Archive for category Emergency

Trail-Ready Portable Station

After finishing, revising and size-reducing my HamPi, I decided to continue on and finish assembling a new revision of a portable station.

Since I actually have plans to use this in the field, I wanted to pack things up as small as practical while loosing as little functionality as possible.


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Field Day 2010

2010 ARRL Field Day Logo

Field Day 2010 is now over and our little 3 man /2 dog station not only made an impressive showing, but we also had a lot of fun.

The homebrew solar panel was completed late Friday night, we had planned for 2 identical panels but time only allowed for 1 to be completed. The panel provided enough current to operate our complete station as well as charge our 200AH battery bank during the day so we could operate well into the night. We measured our consumption as well as the output from the panel, we were 100% solar powered for most of the daylight hours. The homebrew panel was measured putting out over 100W (intermittently) after cabling losses from the panel into the operating area. Our entire operation (2 radios, 2 logging PCs) was based on the solar system, and although I did bring the generator as a backup plan we never even had to consider using it.

The Elecraft K3 performed wonderfully on crowded bands racking up just shy of 100 SSB contacts on various bands. The TS-2000 was used for Digital (PSK31) and also did quite well with just at 100 contacts attributed to it.

When the SSB operator got tired, we would fire up the digital station and work for a while, and then back forth throughout the contest. We remained 1A at all times. It’s strange running Field Day with no SSB stations in the background. When we worked PSK31 an eerie silence descended on the station. No audio output from the radio was required and no one was calling CQ into the mic. It was almost as if we weren’t operating at all.

Severe storms were building north all day and finally ran through our area at about 2am Sunday morning. The poor band conditions (we’re attributing them to the storm) saw to it that that we went to bed at about 1:30am. We woke up praying our antennas were still erect, and they were. We resumed operation at about 6:30am Sunday.

Our antennas were a multi-band windom orientated N-S and a G5RV orientated E-W. We used guyed military surplus 5′ fiberglass poles to get them up about 40 and 30′ respectively. Next time we’re thinking of adding a vertical of some form into the mix. Sometimes they can pick out signals better in bad band conditions. We’re even considering moving to 2A and to add a full time digital station.

The dogs provided the critical service of cleanup of accidentally dropped consumable.

It looks like all said and done with our bonuses and multipliers we will have scored just about 1000 points during our 24 hour run. Not too bad at all.

Continue on for some pictures of our station…

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Field Day Preperations

2010 ARRL Field Day Logo

So Field Day is almost upon us so preparations have begun in earnest. We have at least 3 “affiliated” Field Day operations going on in the Des Moines area this year (DRMAA/ARCS, Polk County ARES, W0IW) in addition to several others north of us in Ames area.

Field Day is supposed to be an exercise in emergency communications preparedness but for most it’s a great excuse to get together with local hams and have a 28 hour long party. Amateur Radio is one of the last bastion’s of true geekdom remaining, so you can be assured it’s a geek party.

Preparations is kind of a misnomer for this event. The “hard core” operators all know what equipment they have and what they need to bring to make things work. The extent of preparation for that part of the event is typically a simple “Joe, you have power covered?” “Yes.” “Bob, Steve You guys bringing the towers?” “Yep.” “Ok lets move onto more important business. How many meals do we need how much charcoal, how much and what kind of meat?” There can be surprising debate over this last issue, especially living in Iowa.

A few years ago back in ’07 some friends and I did our own mini Field Day. It was just 4 of us but we had a great time and we decided to do it again this year. We’re using it as an excuse to get our gear out and sharpen some skills. Our goal this year is to run 1A, and run it entirely solar powered. It’s getting down to the wire but our 300W homebuilt solar panel should be finished in time and it will feed 200Ah of battery capacity. It’s our plan to run completely from the battery bank, including radios, logging PCs and lighting.

We have a varied selection of radios to use as desired although we’re planning on the main rig being the shiny new Elecraft K3. Backup will be my Kenwood TS-2000 and I’m sure at least 1 or 2 other rigs will make an appearance. We’ll be attaching to some wire antennas that we’ve amassed over the years. I believe the plan is to erect a multi-band windom in 1 direction and a G5RV perpendicular to it.

I have 2 Acer Aspire One d250 netbooks that have direct DC-DC power adapters. They draw just under 2A @13.8V each under worst case circumstances, and generally hover around 1A during use. These are great computers for ham radio. They’re small, self contained, low power consumption and they run Windows XP. If they had a built in RS-232 serial port they’d be perfect but USB->Serial converters have gotten much more reliable in the last few years so it’s only a minor inconvenience. One will be for logging, and the other will be used for PSK-31 and satellite tracking if I get ambitious and try to make some satellite QSOs.

Oh, and we’re having steaks, burgers and brawts. Lost of them. Our grill is propane.