AREG in the 2017 Trans Tasman Low Band Challenge

On Saturday July 15th, AREG members VK5GR, VK5QI, VK5MTM and VK5IX gathered together with Steve VK5SFA at his QTH to participate in the Trans Tasman Low Band Challenge Contest  as VK5ARG. Originally planned as a portable operation, the portable activity was cancelled at the last minute due to a critical piece of equipment not being ready (the new club portable 160m loop antenna). The change of venue was deemed a fantastic outcome by all who participated as outside temperatures plummeted into the low single digits. Steve and his wife were fantastic hosts and we were able to operate the full 6 hours in luxurious conditions.

The station consisted of Steve’s IC7700 running either 80 or 160m on the Magnetic Loop antenna, while Grant’s K3 ran on 160/80/40m either on the 40m rotatable dipole or the 80/160m trapped dipole, depending on the combination we selected. We had hoped to also have a IC7000 dedicated to 40m, however the RFI from the MagLoop (one of their drawbacks it seems) was severe and rendered the second 40m station unusable. Something to learn from there when using the loop in later contests.

Four of us operated whilst one was there for moral support (guess which one (chuckle)). Activity came in bursts although there were times when the pickings were very slim and we called for many minutes without a bite. 40m was completely dead after dark, but not for want of propagation. When we did find someone (VK4HH) they were easily workable. It seems that 7MHz is forgotten in this contest after dark – perhaps unwisely so.

We also ran CW (having two gun CW operators helped) which filled in the dead patches  calling on SSB. We were going to try RTTY, but were still configuring the MicroHam keyer and hadn’t cracked the code of how to make it run with MMTTY and N1MM in time for the contest.

A highlight was the a number of contacts made with New Zealand stations this year. ZL contacts were achieved on 40, 80 and 160m, although on 160m it was often hard going.

The Transmitting Magnetic Loop Antenna we used for this contest on 80/160m

All up we made 211 contacts. Here is the map of where we worked

Thanks to everyone who participated from AREG and thanks also to all of the stations across VK/ZL who participated in this unique contest!

July General Meeting: Introduction to Antenna Modelling

Featured

The next AREG meeting will be held on Friday 21st July, starting at 7.45pm at the Reedbeds Community Centre, Fulham.

We are pleased to announce that the speaker for the July meeting will be Paul Lawson VK5SL. Paul will be introducing you to the basics of Antenna Modelling, and will demonstrate how to get started using the 4NEC2 program to examine antenna performance (4NEC2 is freely available on the Internet). He will take 3 of the antennas that Chris VK5SA described in his wire antennas for beginners talk a few months ago and show how you can visualize their radiation patterns and what their characteristics are on various frequencies.

In particular, Paul will show you how to model a basic dipole, a Windom (OCF Dipole) and an inverted V antenna, explaining how to define these in the software, what the components in the software do and how to set them to produce useful models of how the antenna is performing. This will be a great simple introduction to the topic of antenna modelling.

For those who then want to delve deeper, Paul has agreed later in the year to run a tech night where more complex antenna modelling will be examined for those who want to take it further.

We hope to see you at the club on Friday July 21st. Doors open at 7.45pm with the presentation getting underway at 8.00pm sharp.

AREG’s New 160m/80m Contesting Portable Antenna – Progress

Update – July 12th: Mounting of the tuning capacitor and motor drive is complete. Just a few more things and we will be ready for final assembly and tune up!


A group of members inside AREG, inspired by Steve VK5SFA’s success with his transmitting magnetic loop antennas have banded together to construct for the club it’s own 160/80m TMLA, specifically designed to be portable. It is able to be knocked down into components that can be packed into the back of a station wagon.

Significant progress was made today in assembling the antenna as we had hoped to have it ready to try at the IARU HF contest next weekend. We didn’t quite make it unfortunately, running out of daylight before we completed construction. However, we are now planning another session next weekend with the goal being to have the antenna finished and ready to run for the Trans Tasman Low Band Challenge contest the following weekend.

