2017: Year of the Ham

I’ve decided this coming year will be one in which I invest heavily, both from an operations and licensing standpoint. I’ve been thinking of how best to expand my radio horizons, and have come up with a pretty good list of goals for myself.

Licensing

I’ve been licensed since around 1984 as a Novice class operator (that class no longer exists). Since then, I’ve progressed to General class. There is one final hurdle to Ham Nirvana, and that is passing the Amateur Extra class. I’ve got the study guide, and a high bar to reach (I scored 100% on my General). The plan is to pass my test before Field Day

Operations

This year I am going to try a few new things. For one, I’m going to register with RACES and/or MARS in order to increase my experience with emergency services. This is one of the more enjoyable facets of the hobby. During the Loma Prieta earthquake and the Oakland Hills fire, I helped the Red Cross and local emergency responders. It’s a great feeling to be able to help out in times of need

Next up is mesh networking. In the event of an emergency, we’ve always got our radios ready for voice comms. However, a movement has begun to create a fully-meshed data network using off-the-shelf comm gear that we share frequency spectrum with. Using radios and highly direction antennas, we can connect our nodes together and create a high-speed data network between many points. This would enable different emergency centers to communicate via voice (telephones) and also via data (web, mail, video, etc). It’s pretty exciting. There is a node near the QTH, up on Mt. Oso. The plan is to purchase an Ubiquiti RocketM5 radio and dish and connect to it full-time. Additionally, I’ll assemble a mobile node so that no matter where I’m operating, if there is a node I have line of sight to, I’ll be able to connect and pass data and voice.

Gear

I’m very happy with my radios atm: the Electraft KX3 is awesome, the Yaesu FT-101EE is a venerable and strong voice rig, even 30+ years on, the Kenwood VX-7R for mobile, and my Yaesu 817ND. So, no more radios for now. However there are some station extras I’d like to pick up.

  • Elecraft Panadapter for the KX3: will show me a nice waterfall display for tuning. No computer needed!
  • Cushcraft R9: a BIG vertical antenna that will be permanent at the QTH
  • BuddiPole system: A better portable antenna for hiking/mountain tops
  • Solar: I just bought 3 18W panels from a fellow Ham. Now to put them to work!
  • Go-Kit: I plan to build a portable field desk specifically for my gear and operating activities.

Field Day

I’ve not participated in FD for many years. This next year will be a full-force showing for me! I plan to put all this new stuff into play from a mountain top within sight of the QTH so that I can establish a data link via AREDN, Go full solar/battery power, provide a video stream and try to reach at least 250 contacts. I’ll bring the large tent and our popup to make for a solid ES-type operation. The site will be open to¬†anyone else in the area who would like operate “survival style”.

Check back for more updates!

About MikeC

Bay Area Amateur Radio operator licensed in 1984.
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