Monday, May 3, 2021

UPCOMING 5/17/2021 HVDN:LIVE - Putting balloons into the sky with USMA

On April 27th 2021, the United States Military Academy at West Point put its 11th Astronomy Club and Amateur Radio Club balloon up into the atmosphere of the Hudson Valley and reached 80,000 ft.

Cadets Raymond Triggs '24, Rathin Shah '24, Jacob Willis '23 and Nolan Pearce '22 KE8JCT led a team of fourteen cadets, four of which also have amateur radio licenses.  A total of seven USMA faculty members, including  MAJ Robert Perezamemany and COL. Stephen Hamilton KJ5HY, MAJ Ben Popko N2IAV and Dr. Kate Duncan KB2ZOO helped make this years mission a success.

CDT Nolan Pearce '22 KE8JCT

Please join HVDN: LIVE on May 17th at 8:00 PM EST for a detailed overview of this project

CIC(Cadet In Charge) Pearce will cover the design, build process, launch and recovery of the 6 lb.  STEM focused payload which  included:

  • GPS
  • SSTV
  • GoPro camera
  • Space beer? (Wet yeast!)
  • More....
Cadet Pearce will share details from this years launch over a 30 minute presentation with audience questions saved until the end.

Nolan is active within the USMA radio club W2KGY which will also be participating as N2D during Hudson River Radio Relay this year and he also has a rather excellent blog covering many topics of interest to the amateur radio community.

How to attend?

This presentation is free for anyone to attend via the free open source application and will also be live streamed on the HVDN YouTube Channel.

First 50 guests can join via and use password = helium

Additional "human" attendees can follow live or during the replay on the HVDN Video Channel

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Please give 17m a chance....

With nice weather finally returning, its time to take some green pictures of some outside operating compared to the last still frosty excursion with the Icom IC-705 promoting some upcoming combined IOTA, SOTA  and POTA activity here in the Hudson Valley via the Hudson River Radio Relay event on June 12th.

After some portable antenna discussion with Nolan KE8JCT who will be a guest presenter on HVDN Live scheduled for May 17th at 8:00 PM Eastern US time, I was tempted to build an even lighter antenna out of some really nice yellow Teflon 24 gauge wire acquired from the local candy store known as P&T Surplus.

While Nolan will be talking about the recent USMA Balloon Sat in a few weeks time with us, he is also very interested in portable operations and CW QRP!

There is a growing number of portable focused operators in the Hudson Valley like myself, Nolan, Jonathan KC2BNW and a number of others interested in the convergence of radio and the outdoors.

With a freshly mowed and goose poop free lawn for the moment at casa de K2GOG, I set up my just constructed "Lazy Linked Inverted L" to see how well it would work on 17m.  I needed a back up antenna for my pack and this seemed like a good idea.

This antenna which is supported by the 20ft version Jackite pole in orange is supported by a simple $4.99 Tiki Torch stake at the bottom with a piece of PVC that the pole slides over.

Dimensions for the simple 52 foot long chunk of yellow wire is as follows:

  • 40m Band = 52 feet, plus 12 foot counterpoise, half wave, medium Z
  • 30m Band = Link at 46 feet, half wave, no counterpoise, high Z
  • 20m Band = Link at 33 feet, half wave, no counterpoise, high Z
  • 17m Band = 52 feet, full wave, no counterpoise, high Z
  • 15m Band = 46 feet, full wave, no counterpoise, high Z

The SWR was about 3:1 on 17m, but the magical ZM-2 antenna tuner got things quickly under control at 1.2:1 to help maximize my 5 watts of RF outwards on 18.1575 MHz.  The "long" end of the antenna not visible in the picture was tossed into a nearby tree.

Admittedly, my first contact with this antenna had a much better station down in Texas that probably helped a little, but a contact is still a contact. QSL? YES!

Tom K5VWZ has a world class station and was able to pick me up out of the noise as documented by the recording function on the IC-705. 

I really like this feature and how flexible it is, but to get the file off the radio still means I have to remove the SD card from the radio which is sort of annoying so I could trim it and convert to an MP3 to share with y'all in this article.

Click to play K5VWZ & K2GOG QSO on May 1st 2021

While this was far from an optimal antenna for 17m band and a dipole would have probably done much better, its still always amazing what low power communications without the internet can accomplish.

17m is your next challenge

Be sure to keep an ear on 18157.5 kHz USB as it is known as the 17m HFPACK calling frequency where portable people like me are likely to pop up, but usually not from the backyard.

During the upcoming Hudson River Radio Relay event next month,  expect to look for N2B located on Bannerman's Island (USIAP NY047) which has never been activated by radio before and also N2D, which will be operated by the United States Military Academy at West Point on Constitution Island that now has been awarded USIAP NY073 thanks to this event and its goals.

A few of the eight participating stations like N2B are also technically going to be part of Hudson Highlands State Park K-2079 which actually counts as separate parks such as K-5161 and which you will hear N2U operating on thanks to the PEARL club.  The Orange County Amateur Radio Club operating as N2O from K-2010 and possibly K-2081.

