2016 RSGB Convention Day 2

See Day 1 notes for the first half of this piece!

Convention’s over! I left Milton Keynes at roughly 1630 after a full day of lectures and after a stopoff in Glasgow made it home at 3am. Total round trip of 1003 miles! That’s a long way to go for some radio chat.

Day 2 was again insteresting, enthusing and inspiring - here’s a compressed colletion of the notes I took.

Session 1: Try Moving Up to 1.3GHz

Given by: John Worsnop, G4BAO

Unfortunately, becuase I’m a tool, I was 15 minutes late for this so missed the intro. It’s okay, I arrived when the good stuff started!

Propagation Modes of 1.3GHz

Antennas

Due to the short wavelength (23cm), antennas can have a higher gain within the same footprint as their cousins on the lower bands. They can also be more easily stashed and hidden in plain sight!

Coax

Coax is pretty lossy at these frequencies…

Using a masthead preamplifier can mitigate these losses.

At this point, the lecture became about antenna engineering and got quite technical. It was a joy to follow along with. The main takeaway was that reducing the antenna system ‘noise factor’ will make performance significantly better.

This can be calculated by applying the Friis Formulas for noise to your antenna system.

The main takeaway of this is that the overall noie figure for the system is introduced in the first stage - be it lossy coax or a poor quality amplifier. Having good hardware and good coax up the tower is super important here.

Using the VK3UM RX Performance calculator can help you model this system with different component values. (I can’t find the specific software at the moment, I’ll prod about and see if I can locate it)

Sky Temperature/Noise

As antenna inclination drops, the background noise will increase by about 10dB. This is due to the different sky temperatures -

Keep this in mind for terrestrial communications.

The noise floor here is lower than other bands due to less commercial equipment, but as with everything it’s slowly raising.

Ease of entry

My takeaway was:

The true reward of 1.3GHz will come from careful loss management and good system design. I’m definitely keen to try 1.3GHz some time soon!

Find out more from @UKGHZ or microwavers.org.

Session 2: Where Shall I put my HF antenna to work DX and Contests?

Given by David Aslin, G3WGN

I didn’t take any notes during this one, but it was enjoyable to see all the considerations that go into both home and antenna location for serious DXers.

The overall takeaway was that the take off angle (TOA) of your antenna is super important - by using tools like heywhatsthat you can get an insight into what directions you can have low take off angles. These guys are optimising for 1-2 extra degrees lower, and designing antennas based around the point on the radiation pattern where they radiate the most.

Chasing big DX, especially in the sunspot minimum, sounds like an intimidating, challenging and all-consuming task!

Session 3: Simple 5.6GHz equipment & operating /P in the SHF UK Activity Contests

Given by Dave Yorke, G4JLG and Mark Bryant M0UFC

The main points of this talk were:

G4BAO has an article in a recent Radcom covering this called “GHz Bands on a Shoestring”… I see a pattern already.

5.7GHz WBFM

The guys are using an “Active Robots Airwave FM Video Sender” to modulate voice to GM audio. A 0.5W output unit is around £30.

There are separate antennas and modules for RX and TX.

To make the module work they’re using an audio amplifier on input for voice clarification, filtering and preparation. Thermal dissipation must also be considered, and a stable 5V supply is also important.

This is the module they’re using. There was a quick mention of filtering the sidebands that contain video, I’ll need to investigate that.

it’s being fed directly into a patch or dish antenna and squirted line of site across Manchester. Very cool little find, I’m very taken with this.

Portable microwave setups

I don’t know what any of these are, but I’m recording them so I can grow into the knowledge and find out later.

I didn’t take many notes duing the SDR section - I’m somewhat SDR’d out!

Session 4: Professor Cathryn Mitchell, M0IBG

This was a great talk about Solar Storm events and space weather, which I know relatively little about.

It also contained the word “Magnetopause”, which Ana and I giggled at childishly.

In 1859, there was a huge solar storm, or series of storms, known as the “Carrington Event”. Aurora were seen a extrememly low latitudes, and there were lots of induced currents in telegraph lines, amongst other things.

It’s reckoned that when the solar wind & earth’s geomagnetic field coupled, it was sufficiently close that charged particles weren’t funneled to the polar regions by fieldlines, but just attracted towards the earth.

It’s been observed that solar cycle activity isn’t coupled to solar storm events - That is to say, the incoming solar minimum doesn’t mean the chance of a major storm event drops. - NASA Stereo A/B Satellites saw one in 2012

Causes

Things that will cause damage from solar activity are:

Effects

Things that the above will make happen…

There was a list of major national infrastructure that will be affected by the above (telecoms, rail, shipping, aviation, the financial industry to name a few) but I’ll leave it up to your imagination to work out more!

For the national grid, it was noted that transformer burnout through induced currents in cabling could disable the grid for a significant period of time. If enough are damaged to use more than available spares, time to replace jumps from days to months. I’m sure every industry/public service will be facing similar issues

swpc is the live prediction centre of solar weather from noaa.

If shit’s going to hit the fan, this will give you an hour to say goodbye to your iPhone.

Session 5: The Story of SDR and FlexRadio

Given by Gerald Youngblood, K5SDR

This was a pretty good way to finish the event - Gerald is a great speaker and salesman and hearing the story, and secrets, of his company and product so well presented was really enjoyable.

The FlexRadio 6000 Series are pretty incredible devices, and FlexRadio are developing really interesting things to augment them.

They’re essentially direct sampling TX/RX SDR units, acting as a flexible radio server. The model you get will define the number of bells and/or whistles you get, but multiple band RX/TX, multiple operators and more are already in place.

They’ve also opened an API for the devices, so you can write your own applications to use on the network.

If you catch me, ask me and I’ll gush for a while about it, but the chances are that if you know me you already know alllllll about how much SDR can offer!

Super cool. Very impressed - I’ll be watching Flex in the future, and keeping an eye on their commercial products for work.

Session 6: Raffle

We didn’t win anything, it was a FIX!

Conclusion

Yeah. The RSGB Convention exceeded my expectations greatly. It’s got me excited about radios again, hopefully I can leak this over to my local club and friends. It turns out amateur radio isn’t just about junk sales and HF contacts - there’s people doing interesting and innovative things, and the barrier to entry on the higher bands is much lower than I previously thought.

Many of the conversations that were had during the weekend with people of all ages centered on the fact that there is always something new to discover and enthuse about in amateur radio. That has very much been my experience, and i’ve always enjoyed it because of that. When I’ve been on the air for 50 years like some of these guys have been, I hope that’s still true!


i'm hibby · blog ·