The club’s version of Steve’s antenna is using LCF78 coax instead of the wave-guide, with the vacuum capacitor mounted inside a water proof ex-camera case (great for transport and moisture proofing). The frame is made out of laminated bamboo broomsticks and a timber hub arrangement with the frame held together through compression provided by 8 ratchet straps. The aim is for the antenna to be suspended from a tree (or trees) at least 1 loop diameter above the ground (to increase it’s efficiency). It has been designed to accept 400W input power as well to overcome the efficiency issues these antennas can have.

Today’s construction efforts were led by Steve VK5SFA, Grant VK5GR and Scott VK5TST. The project wouldnt have been possible without generous donations from Steve VK5SFA, Peter VK5KX and Trevor VK5YFR.

The next steps are to complete mounting the motor tuning drive, do some structural adjustments to the frame, assemble the coupling loop and then test the antenna. This work will be completed next weekend, so keep an ear out for us during the TTLBC Contest on July 15th on 160 and 80m using our Transmitting Magnetic Loop Antennas!

AREG operating WIA HQ Station VK5WIA in IARU HF Championships

UPDATE: Over night crew working hard, band conditions difficult as usual…


AREG is pleased to announce that it will be fielding the operators to again run the WIA

VK5WIA in 2016

Headquarters Station for the 2017 IARU HF World Championships. The station will be run from the QTH of Chris VK5CP in the Murray Mallee region of South Australia. It is planned to have 2 transmitters on the air continuously at least. This year we are also hoping to get a 160m antenna and a couple of options for 80/75m antennas working from the site as well.

So look out for VK5WIA during next weekend and work us for headquarters station multiplier points! The Contest Rules are available from the ARRL Website.

Horus 44: Flight Report – Riverland BRL Field Day

On April 22nd 2017, the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group conducted an Amateur Radio focused balloon launch from the Riverland Radio Club’s VK5BRL Weekend event at Overland Corner Hotel in the Riverland. This launch was carried out to bring some interesting amateur radio based experiments to a new audience, and also to encourage more tracking stations to take part in Project Horus from the Riverland region (which is often a landing ground for the flights from the Adelaide Hills).

Ground Control

The launch campaign began at 9.00am with Bob VK5FO and Ray VK5RR helping Ivan VK5HS set up the balloon ground control station at the BRL Weekend event.

Horus 44 was the first flight of a new 2m/70cm voice repeater so we also were making contacts through the balloon using the VK5WOW special event callsign throughout the flight, promoting the Wireless Institute of Australia’s AGM which was being held in VK5 a few weeks later.

Launch Crew

Meanwhile the ground crew started preparations to launch the payloads. AREG members Matt VK5ZM, Mark VK5QI, Grant VK5GR, Darin VK5IX and Kim VK5FJ worked on assembling the payload train and filling the balloon with helium.

The predicted flight track was to take us east, to land tot he north west of Renmark. We certainly hoped is would follow that track, as there were many inaccessible obstacles in the Murray River marshlands area.

Lift Off

We were going to find out soon enough! Lift off was a text book effort, and straight away people were accessing the repeater, able to make contacts with VK5WOW. The only issue noticed early on was that the repeater’s receive filters were very narrow, enough to cause the mute to shut if you spoke to loudly. Even with that issue, contacts streamed through think and fast.

Once in the air, the repeater ran hot. The following stations made contact with VK5WOW via the balloon:

