Julian, OH8STN, has another video on How to Ham Radio Off Grid.
Hello Operators. Todays video is very special, since it answers many of the questions we’ve asked about portable ham radio off grid. Operating a ham radio station off grid and or in the field is not something to be taken lightly. We need to look at our field communication goals, how long we’re going to be out there, the type of equipment we need in the field, and battery power for our ham radio, when off grid or in the field. If you’re a ham radio beginner or seasoned veteran adding additional skills and capabilities to your station, you’re going to love this series.
This is just a short post about the relationship between field communications, and portable power. Ham radio manufacturers would have us believe our goal is to go out and operate a couple of hours at a time, then recharge our batteries back at home. This may be true sometimes, but it’s not always true.
Ham radio manufacturers don’t recognize the importance of a decent operating run time from internal batteries, or the ability to recharge those batteries, without grid power. For example Elecraft offers one of the most amazing portable radios on the market, the kx2. Did you know it’s impossible to recharge the kx2 in the field without the Elecraft proprietary smart charger, connected to AC mains? This means if you’re off grid without additional batteries, or the ability to plug in a smart charger, you’ll have to use an external battery anyway. Despite how awesome the radio is, having to use that external battery diminishes its lightweight field utility of the radio.
The Yaesu ft-818 is another example. Its internal AA battery pack can power the radio for about an hour or two. Unlike the Elecraft kx2, the ft-818 can be recharged in the field from any DC power source 9 to 15 volts, (AWESOME). It’s Achilles heel is that it takes 8 to 10 hours to recharge its internal battery pack. What the heck is the point of having 2 hours runtime, and 8 to 10 hours recharge time? It’s freaking ridiculous! This means in practice, we need to use an external battery pack anyway.
Some operators have offered alternatives to these problems.
Carrying additional battery packs.
Using an inverter to power the smart charger.
Ration the radios usage so batteries last longer.
All of these ideas come from operators without a solid understanding of communications off grid. Off-grid communications requires us to be grid and energy independent. So when manufacturers tell us the only way to recharge the internal battery of their radio, is using their proprietary AC powered smart charger, we should tell them to go lay an egg. We should also tell manufacturers who have an 8 to 10 hour charge time on a relatively small internal battery, to do a little bit more engineering.
From where I’m standing, it looks like popular ham radio manufacturers have become complacent. We have become such Fanboys, that we continuously make excuses for why these functionalities are not built into their radios. Why don’t we demand amateur radio manufacturers create radios, which are grid independent!? Why do we still accept double AA packs inside our rigs, when a lithium ion or lithium iron phosphate pack are a fraction of the physical size, weight, and offer much higher capacity!? These ultra energy dense packs are standard in everyones mobile phones, tablets and laptops, so why not ham radio!? Why should I buy an Elecraft smart charger, when it’s simply a 3s lithium ion battery pack inside the radio!?
Most of the battery research and projects done on the channel, are in response to ham radio manufacturers not stepping up to offer viable solutions for the off-grid operator. Certainly Elecraft gives us low current draw, but what good is that when your battery is dead, and there’s no way to recharge it?
Although much of the research going into off-grid portable power on the channel, has been done for off-grid and field communications, some of the previous and upcoming projects, exists purely because ham radio manufacturers don’t understand our needs.
Yesterday I tried a new radio for the first time. It’s only the second time I’ve seen this functionality in a commercial radio. The functionalities are
Powering the radio from external power supply while
Simultaneously recharging the internal battery pack in a reasonable amount of time.
The two radios I’ve seen with this capability are the Icom IC-705, and the Xiegu X5105…(continues)
Julian, OH8STN, has a new video out about ham radio emergency communications for Groups.
Hello Operators. Todays topic emergency communications, ham radio is a little different than normally seen on the channel. Today we are discussing ham radio emergency communications for groups and small communities while bugging in shtf. The bugging in shtf part, is the self quarantine many of us are experiencing around the world the past few weeks. it’s obvious too many of us now bugging in is very different from the bugging out we may have expected and prepared for. Because of this, groups and communities wishing to learn ham radio emergency group communications, may be interested to learn this approach, and these emergency communications tools.
Today I’m sharing another video from Gil F4WBY, the Radio Prepper. The topic is disaster Communications. More specifically preparedness communications vs traditional amateur radio emergency communications. Gil does a very good job of going over the mission differences between Communications for preparedness, versus emergency communications for disaster relief. This is something we’ve all talked about on the grid down Communications for preparedness series.
It’s important to remember it’s not a competition. There isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be), a one or the other mentality here. Radio operator should be quite Versed in the guerrilla nature of preparedness Communications, in addition to the more structured and traditional emergency communications, as laid out by organizations like ARES. It’s a good discussion and one I think all of us should be watching.
The video starts off with an overview of my raspberry pi field computer, the QRP GoKit used in the field test, and some of the reaities of field communications when off grid. The video then moves on to discuss the reality of off grid field communications, and why we need to be smarter operators, with smarter yet easy to maintain gear.
