The New Frontier – Digital Amateur Radio

by N0ECT

Today’s Digital Amateur Radio (DAR) – has almost nothing to do with HF

Arguably, DAR is the fastest growing segment of Amateur Radio Hobby today.

ALThe big Commercial Radio companies were first to enter that Digital Radio market – however Amateurs have been quick to catch up – and are now providing Digital Radio “cross-connections” between different proprietary Digital Radio systems and they’re running those online today.

Are you Ready to explore genuine Digital Radio for Amateurs?

Step 1 – Turn OFF your HF Rig

What you’ll need…is some new Radio vocabulary to hang with the younger Hams that are pushing the limits of what Digital Amateur Radio can do today.  Did you know that Amazon’s “Echo/Alexia” product is being integrated with DAR today?  Young Hams with well developed SW and Programming Skills are leading and testing those new innovations right now.  Who would have thought?

Step 2 –  Think of the Internet as your worldwide Repeater System.  The “band conditions” on this Repeater System are always open 7x24x365.  “BrandMeister” servers are something you’ll likely be using for day to day World Wide DAR communication.  The growth in BrandMeister DMR connections has been exponential over the last year.  The focus in this DAR community is testing, exploring, engineering and building new Radio Repeater/Hotspots and interconnections.  Adding endless, brief QSO’s in a log file is not what DAR is all about.

Step 3 – You don’t have to “break the bank” with your choice of a new Digital Radio – some models are under $100.00/Amazon.  You also might need a “HotSpot” you can build or buy for about $100.00  DMR (Digital Radios)BM are by far the most affordable compared to DSTAR (Icom’s Digital Radio) and C4FM (Yaesu’s System Fusion) Digital Radios – so we’ll stay focused on DMR for now.  “PileUps” don’t exist in the world of DMR.  If you click on the graphic to the right you can listen to the Digital Radio World of BrandMeister – just by using your computer, no need for a DMR Radio – just to listen – to perfectly clear Digital Radio Audio.

DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) is an “open” spec developed in Europe.  (side note) Motorola adopted it, added their own proprietary digital extensions – and market their Motorola Commercial Digital Radios as part of their “MotoTrbo” product line.

DMR for Amateur Radio can be used with or without a (example: Mountain Top) DMR Repeater.  There is no requirement to be connected to the Internet to have DMR Radio working for you.   DMR/Simplex (example: 146.520Mhz) works just fine.

Q.)  If I’m the only Ham in my geography with a DMR Radio – how do I use it to communicate with other Hams?

Answer:  You can use a DMR HotSpot that you can buy as a Kit or build one yourself for about $100.00.  Photo below shows a DMR Hotspot with a standard USB Battery PowerPak and a Radioddity GD-77  VHF/UHF DMR (Tier II) Radio.  Yes, the DMR HotSpot below uses a WiFi connection to the Internet to reach the BrandMeister Servers.  Below is using the WiFi my iPhone can provide for complete Portable/DMR operation anywhere in the world.DMR-Portable-4FEB2018

DMR Hand-held (HT) Radios (Tier II) can be had on Amazon for well under $100.00  They provide traditional analog FM (VHF & UHF) capabilities (just like your Baofeng) in addition to DMR.  Other Models of DMR HT’s include (TYT/MD380 and 390 – AnyTone AT-D86UV – Retevis RT82).  Interestingly, these new DMR HT’s are (SDR – SW Defined Radios) that can be easily upgraded by loading new (Firmware/Software) into the HT.  Bug fixes and in particular new DMR features are being released all the time.  Be aware that you won’t find much information on the ARRL web site – about this – the younger Hams are using Facebook, dedicated Facebook Groups and Vendor Web sites and Blogs to share their new information, capabilities and upgrades. (Click Here)

More on the HotSpot…As shown above the HostSpot uses a Raspberry Pi “ZERO” computer and a small “daughter card” that plugs on top of the Raspberry Pi “ZERO”.  The daughter card is the low power UHF Transceiver that the Radioddity uses to reach the DMR/BrandMeister Servers on the Internet – if you want to operate on the DMR World Wide community.

