APRS - my 2 options for Man Portable

I spend a lot of time when I am ‘playing radio’ in places that have little to no mobile phone service. This is both a blessing and a curse. It means that it likely means I am in an RF quiet environment from 3-30mhz on HF, however should I want to tell my non radio friends that I am running late but not to worry, or I want to check what repeaters are around me  - then I am out of luck.

 

There is a data mode called Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) - when it was created it was designed as a ‘intelligence gathering tool’. If you were plonked in another city with only your radio and a Terminal Node Controller (TNC), within 10min or so you could gather all you needed, from repeater information, local radio nets and know how to contact nearby stations in simplex as well as send 2 way short text messages. As time has gone on it has sadly fallen away to mostly be seen as a tracking device, showing where different stations are.

Just some of the fun things OTHER THAN TRACKING that I have found out is possible.


 

How do I use APRS when I am portable?

I always carry a small Android Tablet with me when I am operating portable for logging or using the raspberry pi for digital modes (http://wadeabout.com/blog/portablepi-a-raspberrypi-for-amateur-radio-portable-opers)  so since I am carrying the tablet it makes sense to use APRSDroid app. I connect a tiny match box sized Bluetooth TNC from http://www.mobilinkd.com/ - I have connection cables for all of my radios - my Yaesu FT60R (my primary HT), my back up HT a Baufeng UV5R, and a cable for my FT817ND which all allow connection to the Mobilinkd 2.

MobilinkdTNC1-Black.png

This allows me to send location data, receive repeater information, and send 2 way text messages.

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Recently I picked up a 1w APRS Radio with built in thermometer and GPS. Essentially is a fully self contained APRS unit.

1w APRS.jpg

 https://www.aliexpress.com/item/AP510-APRS-Tracker-VHF-with-GPS-Bluetooth-Thermometer-TF-Card-Support-APRSdroid-KISS-Model/32392912633.html it also has bluetooth inside so like the mobilinkd it can be used with the android tablet for 2 way communication, however in stand alone mode it beeps out location data based on your speed and recent movements so to not jam up the single APRS frequency.  I had read online that many spoke negatively about its meger 1 watt. I have not found an issue in residential Canberra. (VK1)

 A look at a recent trip around the suburbs of Canberra. NB I am using an external Mag Mount antenna in the car.

A look at a recent trip around the suburbs of Canberra. NB I am using an external Mag Mount antenna in the car.

 A zoomed out view of the stations that either digipeated or igated my 1w packets.

A zoomed out view of the stations that either digipeated or igated my 1w packets.

If you are still asking what is APRS? Here is a video by the guy who invented it: 

Update from my initial testing of using a Raspberry Pi 3 as a portable option for amateur radio digital modes.

Update from my initial testing of using a Raspberry Pi 3 as a portable option for amateur radio digital modes.

 

See my intial build here : http://wadeabout.com/blog/portablepi-a-raspberrypi-for-amateur-radio-portable-opers

 

My first use of it ‘in anger’ during the VK QRP 80m ‘Hours contest’ http://wadeabout.com/blog/80m-hours-contest


 

Thoughts so far:

 

CQRLOG:

Shite and will not be used. It is initially installs and looks very promising giving details about the DXCC and the operator once the callsign is entered regardless if you have worked before or not. However each time it is connected to the internet it wants to update its base look up files, not a problem, however once installed it changes the permissions in the underlying database and locks me out.

 

Winklink, PAT and mobile / portable email

 

I have managed to get ARDOP working with PAT - however due to propagation I have not actually got a HF Winlink / ARDOP connection to work. There are only 2-3 gateways located in Melbourne (VK3) and Sydney (VK2), depending on the day. I am located smack between them in suburbia (VK1). There are very few VHF gateways in Australia in the order of 2 or 3.

 

FT8 / WSPR

 

I have managed to use both these modes quiet easily from the raspberry pi, in its ‘headless’ mode connecting via VNC to the raspberry pi from it’s self-initiated wifi hotspot - made from the details here:

 

http://www.raspberryconnect.com/network/item/315-rpi3-auto-wifi-hotspot-if-no-internet

 

80m "Hours" Contest

I headed off to a local sporting oval to set up a 1/2 wave inverted v for 80m to work the VK QRP contest - the first hour is digital or CW and the second is ssb.