There is much more happening too, so hopefully this article excites you about 17m and some MAJOR upcoming activity across the Hudson Valley.

Learn more about Hudson River Radio Relay - June 12th 2021 and help support Bannerman's Island too!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The perfect Icom IC-705 case?

Will this post address every possible need that everyone may have when using the Icom IC-705 at home, in the field or on a picnic table?  Probably not, but I think this comes awfully close to meeting my needs so thought worth sharing my journey.

How do I want to use the Icom IC-705?

After acquiring this radio, I spent time getting familiar with its functions and watching what accessory purchases others were making.  

Lessons learned as an early Yaesu FT-817 purchaser almost 20 years ago proved that spending more than that radio cost for addon's got quickly out of hand.

And, since the Yaesu FT-817 brand new back in the early 2000's was much less than the Icom IC-705 today, I wanted to go about things a bit smarter this time around.

My intended use cases for the Icom IC-705 are as follows:

  • Toss it in the backpack for easy to deploy legitimate field operations in rough conditions.
  • Perfect vacation and traveling demo "shack in a box" scenarios to excite new prospective hams.
  • Fill the "If I could use just one non-handheld radio" use case...
As a QRP enthusiast, I am fine with 10 watts RF output on all bands with external power or 5 watts on the internal battery. I also do not mind no internal tuner as I usually use resonant antennae for specific uses cases like satellite, digital modes and SOTA. 

Case:  The cornerstone of all accessories

Someone did the hard work already and shared this on the Icom IC-705 Facebook User Group, so I purchased this enclosed hard case for reasons explained later compared to a soft or protective rail case. 

Cost was $12.99 USD for the large size case in orange on Amazon and is made in the USA.   Purchase link:  MTM Survivor Dry Box with O-Ring Seal

The Icom IC-705 fits perfectly in this case and offers some extra room for a few basic accessories such as the wired microphone and a VHF rubber duck antenna or small end fed wire for HF.  The extended BP-307 battery fits just fine and that lives full time inside the case now attached to the rear of the radio.

Case Access:  Before making holes for antenna stuff

The MTM case is a dry case, which means your expensive radio wont get wet or screen scratched when its inside this protective cocoon.  I am not going to say its waterproof, but it feels like I would not have a moisture issue so will call this case weather tight instead. 

Since you can pretty much operate the Icom IC-705 fully remote using software or a mobile device described later, I only wanted to make a external holes for antenna and power wiring.  

First thing you need to buy is a BNC cable that has a right angle male on one side and a female BNC bulkhead on the other.  Spending $9.49 USD, the Eightwood BNC Bulkhead Female to BNC Male Right Angle Adapter RG58 Cable 50cm /1.6 feet is what I settled on.

The length of cable also solves a counterpoise issue on the two meter band since using most standard HT antennae with the IC-705 do not work well, so this is a hidden benefit. 

The right angle BNC male is what connects to your radio. A straight BNC will be too long to go inside the case. This is why having a right angle is needed. If an easy to source right angle bulk head was available, I would have went for right angles on both sides to give me even more flexibility.

Carefully placing and putting a hole in the side of your MTM case is important, so measure twice and cut once!  

You want to avoid the straight part of the BNC bulkhead cable hitting the side of the radio inside the case. It is best to make your entry hole as indicated in the picture below.

You may notice a nice binding post next to the new antenna connector. This also has a hidden benefit since you will find you need a grounding point on your radio to connect a counterpoise for HF operation to your radio.

Purchase  Jabinco 2pcs Gold Plated Insulated Terminal Binding Post Power Amplifier Dual 2-Way Banana Plug Jack for a total of $4.99 USD and you will end up with 3 spare terminal posts you can use for some other project, like some type of portable balun.  Or, you may have a spare binding post left over from another project you can use instead, but this one is very high quality and I recommend this.

Using one of these posts will give us a ground connection to the radio. You can either use some bare copper wire or a thin piece of sheet metal with appropriate holes drilled to connect this binding post to the outer conductor of the BNC bulkhead on the inside of the case.

Be sure to tighten up your connections correctly and you now have a case with external antenna connections that are weather tight and be sure to test that your ground lug and antenna port are now connected by using your continuity function on a multimeter. You should have close to zero resistance.

Case Access:  Adding power 

It would have been nice to just use Power Pole connections for power, but they take up more space inside the case and some may require more complicated hole making, so using the "standard" 5.5mm O.D.  x 2.5mm I.D coaxial power connector which the IC-705 and the Elecraft KX2 and KX3 uses seemed like a better low profile idea. 

There are also many external battery packs and inverter generators that use this same connector, so I am not worried about interoperability too much since this is a lower current connector and the additional benefits of the Power Poles are not needed.

You will need to drill your hole carefully as pictured and then you will need to solder on a male right angle 5.5mm O.D.  x 2.5mm I.D coaxial power that will connect to your radio after you pass the free ends into the dry box case.

