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Focus on VHF and Above 11 Vovember 2018
Audio version here
In today’s tutorial we are going to talk about hand held radios.
Normally the first radio a new amateur will buy is a hand held radio.
This is because they are relatively cheap. You will however soon be disappointed in you radio especially when you cannot communicate decently over the local repeaters, especially if you are some distance away from the repeater.
Hand held radios are small, they put out around 4-5W power and are mostly dual band covering the 2m and 70cm bands and use FM modulation. All the modern hand held radios are capable of being programmed for CTCSS tone encoding if required for accessing the repeaters.
Some, radios come with a programming cable and software as well. If you do not have programming software then download Chirp and build an interface cable. A lot of the Chinese radios use an interface cable similar to the Kenwood KPG-22 programming cable. Some research on the internet will give you schematics to build your own.
The radios come with a short stubby antenna that is essentially a coil of wire encased in rubber that is known as a rubber ducky antenna. This antenna is the biggest limitation of a hand held radio. The antenna is designed so as not to get in the way when you are in and out of a vehicle and not to be in your way when you carry the radio on your belt or in your shirt pocket. These antennas are however inefficient and are no good if you are some distance from a repeater. If you can key up the repeater it does not mean that your signal is sufficiently strong enough to be able to have a conversation through the repeater.
If you can connect your hand held radio to a good antenna, like a mobile antenna or even a base antenna such as a Slim Jim, J-Pole or dipole antenna then you will be amazed at the range that you can get out of the hand held radio.
I experimented with an antenna that I built using a brazing rod soldered to a BNC connector and a pig tail connected to a washer that fitted over the BNC connector and formed a counterpoise. The antenna was essentially a half-wave dipole connected directly to the antenna connection of the radio. I then compared the signal output between the rubber duck antenna and the half-wave dipole antenna measured over a short distance. There was a 6 dB increase in power over the rubber duck antenna. That is 4 times the power output measured a short distance away from the radio. Stated differently the rubber duck antenna attenuated the output signal of the radio by 4 times and that is why the rubber duck antenna is sometimes referred to as being a dummy load.
Now that you understand the limitation of the antenna of the hand held radio, you know what you need to do to make that hand held radio that you purchased more effective. Connect a proper antenna to it and you will be able to put a better signal into the repeater and be able to have a decent conversation over the repeater.
Let us now have a look at some news about the VHF and Above bands...
The 46 group were again active over the past weekend. Here is a report sent by Carl ZS6CBQ.
The conditions on the 2 m band were much better on Saturday 3 November, and we were 8 stations on frequency, the furthest contact was to Bloemfontein at 370 km.
On 70 cm 4 stations reported in. I managed to work Nico ZS4N and he got a solid 5/4 report from me. Nico had taken all his antennas down for maintenance and was testing his 70cm Yagi after reinstalling it.
On 23 cm Rickus ZS4A and I had our usual contact and I received him 5/3.
Later the morning, I set up my contest field station in my back yard for final testing and started testing around 14:00 after I phoned Koos ZS6KSG. Made easy contacts with him on 70 cm and 23 cm over a short distance of about 10 km.
I then contacted Rickus in Bethlehem and started calling on 70cm (432.200 MHz). He came back to me immediately and signal reports of 5/3 were exchanged. We then went over to 23 cm, and I was pleasantly surprised when he came through even better than on 70cm. I gave him a 5/5 report.
My setup for my field station for this coming VHF/UHF contest is a 5 m mast mounted on the back of my bakkie with a 12 element M2 Yagi for 70 cm and a 35 element M2 Yagi on 23 cm. Koos will operate from his bakkie on 2 m with a 10 element compact Diamond Yagi.
On Sunday 4 November, the morning started slowly and then I saw a message from Willem on WhatsApp that he was sending JT65c beaming South. Signals were just not strong enough, and we could not establish a contact with Willem.
Willem then said that he want to try something else. After 10 minutes he was back and while he was transmitting JT65 I heard his signal getting stronger and stronger until it was S7. We switched over to SSB, and we made an easy contact over a distance of 300 km. Willem then told me that he switched over to his dish. I don’t have all the details of Willem’s setup but I think his dish is around 5 m diameter. Willem also worked Koos ZS6KSG with Koos on only transmitting a 10 W signal.