This was a good test of the Portable Rasberry Pi used for digital modes.

Digital was a little slow with only 2 contacts in the hour on 80m, however SSB seemed to heat up with a 900km contact into VK4.

Check out the video below.

 

PortablePi - A RaspberryPi for Amateur radio Portable Operators

This project might be of interest to some SOTA operators.

I wanted to see if I could make a field companion Raspberry Pi for Data modes - I would never lug my laptop into the bush.

Hardware:

  • raspberry pi 3 with inbuilt wifi chip
  • USB GPS dongle
  • USB sound card
  • ZLP USB radio interface

Capability:

  • WSJT-X on RC1.9 for FT8 etc
  • Fldigi
  • Winlink using PAT - telnet only at this stage
  • APRS via Xastir and Direwolf
  • Logging using CQRLog - issues with database - working on that
  • GPS updates onboard time - needed for Data modes and logging as well as GPS for APRS

How do you use it?
Well when the Pi is near a wifi network it knows it connects when it is not - say on your favourite summit - it creates a hotspot allowing headless control by any VNC device - tablet, phone etc.

Some pictures:

 Set on top of my 817

Set on top of my 817

 Connected over VNC

Connected over VNC

Update: June 2018: http://wadeabout.com/blog/update-from-my-initial-testing-of-using-a-raspberry-pi-3-as-a-portable-option-for-amateur-radio-digital-modes

 

Wade
VK1MIC

Pre-planning document for Solo MultiDay, Multi Summit Hike - Easter Long weekend

This is a live document and will update up until the depature date.

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When: at this stage, I am looking at around Easter long weekend. 31 March - 01 April.

Bands: 40M, 20M, 2M FM.
Antennas: HomeBrew 10,15,20,40M linked inverted v dipole, 2m & 70cm Slim Jim rollup, Nagoya NA 771 2m & 70cm whip.
Rigs: FT817ND all band all mode 5W QRP & FT60R 5w 2m & 70cm FM HT.

Power: 17,000mAh Powerfilm Solar, Light Saver Max, with 27w integrated solar panel, 12v out, 2 USB out.

Duration: 3 days, 2 nights, I plan to walk to Murrays Gap, set up base camp and then day hike it to each of the summits. This places me semi close to 3 freshwater streams as well as easy access to trails leading to the summits.

Distance: total round trip is 25km over 3 days.

Non SOTA Comms Plan:I am working on the assumption of zero mobile phone comms, I will have Optus and Telstra with me. I am thinking I should have ok voice to Mt Ginini 2M Repeater (146.950FM -600khz split, 91.5 CTCSS tone) from the lower valley, additionally, I will have my little APRS TNC (MOBILINKD http://www.mobilinkd.com/) that I can use for APRS spotting APRS messages, and occasionally tracking.

Day by day plan:

  1. Departing Canberra on Good Friday, March 31 driving south via Adaminaby NSW to the trailhead, walk into the Murray’s Gap Campsite set up camp,
  2. Day hike to Mt Bimberi VK1/AC-001 Summit (1913m), activate, return to base camp, camp overnight
  3. Day hike to Mt Murray VK1/AC-003 (1845m) activate, return to base camp, pack up, hike out to carpark, return to Canberra Sunday 01 April.

Google earth planned track: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/86q7gjmeqrvagtm/AAA-ENBUFm3QhOEb8nGSISBDa?dl=0

To Do list:

Sort gear, repack and re-weigh everything to trim grams.

wheel alignment on the vehicle  

QTH RF NOISE QUIETING MISSION

My home location is nestled in a townhouse complex in Franklin, in Canberra’s northeast.

My HF antenna is a random wire from my entrance up to the balcony and back down. Best described as an end fed inverted v. It will tune on all usable vk hf bands. Home rig is my only rig. 817nd, z817 auto tuner.  Shown here: 

As with all modern urban environments, there is RF Noise everywhere. While I accept I can not control what RF noise my neighbours make, I wanted to take control of my noise which ranged from S9+ to S7 on a quiet day at home.

 

The following are the steps I took that now has my noise floor ranging from zero ( I keep checking that the antenna is connected) to about s2-3 which is my common QTH band.

 

Step one: If it isn't hidden in a wall it was checked with an AM radio - I wandered around the house poking behind TVs, bedside tables, shack / study, garage and laundry.

