• All convention document packets will be “Will Call”
• Convention documents (badge, tickets, etc.) will not be mailed
• Your convention documents will be waiting for you at the Registration “Will Call” Desk at the convention.
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It’s taken some time to get off the ground, but I’m happy to announce the All Weather Solar-Powered Field Station project.
The All Weather Solar-Powered Field Station is my attempt to put together a man portable, rapidly deployable, 2 operator, solar-powered field station other operators, clubs or organizations in the emcomm or survival communities can replicate.
That said it’s also important to remember that this is just the template or kind of a guide. I’m just showing you how I’ve been able to implement my field station. How you implement yours will depend on your requirements, budget, and of course your individual goals. Remember there’s no right or wrong way here. There’s only the way we achieve our goals!
Portable Ham Radio Station on Solar Power | Introduction
In today’s video I’d like to discuss the concept of a solar-powered portable ham radio station field station for casual or emergency communications. Those of you who follow the blog, probably already know about this project. For the rest of you here is a video introduction of a concept I call the All WX Solar-Powered EMCOMM Field Station.
The concept for a rapidly deployable, man-portable ham radio field station, came to me after the grid down disaster caused by Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Maria knocked out electricity and communications throughout Puerto Rico. this was an Awakening for many preparedness minded amateur radio operators around the world.
Description. This course is designed to provide basic knowledge and tools for any emergency communications volunteer. Visit ARRL for complete course details.
Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs (EC-016)
Description. This course is designed to train licensed Amateur Radio operators who will be in leadership and managerial roles organizing other volunteers to support public service activities and communications emergencies.
ARRL Self-Guided Emergency Communication Course EC-001-S is Now Available On Demand
ARRL’s EC-001-S online “Introduction to Emergency Communication” course is now available to students in an on-demand format, allowing students to register for the course and begin work at any time. This course is designed to provide basic knowledge and tools for any emergency communications volunteer.
Mission: To support our emergency communications partners by promoting a standard for training and certification of amateur radio operators.
To develop training programs for Amateur Radio Emcomm Resources that meet the training needs of municipal, county, state, federal and private served agencies.
To manage a certification process for graduates of training programs which provides credentials that are modeled after NIMS/ICS resource typing.
To evaluate and accredit training programs and instructors for emergency communication training.
To develop and promote exercises in communications preparedness that allow operators to apply their learned skills.
History: Amateur radio has a long history of supporting agencies in need with a variety of communications services in the event of an emergency. Traditionally these services have been available under either a Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) program as outlined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) program outlined by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), or a combination of both programs.
The ACES program includes these and other emergency communications services including Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS), Civil Air Patrol (CAP), Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Radio Emergency Associated Communications Teams (REACT), US Coast Guard Auxiliary (USCGA), Military Auxiliary Radio Service (MARS), Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) and others that can provide specific communications solutions.
Radio Relay International – Traffic Handling – We’re the leading traffic handling outfit for operators in the U.S.A. and Canada with affiliates worldwide including in the UK, EU, Oceania and beyond.
Decades of experience. Proven leadership. Quiet professionals doing our job. RRI is traffic handling the way it should be done with proven methods, new technology and a new sense of purpose.
A radio net is three or more radio stations communicating with each other on a common channel or frequency. A net is essentially a moderated conference call conducted over two-way radio, typically in half-duplex operating conditions. The use of half-duplex operation requires a very particular set of operating procedures to be followed in order to avoid inefficiencies and chaos.
Nets operate either on schedule or continuously (continuous watch). Nets operating on schedule handle traffic only at definite, prearranged times and in accordance with a prearranged schedule of intercommunication. Nets operating continuously are prepared to handle traffic at any time; they maintain operators on duty at all stations in the net at all times. When practicable, messages relating to schedules will be transmitted by a means of signal communication other than radio.
allow participants to conduct ordered conferences among participants who usually have common information needs or related functions to perform
are characterized by adherence to standard formats and procedures, and
are responsive to a common supervisory station, called the “net control station“, which permits access to the net and maintains net operational discipline.