VK5WOW Log via Horus 44
Call Date-Time Mode
VK5ZD 2017-04-22 03:28:00 2M PH
VK5SFA 2017-04-22 03:26:00 2M PH
VK5GR 2017-04-22 03:25:00 2M PH
VK5APW 2017-04-22 03:19:00 2M PH
VK5DJ 2017-04-22 03:14:00 2M PH
VK5ZEA 2017-04-22 03:08:00 2M PH
VK5KC 2017-04-22 03:01:00 2M PH
VK5PJ 2017-04-22 02:59:00 2M PH
VK5ST 2017-04-22 02:55:00 2M PH
VK3BQ 2017-04-22 02:50:00 2M PH
VK5LOX 2017-04-22 02:40:00 2M PH
VK5AKH 2017-04-22 02:39:00 2M PH
VK5FDJW 2017-04-22 02:38:00 2M PH
VK5DF 2017-04-22 02:37:00 2M PH
VK5SFA 2017-04-22 02:35:00 2M PH
VK5QI 2017-04-22 02:33:00 2M PH
VK5KX 2017-04-22 02:32:00 2M PH
VK5FANA 2017-04-22 02:30:00 2M PH
VK5MTM 2017-04-22 02:29:00 2M PH
VK5SA 2017-04-22 02:25:00 2M PH
VK5ZTJ 2017-04-22 02:24:00 2M PH
VK5TS 2017-04-22 02:23:00 2M PH
VK5ZEA 2017-04-22 02:22:00 2M PH
VK5DJ 2017-04-22 02:21:00 2M PH
VK5ZX 2017-04-22 02:20:00 2M PH
VK5GR 2017-04-22 02:18:00 2M PH
VK5ST 2017-04-22 02:16:00 2M PH
VK5DF 2017-04-22 02:15:00 2M PH
VK5ZAR 2017-04-22 02:13:00 2M PH
VK5BB 2017-04-22 02:12:00 2M PH
VK5OI 2017-04-22 02:10:00 2M PH
VK5AW 2017-04-22 02:09:00 2M PH
VK5ZK 2017-04-22 02:08:00 2M PH
VK5SFA 2017-04-22 02:06:00 2M PH
VK5ZTJ 2017-04-22 02:04:00 2M PH
VK5FANA 2017-04-22 02:01:00 2M PH
VK5LOX 2017-04-22 02:00:00 2M PH
VK5NE 2017-04-22 01:57:00 2M PH
VK5ZT 2017-04-22 01:55:00 2M PH
VK5DJ 2017-04-22 01:52:00 2M PH
VK5MRE 2017-04-22 01:50:00 2M PH
VK5FD 2017-04-22 01:50:00 2M PH
VK5PAS 2017-04-22 01:49:00 2M PH
VK5FMAZ 2017-04-22 01:48:00 2M PH
VK5LA 2017-04-22 01:47:00 2M PH
VK5AW 2017-04-22 01:46:00 2M PH
VK2EF 2017-04-22 01:45:00 2M PH
VK5ZAI 2017-04-22 01:44:00 2M PH
VK5FO 2017-04-22 01:43:00 2M PH
VK5PE 2017-04-22 01:42:00 2M PH
VK5AHZ 2017-04-22 01:41:00 2M PH
VK5FTAZ 2017-04-22 01:40:00 2M PH
VK5FBJC 2017-04-22 01:39:00 2M PH
VK5RR 2017-04-22 01:38:00 2M PH
VK5TRM 2017-04-22 01:37:00 2M PH
VK5ZM 2017-04-22 01:36:00 2M PH
VK5GR 2017-04-22 01:35:00 2M PH

The repeater footprint continued to expand, and just reached Melbourne before the balloon burst.

WENET brings Superb Pictures

In addition to the voice repeater, the WENET camera payload also flew collecting stunning images of the Riverland region from the air.

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Chase & Recovery

Meanwhile the chase teams had driven to Renmark and were watching intently as the balloon progressed along its path.  The two AREG teams were joined this time by Peter VK5PE and a crew from the Riverland Radio Club. The local knowledge they brought to the chase was invaluable!

At one stage we became quite nervous as it appeared it may actually land in the marshes. However, the winds once again became favorable and the landing zone looked very good indeed.

Recovery occurred after a short hike into a local conservation park, but not before we watched the balloon descend gracefully from about 1500m elevation!

Flight Statistics

The fight track for Horus 44 shows that there were fairly light high altitude winds on this day. Once clearing the ground winds the flight profile was remarkably vertical.

The detailed flight statistics are:

Horus 44 - BRL Weekend Amateur Radio Launch - Flight Statistics
Metric Result
Flight Designation: Horus 44 – BRL Weekend
Launch Date: 22/4/2017 01:36:17 UTC
Landing Date: 22/4/2017 04:25:41 UTC
Flight Duration: 2 Hours 49 Minutes
Launch Site: -34.153467 140.339623
Landing Site: -34.107695 140.651783
Distance Traveled: 29.1 km
Maximum Altitude: 29,953 m

This time we saw major contributions from many of our ground stations too. The following pi-chart shows who collected telemetry for this flight.