Julian, call sign OH8STN, posted a new video last week about Ultimate Raspberry Pi Build. He uses the AmRRON Raspberry Pi scripts for part of the process and praises their work. Julian is using the Raspberry Pi with his radio to build a very light and portable radio communication system that could be used for emergency response operations or just for fun, portable operation.
Each of us has a different idea about what the ultimate raspberry pi build would be or look like. For my station, reducing the cable mess, replacing a large audio interface with a low-cost usb audio codec, and creating a lightweight, energy-efficient configuration for ham radio data mode operations. Also important was getting my raspberry pi to work off os 12 volts, just like my Yaesu FT-818 and Yaesu FT-891. In this video, we will go through all the hardware, hardware mods, hats, and software used to make this station the ultimate rasberry pi build for ham radio data modes in the field.
Canadian Prepper has a video up discussing some of the aspects of the planned power outage of many Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) customers in California – around 800,000 customers out of power by my last reading of the news. Many people are unprepared for the outage, and news sources show that many are unaware of how much in their daily life relies upon the power grid operating. Canadian Prepper discusses a little bit about why outage is happening as well as addressing the various “theories” floating around about it being a government test or a grid down test.
CalFire recently updated their communication plan and excluded amateur radio as a resource with the belief that other technological solutions have made amateur radio obsolete as an auxiliary service. As a result, many amateur radio repeaters will probably start to disappear as the financial support for them to remain in the antenna sites where they are currently located dries up. While this outage is relatively short, it will be interesting to see how communications are or are not affected and, if these planned outages continue into the future, whether any degradation of emergency support communications becomes apparent.
I spend an enormous amount of time talking about off grid Communications, and Communications in a grid down scenario. Today many Californias find themselves, in an artificial grid down scenario. These Californians are without grid power, after PG&E shut down the grid for liability and safety concerns. These type of things can happen anywhere in the world. One positive aspect of situations like these is what the rest of us around the world, can learn from them.
The last video I did in the grid down Communications for preparedness series, was focused on emergency backup power for communications. It seems only fitting that I’ll share that video at the end of this post.
The Canadian prepper just published an excellent video, discussing the California Power Outages. I’m sharing that video here: Nate discussing the Massive California Power Outage: What’s Really Going On?
I often “feel” no matter how many videos we make on this topic, or how ever often we try to spread the word, people still believe they won’t find themselves in a grid down scenario. People say it’s too expensive, too complicated to this or that. Perhaps you’ll simply start with a renewable power source for your Communications gear.
In an unprecedented move, nearly a million people have had their power cut in Northern California. The state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric or PG&E, is trying to prevent its wires from sparking wildfires, but that move is sparking anger.
The power outages began early Wednesday as California residents loaded up on essentials for what they say is a “man-made disaster.”
PG&E has been forced to shut off electricity to customers because a forecast of high winds and bone dry heat is expected to put pressure on its aging and faulty infrastructure. It is a desperate attempt to avoid what happened in November when sparks from power lines ignited the fire that tore through the town of Paradise, killing 86.
Ron Blasingame lost his power at 2 a.m. and he could be in the dark for days…
Amateur radio enthusiast, blogger and vlogger OH8STN (Julian) has posted a video on Introduction to Grid Down Communications for Preparedness. As he says, planning for a grid down scenario covers around 99% of the scenarios that a person may face (earthquake, pandemic, civil unrest, etc.) Julian covers a lot of useful information in the video, not just for amateur radio operators but anyone trying to prepare to communicate in such a scenario.
Here is the first video of the series:
Suggested Radio Equipment for Community Safety – but there is no “one size fits all” communications solution as pointed out in OH8STN’s video above. Julian’s video discusses some of the assumed background information of this article in more detail. This article discusses the equipment that is working for the LVA.
Julian at OH8STN.org is full of useful amateur radio information. In the piece excerpted below, he talks about winter emergency communications and the difference between preparing for emergency communications when there is a large logistics tail on the move to support you and emergency communications in a long term or grid down scenario. Here’s a bit from Grid Down EMCOMM Winter Edition:
EMCOMM VS Communications Preparedness
There’s a huge disconnect between the yellow vest wearing emergency communications Community within amateur radio, and those seeking to learn and or develop skills for communications preparedness. They both have completely different methodologies, but they are overlapping.
With EMCOMM (North American Edition), we almost always have an expectation of a large Logistics deployment machine, deploying resources after the fact. Hopefully this will change after the horrific lessons of Puerto Rico.
With Communications Preparedness, our focus is grid down Communications in the thick of the disaster. There’s no Logistics, no one’s coming to help right away, so we are left on our own, getting information into and out of an active disaster zone.
Right now neither the EMCOMM community or the Communications Preparedness crowd are speaking the same language. They simply don’t understand one another. I suspect anyone reading this blog, or watching my videos has a firm grasp of both sides of this “Niche within a niche” as my friend John calls it. This disconnect between the two communities is critical for understanding and ultimately deployment in the field…