A net manager is the person who supervises the creation and operation of a net over multiple sessions. This person will specify the format, date, time, participants, and the net control script. The net manager will also choose the Net Control Station for each net, and may occasionally take on that function, especially in smaller organizations.
Net Control Station
Radio nets are like conference calls in that both have a moderator who initiates the group communication, who ensures all participants follow the standard procedures, and who determines and directs when each other station may talk. The moderator in a radio net is called the Net Control Station, formally abbreviated NCS, and has the following duties:
Establishes the net and closes the net;
Directs Net activities, such as passing traffic, to maintain optimum efficiency;
Chooses net frequency, maintains circuit discipline and frequency accuracy;
Maintains a net log and records participation in the net and movement of messages; (always knows who is on and off net)
Appoints one or more Alternate Net Control Stations (ANCS);
Determines whether and when to conduct network continuity checks;
Determines when full procedure and full call signs may enhance communications;
Subject to Net Manager guidance, directs a net to be directed or free.
The Net Control Station will, for each net, appoint at least one Alternate Net Control Station, formally abbreviated ANCS (abbreviated NC2 in WWII procedures), who has the following duties:
Assists the NCS to maintain optimum efficiency;
Assumes NCS duties in event that the NCS develops station problems;
Assumes NCS duties for a portion of the net, as directed or as needed;
Serves as a resource for the NCS; echoes transmissions of the NCS if, and only if, directed to do so by the NCS;
Maintains a duplicate net log.
Structure of the net
Nets can be described as always having a net opening and a net closing, with a roll call normally following the net opening, itself followed by regular net business, which may include announcements, official business, and message passing. Military nets will follow a very abbreviated and opaque version of the structure outlined below, but will still have the critical elements of opening, roll call, late check-ins, and closing.
A net should always operate on the same principle as the inverted pyramid used in journalism—the most important communications always come first, followed by content in ever lower levels of priority.
Identification of the NCS
Announcement of the regular date, time, and frequency of the net
Purpose of the net
A call for stations to check in, oftentimes from a roster of regular stations
A call for late check-ins (stations on the roster who did not respond to the first check-in period)
A call for guest stations to check in
Optional conversion to a free net
Each net will typically have a main purpose, which varies according to the organization conducting the net, which occurs during the net business phase. For amateur radio nets, it’s typically for the purpose of allowing stations to discuss their recent operating activities (stations worked, antennas built, etc.) or to swap equipment. For Military Auxiliary Radio System and National Traffic System nets, net business will involve mainly the passing of formal messages, known as radiograms.
Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, is credited as the father and creator of APRS. His early work back in the 1980’s creating object positioning systems developed into a unconnected object mapping system in the early 90’s. Soon GPS technology became available to the consumer market and an automated system was developed. By the mid 90’s a somewhat robust APRS framework had developed.
I call it a framework as it took the next decade for APRS to mature. But for APRS to be viable a few things needed to happen, so by the early 2000’s a dedicated APRS VHF frequency had been established. A full time internet gateway developed, and digipeat and path protocols formalized. The sign that APRS was ready for prime time was when radio manufacturers Kenwood and Yaesu released products with APRS functionality. Those wild west days of APRS may be gone, but the Automated Packet Reporting System has become an established, functional, and quite useful mode for amateur radio operators- especially those interested in Emergency Communications.
How APRS Works
So APRS works by transmitting unconnected packets containing a callsign, path, location, and other information. APRS is built on packet radio technology so the transmissions are in AX.25 format at 1200 baud. So you’ll need a device called a TNC or terminal node controller to take digital data and turn it into audio tones that an FM transceiver can transmit. In today’s world this sounds incredibly outdated, but the genius of the system is it’s robust nature.
When I say unconnected, I mean that an APRS packet is transmitted without the expectation that it will be received by another station. Back in the olden days of packet radio you would use your TNC to connect to another station, much like a computer and modem would connect to another computer over the phone lines. So with an unconnected packets of APRS any number of receiving stations can potentially pick up the message and retransmit or digipeat it.
This has the potential of conflict and these retransmitted packets can collide over the air, so a method of filtering and packet deprecation built into the digipeater firmware eliminatea duplicate packets. The way an APRS packet’s distance is controlled is by the path information.
APRS Path Protocols
If you ever looked at an APRS packet you probably saw things like WIDE, WIDE1-1, etc. These are the path protocols. The purpose of a digipeater is to listen for a packet and retransmit it. Since digipeaters cover a wide area, they will automatically retransmit a packet with the WIDE designator. So when the digipeater receives the packet marked WIDE, it will take the packet, substitute it’s callsign for WIDE, and retransmit it. Since the generic WIDE term is no longer in the packet and another digipeater won’t retransmit it. The packet now expires. Of course multiple digipeaters could receive the packet and retransmit them but the callsign substitution feature of the protocol prevents that ping pong effect from happening.
Paths like WIDE1-1, or WIDE2-2 work in the same way, except that the 2-2 acts as a counter, extending the packet to multiple digipeaters. WIDE1-1 will go out 1 hop in all directions and WIDE2-2 will go out 2 hops in all directions. You never want to extend your packets out more than 3 hops as each hope introduces more chances for collision. Plus the goal of APRS is not to see how many maps you can light up, but instead travel just far enough for your packet to be picked up by an igate.
An igate listens to the over the air traffic and injects the packets into the APRS internet stream. Igates can also take packets from the stream and retransmit them over the air. This has the benefit of being able to send and receive messages to just about any station heard by the internet stream. With radio and internet technology you can send short messages to just about any APRS station around the world. Also thanks to igates, you can view the local APRS traffic of just about any location.
So how do we view the APRS information? The easiest way to get started is with an website called APRS.fi. APRS.fi transposes APRS packets onto a google map, making it very easy to view and query the APRS datastream. Some features, like messaging, are unavailable, but you can track stations and view their history, which are very useful features.
So you want to get involved in APRS. I think the easiest method is with a handheld radio, Btech APRS-K1 cable, and a smartphone. The APRS cable attaches to the 2-pin connector on the radio and plugs into the audio port on your phone. On your phone you’ll run an app like APRSDroid or APRS Pro Deluxe. The GPS in your phone will provide the location information and the app will emulate a terminal node controller. This setup lets you view and transmit to the local APRS channel and also view the APRS internet stream. Plus as you move the phone will cause the radio to beacon your location. You can purchase the BTech APRS-K1 Cable here.
When I first got started with APRS, I built trackers using mobile radios, gps bricks, and TNCs. The downfall of APRS is the number of cables and connections needed to make the whole thing work. Something always was getting disconnected or stopped working. When I started biking more I wanted to take APRS with me, so I invested in a Yaesu VX-8R handheld. This little radio has both the GPS, TNC, and transceiver all integrated into one package, so there are no cables to worry about. Kenwood also created APRS integrated radios, and it was these devices that actually made APRS a useful protocol.
But the common thread of APRS is the need of a TNC or terminal node controller. Whether you are using a tracker device like a Tinytrack or the Argent Data System, apps like APRSdroid, or a radio like the Kenwood D-710, all are using TNCs of some sort. APRS home stations often rely on a hardware TNC like the Kantronics KPC-3+, or older TNCs like the PK-12 or MFJ 1270. New KPC3+ TNCs have become outrageously expensive, and that value has trickled down to the used market. But there are still deals and you can pick up something like a PK-12, MFj 1270, PK-232 on the used market at a reasonable rate. Usually the key is scoping out hamfests with a keen eye to pick one up before someone else in the know spots it. But once you have your TNC you will be able to use some one of the standalone APRS applications, like the new PinpointAPRS on your shack computer.