Unfortunately Rickus and Dick could not establish a contact with Willem on Digital.
VHF and UHF is FUN, try the higher bands, it is not that difficult. If you have 23 cm equipment and what to come on the air, you are welcome to join our 23 cm WhatsApp group by sending an email to me, Carl ZS6CBQ or Rickus ZS4A. Our email addresses are correct on the SARL Callbook.
Carl, thank you for that report and hopefully you guys make great contacts this weekend during the VHF/UHF Contest.
You have already heard about the contact between South Africa and St Helena Island on the news. Kobus van der Merwe, ZS3JPY reported that between 19:45 and 21:45 UTC on Wednesday 7 November 2018, a QSO took place on 2 metres between St Helena Island and the West Coast of the Northern Cape. A distance of 2 740 km. Michelle van der Merwe, ZS3TO in Kleinzee as well as Cobus van Baalen, ZS3CVB in Port Nolloth also made contact with Garry Mercury, ZD7GWM on St Helena Island.
Here is a report sent in by Charles, ZS1CF who also made contact with St Helena Island the following evening.
Cobus, ZS3CVB in Port Nolloth and Koos, ZS3JPY in Kleinzee started calling Garry, ZD7GWM again from about 19h30 after they made contact the previous night. I listened in till about 21h50 and decided to go to bed. At 22h00 my phone rang and luckily I was not sleeping yet!
I saw that it was Koos trying to call me. I switched on the radio and could only hear Cobus from Port Nolloth with a very strong signal. I could not hear Koos in Kleinzee at all, because his yagi was pointing to St. Helena. I listened and after about 10 minutes, I started to receive ZD7GWM.
At this point, Cobus in Port Nolloth could not hear St. Helena and I could not hear Koos. Adrenaline was now pumping fiercely and I needed to break in! When Garry passed it over to Koos, I quickly called ZS1CF, ZS1CF, knowing that Cobus would receive me. He alerted Koos to the fact that I was calling and at last I got a chance!
I called Garry and to my surprise he answered back. The QSO was on and the adrenalin was now pumping fiercely. What an experience it was, unbelievable. Garry gave me a 54 report and I gave him a 41 report, and yes, I had my earphones on.
My station is an Icom 910H, a Diamond 10 element Yagi mounted vertically and LMR400 coax cable.
Special thanks to Koos for phoning me and Cobus who facilitated the break in!
This contact of Charles was over a distance of approximately 3 049 km.
Charles, thanks for that report and congratulations to all you on the achievements. Something tells me that communications between the West Coast and St Helena Island will now happen regularly.
We have previously spoken about the Es’hail-2 Satellite.
Built by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and owned by Qatar’s national satellite communications company Es’hailSat, Es’hail-2 will provide television broadcasts, broadband connectivity and government services to Qatar and neighboring parts of the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Es’hail 2 also carries the first amateur radio payload to fly in geostationary orbit. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Es’hail-2 communications satellite from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. The launch date is set for 15 November with the launch window being 20:46 – 22:29 UTC.
For more information about the Amateur Transponder go to http://rsgb.org/main/files/2018/11/7.1x_AMSAT-UK_Eshail-2_Transponder_Info.pdf
Time to get those earth stations up and running.
There will be another workshop on RF Noise Floor Measurement on 24 November from 09:00 – 14:00 at the National Amateur Radio Centre. There will also be a presentation and discussion on Lightening Protection which is necessary, especially now with our summer thunderstorms. See the AMSAT SA website amsatsa.org.za for more information and to book to attend.
The next VHF/UHF/Microwave workshop will be presented at the National Amateur Radio Centre by AMSAT SA and SARL on Saturday 9 February 2019. Proposal for papers and presentations are invited and should be sent to email@example.com by not later than 15 December 2018.
Please send your news snippets and information about activities on VHF and Above including information for the tutorial to firstname.lastname@example.org.