Result: 2 largest noise emitters so far -  old xp shack laptop charger (6s points on its own) and then the cumulative powerboard of shite that lives behind the TV made up of about 6 wall warts that power TV, DVD, surround sound etc.

 

Next, I turned everything off at the meter box and worked circuit by circuit running backwards and forwards to my radio to see the noise floor change.

 

Because I have the 817 ready to rig for SOTA or /p work I ran it off the battery and was blown away when I connected it to the wall charger  I use to top off the internal battery… s7 alone!

 

Armed with these facts I set about OPERATION RF QUIETING.

AKA: ferrite the crap out of everything. I spent about 60 AUD on 3 large high-grade snap-on ferrites from the US, plus about another 20 on smaller ones from Jaycar.  

Deployed as follows:

  • 1 large around the washing machine’s power cable, when in use it generated a rhythmic hum across all bands - not any longer

  • 1 large on the power cable for the TV power board

  • 1 large on the Yaesu power cable

  • 2 x medium on antenna feed coax (-2S points)

  • 1 x medium on the XP Laptop charging cable - about 7 turns got it down to less than 1 s point from 6

 

The hunt is still not over, with any noise detected on the radio eliciting a ‘WHAT DID YOU JUST TURN ON” shout from the shack to my accommodating XYM, I am pleased to report the answer is always “nothing” meaning it was external to the house.

 

References:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuMlM8zWQFk&feature=youtu.be

https://au.mouser.com/ProductDetail/Fair-Rite/0431177081?qs=KmHvPbTOE4RJzgtUylmsjQ%3d%3d - ignore the sales picture these are large


https://youtu.be/LSL1h6MJbaI

Call sign upgrade

As part of my desire to use portable and low power  (QRP) digital modes and APRS I needed to upgrade my Foundation (aka F Call) license to a Standard licence.


I undertook my testing in mid February 2018 and passed (surprised myself)  on 1 March my new callsign became active - VK1MIC.  Within hours I was out on a summit using my new access privileges to the microwave bands as well as 20m.

Communications support to Canberra's Ralleys De Femme

WICEN is a community volunteer organisation focused on the provision of emergency communication support from the Australian Amateur Radio Community. As part of keeping skills current as well as equipment and procedures familiar, they provide communications support an operations to community events, the latest such event for the ACT was a car rally.


My role on the fay was as a rally mid state safety checkpoint called an SOS point. I operated my standard Yaesu FT60R on VHF FM as well as the commercial VHF set from Rally Control. I marked off and called in their rough passing time checking that they has passed through the first stage safely.


Check out a video I made on the day.


Cheers Wade

PowerFilm LightSaver Max

PowerFilm LightSaver Max - a rollable solar lithium battery  

Stats: 

18000 mAh

2x 2.5A USB

12v max 5A

Rollable solar panel

 

Solar charge 6-8 Hours

Wall charge (USB-C) 3 hours

My desired use:

Directly connect the LightSaver Max (LSM) to my Yaesu FT817ND for extended portable Amateur Radio operations, additionally allow charging of my mobile phone, my 7in android tablet used for logging in the field along with assorted miscellaneous charging such as GoPro for recording, my headlamp for night operations etc.

During the day time I would like to see if the, when unrolled and placed in the sun, will the solar panel pass an increased voltage spike along to the radio. Based on the provided specifications from the suppliers, the following use times are calculated:

LSM contains an 18000mAh battery that would allow

Yaesu 817ND

TX      2000mAh       9 hours total transmitting

RX      450mAh        40 hours total receiving

Charging               

iPhone 2900mAh       6 times from 0-100%

Tablet  3450mAh        5 times from 0-100%

Please note these are not combined or simultaneous use calculation but individual single item calculations.

 

Conclusion: as per the video the LSM performed brilliantly. Delivering a smooth quiet 12.2v for over 2 hours of use, plus charged my phone and tablet to get the battery down to 6/10.  