Conclusion

It was a very successful flight! A huge thank you again to everyone who was involved, and in particular to the Riverland Radio Club for the invitation to come and fly from their back yard. Thanks also to the AREG members who traveled and stayed in the Riverland to fly Horus 44, with a special thanks to Sharon VK5FSAW who once again helped with logistics through catering the lunches for those chasing the balloon!

AREG Next Meeting: Introducing LF and MF by Doc VK5BUG – 16th June

The next meeting of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group Inc will be held on Friday June 16th, starting from 7.45pm at the Reedbeds Community Hall, Phelps Crt, Fulham.

The topic for this evening will be introducing LF and MF communications techniques, presented by David (Doc) Wescombe-Downs, VK5BUG. Doc is a pre-eminant authority on everything LF and MF in Australia, and is one of the modern pioneering amateur experimenters of these bands today. If you have ever wondered how on earth you can start using the 630 and 2200m bands from home, then come on down and hear Doc talk about whats possible.

Doc will also have a limited number of his books available to purchase for those taken with enough interest in the subject.

LowBand Book Promotion Flyer

After the presentation, there will be a short business meeting plus time to socialize and hear more about what happened at this year’s River Paddling Marathon (being run over the June long weekend and being supported by AREG and RRC).

You will find the clubrooms at the following address! We hope to see you there!

Horus 45 Balloon Flight for WIA Convention 2017 – Preparation Underway!

The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group is please to announce that it will be supporting the WIA AGM & Convention weekend with a balloon launch. This launch will take place from Hahndorf Oval, as part of the “Come and Try Radio” activities day to be held on Sunday 21st May.

This event is aimed at promoting the many different facets of Amateur Radio and giving people the opportunity to learn about how to get involved. AREG will be manning two complete tracking stations at the event, one a fixed ground station and the other will be one of the chase cars decked out in the equipment we use to chase balloons in.

The main aim is to get more people interested in tracking the balloons!

 

 

Flight Payloads

The payloads are still being finalized, as the jet-stream has returned and there are concerns that the flight could be carried downrange much further than planned.

Balloon Repeater Frequencies

The balloon repeater will be heard on:

  • INPUT: 145.775MHz with 91.5Hz CTCSS (+/- thermal drift of the receiver)
  • OUTPUT: 438.850MHz (+/- thermal drift of the transmitter) – 0.8W into 1/4wave omni

NOTE 1: The VHF frequency has changed this flight to avoid harmonic issues with the Wenet imaging payloads

NOTE 2: The repeater is built out of a received designed to receive Narrow FM (12.5kHz bandwidth) not the usual 25kHz wideband FM that amateurs use. Please keep your deviation down so that you can pass through the repeater without it closing it’s mute.

To transmit to the balloon at the maximum range of 800km (once the balloon reaches 100,000ft ++) you should only need approximately 10-20W and an 2-4dB gain antenna.

Receiving the balloon at 400km range in a handheld environment should be achievable, but to hear the repeater at the maximum range of 800km you should expect to need a 10dB gain Yagi for a 0.4uV capable receiver and 2dB feeder loss

This setup is much the same as the LEO satellites but without the high speed Doppler shift.

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU CAN HEAR IT BEFORE YOU TRANSMIT!

Other Balloon Payloads

Other payloads being flown on this flight will include:

  1. our standard 100bps 7N1 RTTY telemetry transmitter on 434.650MHz, and
  2. the Wenet imaging payload which will downlink on 441.2MHz at 115Kbit/s, and which will stream HD photos during the flight.

Images can be seen (here).

Tracking will again be available via www.habhub.org

Flight Time and Launch Location

If you would like to learn more about how to get involved in tracking the balloon, take a look at the following resources on the club website, or come on down to the launch on Hahndorf Oval. Preparations will begin around 1.00pm, with liftoff planned for 2.00pm. (See the location marked “Amateur Radio Come and Try Day”.

 

WIA AGM & Convention Special Event Callsign to be Net Control on the balloon repeater

The WIA AGM & Convention special event call sign VK5WOW and VI5WOW will be heard via the balloon repeater during the event. Contacts with VI5WOW and VK5WOW through the balloon will qualify for the award certificate.

Full details of the Convention 2017 award are available via  www.wia.org.au/members/wiaawards/agm2017/