Setting up the HotSpot:  The MicroSD card that the Pi Zero uses as its hard drive…is powered by FREE software known as “Pi Star”.  The Pi Star SW (developed in the UK) is controlled by an easy to use “Web Browser Interface” that is simple to use for setup from a PC or Mac.  More information on DAR soon.  73s – N0ECTPS


SCARC – Christmas Party 2017

Special Thanks to Sue N0DBY and Bob K9MWM – for opening their home and hosting another outstanding SCARC Christmas/Holiday Party for local Hams!

Photogenic!…doesn’t even begin to describe this happy Mom and Dad couple!  Jeremy KB0HQO and his pretty wife Fanny.  Their two young kids moved too FAST for the party photographer!IMG_7675

The Most Interesting Ham in the World? –  He’s From “Jamaica Mon!”  Bill, N0MID knows a good holiday offshore brew (Red Stripe) – when it’s SCARC Party Time!  How many QSO’s do you have from Kingston Town, Mon?IMG_7666

The 3 Musketeers got the SCARC holiday memo about a Red Shirt or Sweater…

L-R  Ken KB0HP, Richard K4ULD and when he’s in Jolly old England G4ULD and Fred K0VK.  Friends who know Richard – also know he’s rarely stops smiling!IMG_7663

Super Ham Hostess Ms. Sue – N0DBY!IMG_7674

Brent – KD0WAK (left in photo) Jim AD0LIIMG_7672

L-R  Jim AD0LI and Dave KD0WQCIMG_7664

Discussion?  Is an all Digital non-HF QSO – Still a QSO?  Is it OK to store an Analog HF QSO in Digital form – using 1’s and 0’s only – inside an encrypted Logbook of the World file?

L-R   Phil N0KE and Clark K3NIIMG_7670

Gerry N6HUQ – shows he’s in the Holiday Mood!IMG_7671

Ashton KQ0C – (red shirt) and Mike (blue shirt) discussing the finer points of Genuine WiFi calling – with a smartphone!IMG_7662

Guys and Dolls – L-R  Bill N0MID, Betty KD0YDH Dennis AD0VU, and…(sorry, not sure – pretty and nice too!)IMG_7668

L-R  Kevin KE0PGE and “Allstar” Bryan N0THYIMG_7673

L-R  Glenn KE0MMS, Ms. Marcy and Kevin KE0PGEIMG_7665

Rocky Mountain Ham & Ski Country ARC

by Rocky Mountain Ham – and KD0MA, K0JEG & N0ECT

3 New RMHAM Linked Sites – Installed in one day, including the updated Colorado Connection.

A crack team of 15 RMHAM team members pulled off another 3 site day interconnecting the RMHAM (front-range) network to Leadville and Vail. This push gets DMR into these areas that have not been covered with DMR until now. We (RMHAM) now cover I-70 nearly contiguously from Genoa through Avon. We installed two, new (digital) microwave hops from our Fairplay site to our Leadville and then over to Vail (Dowd Junction) with three dedicated teams. By noon on September 30, 2017, the DMR and Analog FM system were in place and ready to carry digitized voice traffic – simultaneously over the new Digital Mountain Top Microwave Network.

Colorado Connection – Vail – Dowd Junction Repeater – FM Analog  147.345 (+) PL 88.5

DMR – Vail Dowd Junction Repeater – 445.07500 (-) Color Code 7, Time Slot 1 – connects you to RMHAM Front Range Talk Group 700

DMR – Vail Dowd Junction Repeater – 445.07500 (-) Color Code 7 Time Slot 2 – connects you to RMHAM Front Range Talk Group 720

We also added new digital linking for the Colorado Connection and upgraded both the Leadville and Vail (CC) repeaters to new digital hardware! The Colorado Connection still supports FM/Analog Radios, however the new Mountain Top Microwave Linking System – digitizes that FM Analog Voice traffic into TCP/IP – VoIP packets.  This new Digital Microwave Mountain Top Linking ELIMINATES the old Analog FM Link Radio System problems that has plagued SCARC Repeater Backbone for months!

Folks from Ski Country ARC from the Vail area assisted the Vail RMHAM team in completing this task. Fairplay team of K0JSC, N2MED, K0GUR got the microwave in and peaked. Leadville team of W0VG, AC0KQ, AE5IT, N0DEV, K0IBM, K7AIH. Vail team was K2AD, WA1JHK, KI0KN, N7CTM with prework by W0KU. Ski Country folks that helped out KD0MA, K0JEG and N0ECT. They installed microwave, power, routers, and all assorted cabling along with doing lots of antenna rework to handle the new configuration.IMG_2436

ARRL Field Day 2017 – K0RV Style!

The QSO + Fun Factor exceeded last Years effort – if you ask N0ECT!  Some of our favorite Field Day Photos and captions from this (June 24-25) weekend’s 24 Hours of Operating HF using Emergency Power only.

ARRL-FIELD-DAY-2017-Chase-BrentIron Chicken Chef N0AFO…demonstrates to Debbie N0LDB the Art of Grilling Chicken – with his Eyes Closed!So-Easy-I-Can-Grill-Chicken-With-My-Eyes-ClosedK0RV’s most Experienced Drone Pilot – Eric K0JEG.  Armed with his 4K HD Drone Camera and GPS Drone Technology – Eric’s Drone located the MOST COMFORTABLE chair at Field Day and K0JEG and took full advantage after an exhausting day of QSO’s and Flying High!Drone-Master-K0JEG-Best-Seat-In-the-HouseK0RV’s t-Shirt Design Team Phil N0KE and Ms. Betty KD0YDH are busy working on next years Field Day 2018 t-Shirt.ARRL-FIELD-DAY-2017-N0KE-KD0YDHN0ECT is still insisting he found one of these Signs…On N0AFO’s Beer Cooler that Saturday Afternoon!Free-StuffBob KI0G Cutter ran the (GOTA – Get On The Air) Station this year.  Being a former Judge – KI0G must be use to handing out cruel and unusual punishment!  How So?Well…Bob ran the GOTA Station at QRP (5 Watts) – Yikes!  Bob is still trying to explain how to beat an HF Pile Up on Field Day using only 5 Watts…leveraging what looked like Kite String for an Antenna!  At QRP – N0ECT rechristened KI0G’s GOTA Station as the “Waiting for Godot” QSO Station!   Extreme QSO Patience paid off…Occasionally, the GOTA Station confirmed a few 40 meter QRP QSO’s!  Their GOTA Station Blew the Horn targeting their skeptics…for every completed QSO!Always-Running-On-Low-Lower-KI0G-QRP-ManWell if you don’t know what “Frequency Feast” looks like – you do NOW!Field-Day-Feist-K0RV-25JUN2017

Field Day 2017 – ARRL & SCARC

by  N0ECT

Setup for Field Day 2017 starts at 3PM, Friday, June 23rd at our Field Day QTH.  At 6PM Friday nite is the drawing for ARRL Field Day Souvenirs for those helping with Setup.image

Field Day officially starts at Noon (Mountain Daylight Time) on Saturday, June 24th and continues till Noon on Sunday, June 25th.  Sign up Times for operating on HF during the 24 hours of Field Day will be available – starting 3PM Friday.

For more information and a Map to our Field Day Site – (Missouri Heights near Carbondale, Colorado (Click Here)

For all ARRL Field Day Sites & Locations – just CLICK ON the Map below.image

Digital Radio & What’s New from Dayton

The Days of the Digital Radio “Tower of Babel” are coming to an end.

The different Digital Modes promoted by different Radio Vendors are starting to “Converge” via new Digital HUBS and Digital Servers.

Result?  DSTAR folks can talk to C4FM/Yaesu using their native vendor specific Radio, DMR Radios interoperate here too.  The ever popular Digital HT – the MD380 was selling for $75.00ea at Dayton.  Digital Mobile interoperability is improving too because of the availability of WiFi while Mobile due to today’s SmartPhones.

Below is a great summary – of what’s going on in the Digital Radio World – from Dayton last week.



Sky High Picnic

Glad everyone enjoyed my presentation. Here are the pictures that Gerry, Brian, Pete and I took while flying. Word around the club is that Debbie N0LDB is going to get one for her birthday this year!

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