 

 

SOTA UTC New Years's Party - new sumit to summit record

The UTC New Year's Midnight and the hour or so either side of midnight are as close to SOTA Christmas as you can come. Due to SOTA rules, an activator can claim summit actiation points once in a UTC year, ie 0000 01 Jan - 2359 31 Dec UTC, Locally that happens at 11am 01 January here in VK1 - so effectively you can claim double points if yu activate a summit before and after UTC Midnight! Accordingly there were a lot off VK SOTA activaors out on the recent UTC NY. I selected a easy to access summit, Mt Stromlo for my activation. I was out early and made 3 contacts on my VHF HT prior to even leaving the carpark at around 0930L (2230UTC), I set up in the usual location and made a decent number of contacts with activators and chasers to call Stromlo well and truely smashed. I worked a lot more than usual on 15m SSB HF than usual but watching the spots on my phone and reacting fast was the winning strategy for the day. I even managed S2S DX contacts with ZL1BYZ John and ZL2AJ Warren

As you can see below (red being Summit to Summit, Blue Chasers)  It was rather the day for it, quickly filling my log. In total I made 77 contacts, 41 were Summit to Summit alone.

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 The Video is here:

 

SOTA: 3 8 Point Summits, 2 Andrews and a day out 4WDing

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Being the owner of a lovely little 2wd city car can be a little bit limiting in tackling some of the more remote or far-flung VK1 Summits.

Just before Christmas, 2 legends of VK1 and indeed VK SOTA were planning a sojourn to 2 8 point summits just over the border into VK2 in the hills surrounding VK1

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Andrew VK1AD and Andrew VK1DA (yes, its is confusing doubly) offered a seat in the 4WD on the trip, and I jumped at the chance.

1AD was testing and comparing 2 antennas he had made for 23cm (1200Mhz) operation while 1DA was concentrating on SSB HF contacts, I qualified on 70cm and 2MFM operations.

You can read more about 1AD’s 23cm work on his blog here https://vk1nam.wordpress.com

While 2 summits were planned, we were making a good time so another drive up 8 pointers was added to the plan. The second summit required a bit of bush bashing, the drive up nature of the 3rd was a relief.

 

Check out my video from the triple activation.

 

 

 

 

SOTA: Mount Gillamatong - with a nice fat black snake

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I had itchy feet again and wanted to get out to activate a summit a tiny bit further afield than VK1 easy walk ups, Mt Gillamatong near Braidwood in regional NSW seemed to fit the bill nicely. 

 

A warm easy 1 hour drive east of Canberra and 10m from down town Braidwood - Gillamatong as looks rather imposing from the base.  We approached from the west near the local water treatment facility. This apparently is not the way others have in the past, however is the easier of the East / West approach options.  

Progress on the dirt track was momentarily halted by the appearance of a rather slippery character  - a rather well fed Red Belly Black Snake quickly moved off in search of a less disturbed hideout and we passed on. 

 This is one of the few times my partner Frankie has joined me on SOTA activations. He is keen on the walking side but the sitting around while the radio bits are down 

This is one of the few times my partner Frankie has joined me on SOTA activations. He is keen on the walking side but the sitting around while the radio bits are down 

   Activation side of things were only undertaken for an hour or so with no nibbles on 2m or 70cm sadly.      HF seemed to be ok with my regular bands of 40 and 15m yielding results.       Below is a video of the activation.  

  Activation side of things were only undertaken for an hour or so with no nibbles on 2m or 70cm sadly. 

 

HF seemed to be ok with my regular bands of 40 and 15m yielding results.  

 

Below is a video of the activation.  

SOTA: Mt Livingston VK2/SM-093 - Wet n Wooly

I will be the first to admit the last 3 months have been amazing.

Every activation has been under clear skies, the sun on my back (or frying my neck).

Well, Mt Livingston turned that on its head. Checking weather reports all week - windy but only 10% chance of rain.

And when did my activation come? you guessed it during that 10% window.

I had planned a LONG last activation hopping around the bands - sadly, all in all, I managed 10 min before and 10 min after UTC before succumbing to numbness of the logging fingers and worrying about water in the radio that was already nestled in the pack. Summit temp was below zero with windchill.

 

Although I said to John @ZL1BYZ and Jacky - no video, I made one on the hill and a few QSOs later.

 

Thanks for all the fun guys and girls. I will be back around Nov/Dec 2017. Until then I will be scuba diving in the Gili Islands of Indonesia undertaking my Dive Master program. Oh and I might have a new callsign by then - will also need to buy that web address too...

