about Gerald Wells a famous british radio collector.

All in all it was a great way to spend a few hours with radio enthusiasts.


Lets ground this with the AC plug shall we?DSC_8670

Finally we can hear ABC on 31 metters




How to make the FT-817 Contest Friendly with a BX-8×7

If you are working CW the narrow filter is a must and the SSB filter can help with helping he front end deal with the kilowatters but how does one get heard?

The BX-8×7 : Dynamic Compressor kit V2.0 for FT-8×7  is an Easy to build external Dynamic Compressor designed by a german ham and  is ideal for QRP operators

It is especially for the Yaesu FT-817, but can also be used for other transceivers with the same microphone interface such as the FT-857, FT-897 or FT-900.

When transmitting SSB, dynamic compressor increases average transmitted power, and thus the audibility of a weak signal at the distant receiver, by at least one S-unit. This accessory is of special interest to amateur radio operators who work with lower transmitting power or wish to be better heard in a pile-up.

Check the link out for an audio sample from a real QSO

MP3 file with two CQ calls during a summer thunderstorm situation. First call made without compressor, the second with the compressor turned on.


Based on SSM2165 (Analog Devices)
PCB with all SMD parts preassembled.
Powered over RJ45 cable (10 mA), no power supply or battery required.

The build time is less than 2  hours and makes an excellent addition to your 817 kit. I have taken a scope to the radio and can confirm it does add about an S unit to your talk power by use of the compressor