If you want to add a reverse polarity protection diode or fuse, I will leave that up to you since the IC-705 does not offer much protection if you plug in your external power the wrong way.

When using a diode like a Zener type, be sure to realize that some voltage drop may occur from your external power source. For the Icom IC-705 to give you maximum RF output, the below chart will help you.

The internal battery pack is only capable of 7.4 volts, so to get that extra kick of RF output, you need to be over 12.5 volts always if you need that extra tiny bit of decibels to make radio contact.

If you need to connect power poles, you can use a ready made cable like this one by Windcamp for $12.99

How to access the IC-705 now?

This is not yet a perfect solution. You will need to find a way to secure the IC-705 inside your case which may require bending a piece of sheet metal to make a bracket that can screw to the underside of the IC-705 and you can then Velcro the radio into the case.  

You can also decide to skip that construction step and ruin your radio by putting Velcro on it or your battery directly.  This is left up to you on how you like to do things. 

This really good Velcro allows for easy removal of the IC-705 so you can access the SD Card, USB port, keying jack or the other connectors you may care about.  

Icom has not enabled a way to access the SD card over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth via FTP or anything else should you want to grab screen captures or audio recordings from the radio.   

You can also not access those files over USB either, so this is one reason why you will need to remove the IC-705 from the case.

The other connectors for my personal use cases were not important, but if they are for you, that is up to you to solve for. 

I would however think to maybe add an external USB in the future if I can find a suitable connector for times where I do not thing that low power wireless signals like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi are appropriate but wish to still control the radio remotely.

Everything else can be done "almost" over bluetooth or Wi-Fi

Control of the radio can happen over bluetooth or Wi-Fi for different reasons. Using a bluetooth microphone solves some issues for portable voice operation but adds additional "how do I charge the bluetooth speaker complexity", so keeping the wired mic on hand is important.

I am only plugging in the microphone connector and not the speaker part of the hand mic. This will not impact if you use a bluetooth mic or digital modes.

If you want basic remote frequency control, you can use the 705 Remote application on Android or the free Icom RS-MS1A application.   

The Icom Android application will appeal more to those who want to use D-Star and related advanced functions where the 705 Remote by Ikeda Shogouki may be better for those looking for a classic VFO knob and more HF focused functions.  

The popular Dan Toma Pocket TXRX software does not yet support the IC-705 and your results will be mixed when using different CI-V addresses to try and use profiles meant for radios like the IC-7000, IC-7100 and IC-7300. For now, I am ignoring this otherwise great software and its capabilities.

Remote radio versus remote internet control operation

The prior mentioned basic remote setup will not offer much else than basic remote radio capability.

If you are looking for complete wireless control of your Icom IC-705, you will need to purchase the  Icom RS-BA1 software for about $120.00 USD that runs on a Windows computer or some other platform with containers or virtual machines. 

This Icom software allows you to use your radio totally remote from your computer, including virtualized COM ports for digital modes, audio and CAT operations.  

You can also use RS-BA1 to allow other software like FLdigi, WSJT-X or Ham Radio Deluxe to control or talk to your Icom IC-705 if you are interested in digital modes and wish to operate the radio remotely. For voice communication, you can use a headset or microphone with your computer.

One use case for this is putting your radio at near your portable antenna and then take your laptop to a comfortable rock or picnic table.   This way you can minimize feedlines which takes up more space and weight in your pack, if you are interested in portable operations and are not afraid of short range wireless signals

You can create a point to point Wi-Fi access point (AP) with the Icom IC-705 to connect your laptop to without the need of the internet for this type of use which is very nice.

Alternatively, if you do have internet access and wish to share your IC-705 over the "world wide web" from the field, you can do that instead by changing from AP mode to a regular Wi-Fi profile. 

If you are in the field, allowing the IC-705 to connect to a broadband hotspot or possibly an AREDN mesh network is possible.  You still need to use the Icom RS-BA1 software for this to work.

A second option, not requiring the expensive Icom software is brought to us by Norbert Varga and team via a workaround that can run on a Raspberry Pi and act as a form of  a "man in the middle" server that will bridge a computer and the IC-705 over Wi-Fi to make a server.  This may require some advanced setup to get it working if you are not very skilled with Linux. 

A link to this software and instructions are here:

While this works great, I would not recommend this if your goal is less complexity in a field environment since it means transporting a raspberry pi and power source for it which if bought new, getting the Icom RS-BA1 software may be a better long term solution. 

A third solution is the very excellent Win4IcomSuite by VA2FSQ. His software is less than half the cost of the Icom RS-BA1 and offers nearly all the same functions but also allows for better integration with other software such as digital mode or satellite related programs. This may appeal to those who do NOT want the Raspberry Pi solution complexity.

Summary:  Case closed?

Everyone has an opinion and I am not claiming this is a perfect solution for everyone, but it does offer complete protection of your expensive radio and offers the ability to use it in the field with a good degree of safety.  

Here is a list of things mentioned in this article if you wish to buy it all from Amazon Smile, which a tiny part of proceeds benefits the Overlook Mountain Amateur Radio Club.

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