All 16 SOTA videos are here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA20AqXLbeiaNFfDBEAx7zZWX_iXSnQ9i2

The first couple are with a verticle - the rest on my Linked Dipole up a 7m squidpole.
Thanks again,

Wade

VK1FWBD.com
Wadeabout.com

SOTA: VK1/AC-044 Boboyan Ridge - Bush-bash and DX S2S

Summit number 15 for 2017 was HARD. Not because it is long but it is a bush bash. Zero formed trail. I couldn't take my eyes off the GPS track for more than a minute and I would be well off track.

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Temps have dropped in Canberra as they normally do after ANZAC Day on 25 April. I left home at about 0800 in 5C. The walk to the summit was in 7-10, not a breath of wind. a crisp clear day!

Driving about 90 mins south from my home location in North Canberra, entering Namadgi National Park which occuipes the entire south of the Capital Territory.

The summit is in the very south east of the park even off the tar road and about a 30-45 min bush bash. Not only any I watching the GPS track, I am making sure I don't fall into Wombat holes - and there are a few of them.

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The actual summit is a small rock Cairn, I added two to the pile.

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After setting up I ended up working about 23 stations, including ZL2ATH, a DX summit t0 summit. My first. a real buzz

 

Due to the location (no phone service) as well as the restrictions of my VK Foundation License (No APRS / DATA modes), Andrew @VK1AD provided radio overwatch via our local 2M repeater, which even on the valley slope I couldn't hit until getting higher. He did all my spotting too. I have said it before - everyone should get themselves an Andrew!

On the way back I stopped off at Hospital Hill Look out which gives an excellent look at the more challenging summits within the park.

 

The long video is uploaded and live now:

 

This will likely be my second last summit until almost Christmas 2017

Wade
VK1FWBD.com

SOTA: Quick activation of Canberra's iconic Black Mountain VK1/AC-042

As you can see there is a fair bit of interferance possible from the tower site, I have been advised that 2M is practically a no go.
However even with the quiet morning activation I managed to snag enough to activate a 'day' eariler than I had planned!

Video is up.

Summit number 14 for me.

Wade

VK1FWBD.com

SOTA: Double Activation today - VK2/IL-001 & VK2/IL-005

Thanks to @VK1AD for the suggestion of 2 summits close by each other that allows a fast double activation.
As you can see from the log, the calls came thick and fast.

Odd trig point hidden amoung the bushes

Dual summit log

This was also my first activation with my partner. He wasn't too keen on the sitting around while I was having the fun.

I think I counted 5 or more S2S, in fact IL-005 was activated in short order with just S2S!

Thanks to Compton for trying both FM which I was just monitoring and 40m later too!

Fluffy carpet of soft moss

Did anyone follow on APRS? VK1FWBD-5. It if it useful for chasers to know my timing I am happy to run it again.

EDIT:  received a number of comments from other operators - NO I did not transmit on RF. I was using the phone network. Entirely within the rules. Checked multiple sources and multiple times. This was at the request of much more experienced and knowledgeable operators. 

 Does this look like a rooster to you??

Does this look like a rooster to you??

Taking my summits to 13 since Mid Feb '17 when I was activated. I am out again tomorrow near UTC to keep an eye on sotawatch.

Wade
VK1FWBD.com

SOTA Mt Rob Roy VK1/AC-031 - 3/3 summit challenge - Are my legs still there????

 The locals not happy I disturbed their publish holiday sleeping  

The locals not happy I disturbed their publish holiday sleeping  

After the initial tortuously steep climb out of the suburbs, bursting into the morning sunshine before entering the Rob Roy Nature Park was a very pleasant surprise - i suspect the sleeping locals (above) were not impressed with my intrusion.

 

Rob Roy was the 3rd of the 3 summits I had challenged myself to complete by the end of the Easter long weekend. Each increasingly more challenging in height and approach as the last.

The actual summit is off the track however the entry to the foot trodden bush track is marked by a mini carn (below) .

 

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Mt Rob Roy's trig point is unusual, I have not seen one like this before.  3 metal support arms with a wooden upright indication.  Which makes for a good squid pole support!!

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As the log shows before I had a really good day on the radio, scoring some more ZL stations (NZ for non radio folks) 

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Map of my contacts: 

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Summit to summit contacts: 

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Video of the day's activation: