Friday, May 8, 2015

The Comms Trailer

Well Cherry, my wife, threw me a good one last month by telling me that I could buy a camp trailer to convert to a Comms/Ham Shack trailer.  OK so here is the rub we have to be able to use it on weekend jaunts.  So bravely I agreed and we bought 1970 single axle Prowler, about 16 feet long.  For it's age it is in really good shape and it has most of the needed amenities like a shower, toilet, stainless steel double sink, propane/electric refrigerator, three burner stove and oven.  The seller even threw in a coffee pot.  (What am I to do with 4 coffee pots???)

So the adventure started with me picking it up from the seller,  he is about half way between Mariposa and Oakhurst on Highway 49.  He gave a good briefing on how to light the heater and refrigerator and showed me some other details like where the electrical plug for shore power and the drain for black and grey water.  I then bravely hooked it up to my CUCV on a bumper hitch, now this is a heavy duty bumper on a military vehicle so I was not worried about getting her home, but more about the bumper later.  I had installed a 4 wire trailer plug on the CUCV several years ago so I could pull my flat bed trailer but I had noticed that the camp trailer needed a 7 wire plug so I went into town and had bought an adapter and when we plugged the trailer in volia everything worked.  Now I was feeling very confident and pulled out on Highway 49 headed for some.  No problems, I probably annoyed a few tourists when I could not get the CUCV to do more than 35 mph up the hills but I pulled over several time when I saw my convoy was starting to exceed 3 to 4 cars.  Took my exit at Bootjack and when I turned on to Sherrod Road I slowed way down working my way home.  Sherrod Road is not a super highway but a dirt track (too many pot holes to call it a road).

I get home park the trailer on the pad and low and behold looking at the hitch it has about a 30 degree tilt below horizontal and as I look closer my rear bumper has a noticeable bend to it.  Anyway my CUCV now sports a new Class IV hitch.

Now I go into the upgrade/improvement/repair mode.  First I start rewiring the 12v sustem and the setup of my solar panels.  On the interior I find wires that have been damaged either by mice or rubbing against holes drilled into the walls and two switches that don't do anything.  I have installed a voltmeter so I can keep an eye, from inside the trailer, on the charge status of the batteries and the drop in voltage as I turn on 12v devices.  I hope to run the comms equipment off the solar 12v system and so I need to monitor the batteries' status.
I am also running the 12v wires to where they are more useful.  Like down to the primary comms station and the secondary as well.  In this type of setup the IC706MkIIg really shines as it is an all in one type application. Hmmmm, well might have to add more batteries as the 706 even on low power VHF won't transmit.  Works fine on 110v just not on 12v.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Repeater Revisited

Well now after going through all of this bru-haha with the portable repeater, lets look at a few things that I will be testing to bring it back to life.

First there is the "Radio Tone Duplex Repeater" Model number RT-FDR1 ($88.00)


The RT-FDR1 repeater controller should do all that was promised with the original package.

Second is a new 32 amp hour gel cell battery ($79.95)

 UPG 12V 32Ah Gel Cell Scooter Battery Pride Mobility Group U1

Third are new solar panels, three of them to be exact ($39.90)

1PC 3.4W 18V 188mA CLIP Mini Solar Panel Module System Epoxy Charger DIY CA

Fourth are the Baofeng UV-5R radios (2 each) ($61.78)

BAOFENG Black UV 5R Dual Band Two Way Radio Talkie VHF/UHF 136-174/400-480 MHzFM

Fifth are the battery eliminators (2 each) ($8.06)

12V Car Charger Battery Eliminator For Baofeng UV5R UV5RB Seiries New

Sixth are the antenna again 2 each ($51.96)


Seventh is the volt meter and USB port ($20.95)


Some framing material (for the solar panels), a larger ice chest, a couple of fender washers, antenna adapters, zip wire, crimp terminal adapters, heat shrink, a two way 12 volt power plug socket splitter, a 12 volt female power plug socket, and two male 12 volt power plugs (abt $30.00).

Future accessories will include the RT-CWID1 a CW ID controller which is add to the RT-FDR1  ($98.00)

Radio-Tone Morse Code CWID Keyer RT-CWID1 for repater controller User-friendly

and a Duplexer ($100.50) and cable ($15.00)

UHF 6 CAVITY DUPLEXER for radio repeater BNC connector SQ

So for about $594.10 this one should work (knock on wood)


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tales of the Repeater

Tales of the Repeater


Well a couple of weeks ago I ordered this repeater on eBay for $155.50 including shipping.  Immediately the seller phoned me and asked me to cancel the payment (I am one of those people who pay immediately at the close of the auction) and pay him directly to his email address using PayPal.  It didn't raise to many alarms because, I knew that PayPal had protections on buying items, anyway I waited two weeks and the repeater has not shown up at the house.  I emailed him and he reassured me that it was on its way.  Another week goes by and still no repeater so I send a message asking if there is a problem ? he answers back that his wife has cancer and he has been spending his time driving her to Chemo treatments, so I back off and I am starting to hear warning bells, so another week goes by and send another email asking if there is a problem ? and he reply's that it is on the way and provides a tracking number,  I check the USPS tracking system and sure e'nuf  the package is on the way.
The excitement builds and on the day of arrival I bring it home from the post office.  Now here is what is suppose to be in the package:  

new igloo cooler
new 12 volt 3 watt solar panel
2 new magnetic mount Baofeng antennas with 10 foot of antenna cable
2 new 16 channel UHF model 888/777 radios
2 battery eliminators
double cigarette lighter plug with 2 USB plug ins
duplex repeater interface device

Here is what arrived

new igloo cooler:  check
new 12 volt 3 watt solar panel:  check and installed as shown in the picture but not connected to anything.
2 new mag mount Baofeng antennas w/ 10 foot of cable:  check installed as shown
2 new 16 channel Pofung model 888 radios:  check with charging cups glued to the bottom of the ice chest, "we have a problem Houston!"
sealed box with leads to the charging cups, "we have a problem Houston!"
what I believe to be a Baofeng duplex repeater box.
and the basic manual for the 888s.

The seller had said that all documentation would be provided and the basic manual for the 888's is not full documentation, anyway let me continue.  The solar panel is glued to the top of the of the cooler as expected and the leads are neatly through the lid but are not attached to anything.  The charging cup are glued to the bottom of the cooler and when the radios are placed in them they are (1) loose, they fall out of the cups and (2) the radio on the right cannot be plugged into the repeater controller because the cup is placed against the vertical wall.
The power cords for the cup go into what I assume to be power splitter but I haven't broken the glue sealing the cover yet and there are no connectors on the bear wires. (this is where the cigarette lighter plugs should be connected).
So what shall I do, well first I will send the gentleman an email asking for the missing parts, but I do not expect a workable solution maybe he will maybe he won't but this to me is a learning experience on how to assemble a cross band/duplex (GMRS) repeater.  So here is my list for making what I got work and not expecting any positive results from the seller.

Here is my list of what is needed for build a cross band/duplex (or simplex) repeater in a box.

1 ea plastic ice chest/cooler at least 24"X14"X14" (local hardware store).
2 ea large fender washers (local hardware store).
1 ea 12v solar panel 12"X12"X1"  (eBay/Amazon)  13.8v or better but not more than 18v.
2 ea Baofeng/Pofung UV-5R radios (eBay/Amazon).
2 ea Baofeng/Pofung UV-5R radio 12v battery eliminator (eBay/Amazon).
1 ea 12v cigarette lighter Y splitter cord (1 male 2 female) (local auto parts store).
1 ea 12v cigarette lighter pigtail (male) (local auto parts store).
1ea 12v cigarette lighter pigtail (female) (local auto parts store).
1 ea Baofeng/Radio-Tone Duplex repeater controller (eBay/Amazon).
1 ea 12v 7ah battery >=  (auto parts/eBay/Amazon/WalMart).
1 ea 12v digital voltmeter (auto parts/eBay/Amazon/WalMart).
4 sets (red and black) powerpole connectors (eBay/Amazon).
1 ea powerpole 6 way splitter (or you can build your own).
2 ea Baofeng/Pofung mobile antenna (eBay/Amazon).
1 ea 48"X4" aluminium sheet (optional).
6 ea insulated terminals (auto parts/eBay/Amazon/WalMart).
2 ea Velcro wire wrap.
zip cord.

Tools needed to assemble:

1 ea powerpole crimper (ask me or a club member to borrow and how to use it).
1 ea electric drill w/drill bits and hole saw (ask me or a club member to borrow).
1 ea black marker.
1 ea hacksaw or dremel tool w/cutting wheel. (for cutting the aluminium sheet).
1 ea bottle of gorilla glue.
1 ea tube of  silicon sealer/silicon glue/silicon caulking or hot glue gun and glue sticks.
1 ea combo wire stripper wire cutter and crimper.
1 ea phillips screw driver.

Before we get on with the assembly lets go over a few terms so we all understand what I am trying to say.

1.  A powerpole set is a 30/45 amp red and black shells with contacts.
2.  You can deviate in any manner you desire to build you repeater this is just a general plan that I am using to make mine.

OK lets get on with the assembly:

1.  Read through the instructions twice.
2.  Assemble the parts and tools.
3.  Drill a hole in the top of the cooler for the leads off of the solar panel insert the leads and use the silicon caulk or gorilla glue to fasten the solar panel to the top and to seal the hole on the inside.
4.  Assemble a powerpole set to the red and black leads of the solar panel.
5.  Assemble at a minimum a 12" extension cord using the zip cord and 2`power pole sets (one at each end) and connect it to the solar panel connectors. (this is so you can open the lid without disconnecting anything).
6.  Depending on your battery create a small jumper either using either insulate terminal connectors or insulated ring connectors on one end, a powerpole set to the other end.
7.  This step is optional.  You do not have to anchor your equipment at all in the cooler but I highly recommend it. Measure the length and width of the battery and radios. Cut the strip of aluminium to the length+2Xwidth+1" once for the battery and twice for the radios.  Check the fit and then glue them into the cooler, the radios on the ends and the battery in the center.  An alternative to using the aluminium is to use small eyebolts and small bungy cords to hold the radios and battery in place.
8.  On the lid glue two large fender washers (the larger the better), one at each end.  Now drill on the sides of the cooler two holes large enough for the Baofeng magnetic mount cables to fit through. Use the Velcro wire ties to coil the antenna leads.
9,  Create a Y powerpole unit (single assembly on one end double on the other.) Create a cable powerpole unit on one end and a female cigarette lighter receptacle on the other.  Now is the time to create your 4 way splitter, if you are so inclined.
10.  Program your radios, I recommend using CHIRP. (Check with Mike KE7NVX to see if the latest EmmCom load will support the repeater)  Now remove the batteries (I recommend you find a place to place the charger(s) and maintain your batteries) and install the battery eliminators.
11.  Plug the battery eliminators into the cigarette lighter splitter.  Now plug the cigarette lighter splitter male plug into the female plug you created with the powerpole on the end, and then connect it to the 4 way splitter.
12.  Using a powerpole set and terminal connectors create the power cable for the voltmeter and the USB ports.
13. Drill using the hole saw the openings for the meter and USB ports, and assemble the meter and USB to the side of cooler.  
14.  Plug your Voltmeter/USB power assembly into the 4 way splitter. 
15.  Now you have power to the radios and you have a powerpole unit open, plug in your solar panel here.  On mine I have a 4 way splitter so I can plug in the voltmeter and the USB outlets in.  The voltmeter allows me to check the status of the battery (don't let it get below 11.25v) and the USB lets me charge a cell phone or a tablet.
16.   Mount the repeater controller to the other side of the cooler from the battery.  Plug it in to the appropriate ports on the radios and your good to go.  If you are creating a simplex repeater glue the controller to the other side and plug the cable into the appropriate ports on a single radio.

There are several options to this setup.  You can eliminate the USB ports, you can eliminate the voltmeter but I don't recommend it.  You can use any type of VHF/UHF magnetic mount antennas for the repeater just drill the hole so the SO239 connector will pass through or the hole to pass the RG8X through and attach the SO239 connector on the inside.  Just make sure you have at least 10' of cable on each antenna. In addition you could use vertical antennas or rollup j-poles.  You can also charge the battery through the USB, through the cigarette lighter female plug.  The solar charger is a misnomer in that it will keep the battery charged (think trickle charge vs a high amp charger), so if you have a period of heavy usage you may have to apply a supplemental charger. 

Some of the future projects that I will document here will be the:

Quadcopter's search & rescue configuration.
 Fixed wing drone for search & rescue.
Modification of a camp trailer to become a mobile comm center.
ARES and RACES protocols.
US Coast Guard Auxiliary communications protocols.
The project to put a repeater(s) for channel 16 on Lake Oroville.
The project to bring a monitored channel 16 on Northern California Lakes.
The project to create a central comms center manned by the Coast Guard Auxiliary 24/7.
The project to write a comm plan for Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 03-09 (yes I am still working on it).


Monday, March 9, 2015

Coast Guard Auxiliary Drone Project

As some of you may or may not know I am a member of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary.  I am not a boat person but a Telecommunications Operator (TO), dealing with the monitoring of Channel 16 at various inland bodies of water and as well as on the coast when needed.  Another function I perform is the monitoring of the US Coast Guard "Notice to Mariners" ensuring that the signal is strong and clear.  The Coast Guard believes that the signal if heard one hundred miles inland would also be heard 100 miles off the coast.  Currently I am working on a project  to develop a drone that can be used to give the Auxiliary a forward presence on lakes and rivers during search and rescue operations.  Not only being able to launch it from the shore line but to be able launch it from a Coast Guard Auxiliary facility (another term for a boat) and recover.

Other than for training and practice, a Drone Operator (DO) would not be performing a mission by himself, he must also have an Observer.  The DO is there to support the TO/Mission Commander (MC).

So here is a typical mission, launching from the shore line.

The night before the mission. The DO will:

1.  Initiate the mission checklist.

2.  Ensure that the proper charts/maps are available for the Area of Operations (AO).

3.  The DO charges all flight batteries and backups.  A drone has a lot of different power requirements including camera(s), a receiver, transmitter(s), a central processing unit (CPU) and possibly other ground support devices.

4.  Based on the mission requirements, with the MC and DO would pick a site that can be used for both launching and recovery.    This would be a site away from bystanders preferably an area that can be fenced off with yellow tape and not near the communications facility.  If possible it should be a location with WIFI access (if WIFI is not available from a nearby location, the DO must program the site LAT/LONG into the drone's memory.)

The day of the mission:

1.  The DO obtains the latest weather reports for the AO.   

2.  The DO has the final say in the operation of the drone.If the DO feels that the drone cannot be operated in a safe and reliable manner then the mission must be scrubbed.

3.  If a qualified Observer is not available the mission is scrubbed.  (for those of you who don't know what scrubbed  means it is a term used in the military indicating that the mission is canceled).

So here are a few of the parameters that I have so far identified:

First it must be a self autonomous device.  In other words, I can set waypoints on a chart or map (for that matter Google Earth if WIFI is available) and have the drone fly the mission without having an expert drone pilot tied up managing it.  Well being totally autonomous may not be possible.  In addition there must be an Observer, this is a person who is watching the Drone as it flies the mission. The drone will need a storage case. a way to charge batteries in the field.

Well that is all for now, I need to think more about this and will come back as things develop 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Raspberry Pi Part 3

Oh how soon I forget.


Anyway I am still working on my projects using Raspberry PI and I have expanded my collection of micro computers.

My stead fast Raspberry PI Model B w/512 memory (I actually have several of these.)

A BeagleBone Black (not sure what I am going to use this for yet but stay tuned.)

An Arduino Yún, now I really don't know what I am going to do with this one but it could get dangerous,

Now recently I have obtained a Raspberry PI Model B+.

The B+ is still a device using the ARM processor, has 512M of ram and the same footprint after that it starts with some obvious mods to the architecture.

Neater form factor. We’ve aligned the USB connectors with the board edge, moved composite video onto the 3.5mm jack, and added four squarely-placed mounting holes.

More USB.  4 USB 2.0 ports, compared to 2 on the Model B, and better hotplug and overcurrent behaviour.

Micro SD. The old friction-fit SD card socket has been replaced with a much nicer push-push micro SD version.  It also is a little bit of a fight to get the card out.

Raspberry Pi B+ mechanical specs
Mechanical specs: you’ll want to look at these if you’re building cases or other housing.
Model B+ GPIO diagram
GPIO diagram – there’s a lot more to play with now! 

So what do you think ??  Is this new and improved version (all of their marketing announcements) going to give us more bang for the buck ??

Well it draws less power (great for running on just batteries), your audio comes out of the old composite plug (this plug provides both audio and video), and the GPIO has been messed with.  The articles in LINUX and Raspberry Pi Geek say a few (??) of the daughterboards/shields that worked on the non-plus model will work on the plus model but they didn't give a list of those boards.  Both magazines indicated that the other vendors and RS are already producing new boards to replace the non-functioning boards.

Is this a winner ?  well time will tell.  Meanwhile jump in a try one of Model B's out

Later for now


R Ross


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Raspberry Pi Part 2.5

Well now that I have gotten back to this, It's been interesting this past week.  New toys have arrived, including; an Expansion Board for the Pi, a SSD (aka Solid State Drive) that uses micro SD Cards for storage. a BeagleBone Black and some 1/2 sized SD Card micro SD card carrier.  As I start to incorporate these gizmos into our projects, I should be able to evaluate and give reviews and recommendations.  (please note I said "I should", If I don't or seem wishy washy about it call me on the carpet to at least give my opinion on it.)

Item picture
The BeagleBone Black
Geekroo Case with expansion

Item picture
Multifunction Expansion Board
Item picture
4 Micro SD to Micro SATA Adapter RAID 0 quad TF card

OK then lets get back to our creating a Pi to do our digital comms.