Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Zach R., who shares the following guest post:
A review of the outdoor Planespotter antenna prototype
When it comes to airband monitoring, the stock whip antennas that ship with desktop and portable scanners are not the greatest. They’re fine if you’re at an airport and only interested in communications specific to your immediate area, but if you are someone like me who lives well out from any major airport, quality listening in can be impossible without some help in the antenna department.
Ideally, you want something like a discone or similar for omnidirectional listening, mounted as high as possible. This is not always possible or practical, however. SWLing Post contributor Ron recently reviewed the indoor Planespotter antenna, and I have one as well that works better than any rubber ducky, and can be easily hidden away when company comes.
Recently, the creator has come out with a prototype outdoor model. It’s the same design as the indoor unit, but with a longer run (25 feet) of coax, terminating in a BNC connector.
Besides the longer cable, the only other obvious change is the antenna is house in a skinnier PVC tube from the indoor model. It’s also sealed at the bottom so moisture won’t get in.
It has the same small metal hook on top, suitable from hanging from various mounts. I’d like more mounting options, but the hook does make for quick installation and removal. The half-wave length isn’t ungainly to handle and if painted it could easily be mounted on the side of a home without many people noticing.
The indoor version definitely works best on the VHF air band and seems to roll off aggressively above and below that band. The outdoor version, in side-by-side tests, seemed to perform the same on the air band but notably better on the VHF public safety band. It also pulled in more UHF air band traffic than the indoor model, despite being basically the same design.
The new outdoor version is a good choice for someone looking for a simple, already assembled antenna that’s suitable for temporary use or stealth mounting.
Disclosure: The outdoor prototype was supplied to me for free in exchange for a review. While taking more photos of the antenna I noticed the weatherproofing had come undone from the bottom. Hopefully this issue can be addressed before the antenna goes into production.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ron, who writes:
If you like monitoring the VHF airband then this antenna might interest you.It is a half-wave dipole cut for the middle of the band. (Recall that half wave vertical dipoles do not need ground radials.)
It is very well built and pretty rugged but is not meant for outdoor use.
How well does it perform? That depends on several things…how far you are from your airport? What is the “lay of the land” where you live? Etc.
Does it work better than the supplied telescoping antenna that came with your scanner?
And you will also notice an improvement in comms from aircraft in flight, too.
I had hoped to hear the ATIS and VOR from my local airport but they are too far away (20 miles).
In addition, the eBay seller (and builder) is also very pleasant to deal with.
Cumulus publishes analysis to counter prevailing sentiments about AM and radio in general
“Ford owners are massive users of AM radio.”
So writes Pierre Bouvard, chief insights office of Cumulus Media, citing data from MRI Simmons.
That is but one of his observations as Cumulus Media/Westwood One released an analysis of listening data from sources that also include the Nielsen fall 2022 survey, Edison Research’s “Share of Ear” and research by Advertiser Perceptions.
Bouvard regularly posts about the power of radio and what he calls misperceptions about the medium among the broader marketing community.
He summarized takeaways from the new Cumulus analysis:
“The Nielsen Fall 2022 survey reveals that 82,346,800 Americans listen to AM radio monthly; 57% of the AM radio audience listens to news/talk stations, the very outlets that Americans turn to in times of crisis and breaking local news; and one out of three American AM/FM radio listeners are reached monthly by AM radio,” he wrote. [Continue reading…]
“Some clouds over the city right now. I’m Paul Murnane,” says a familiar voice.
“I’m Wayne Cabot,” says another.
Few would know their faces. But as names, they’re as recognizable as anyone in New York.
Fewer still could tell you their address — an 11th floor studio in a light-brick high-rise in lower Manhattan, between a Chase bank branch and patisserie named Maman.
But hundreds of thousands know where to find them on the AM dial — right between 820 WNYC (“public affairs”) and 930 WPAT (“multi-ethnic”). That, for 56 years, has been the location of WCBS Newsradio 880 — one of those rare unchanging institutions in a changeable city. [Continue reading…]
GENEVA — The voices sound like well-known personalities, the music features trendy dance beats and hip-hop syncopations, and the jokes and laughter are contagious. But listeners of an offbeat Swiss public radio station repeatedly got the message on Thursday: Today’s programming is brought to you by Artificial Intelligence.
Three months in the making, the French-language station Couleur 3 (Color 3) is touting a one-day experiment using cloned voices of five real, human presenters — in what managers claim is a world first — and never-aired-before music composed almost entirely by computers, not people. From 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., the station said, AI controlled its airwaves. Every 20 minutes, listeners got a reminder. Continue reading →
EC-130J Photo By Staff Sgt. Tony Harp | An EC-130J Commando Solo aircraft from the 193rd Special Operations Wing performs a flyover during Community Days at the Lancaster Airport in Lititz, Pennsylvania, Sept.17, 2022. (Source: DVIDS)
Radio Waves: Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio
Welcome to the SWLing Post’sRadio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!
Built using open tools and readied for manufacturing at SkyWater using the Efabless platform, the chip on this SDR is something special.
New Hampshire-based RadioStack is looking to launch a piece of amateur radio equipment with a difference: the Maverick-603 is powered by free and open source silicon, built using the Efabless platform at a SkyWater fab.
“Maverick-603 is the first affordable FT8 receiver board built around an RF receiver chip that was designed using fully open source tools and fabrication,” its creators explain. “It is capable of acquiring FT8 signals between 7MHz and 70MHz. With this frequency range, you will be able to receive signals from around the world with high accuracy. The use of our Low Noise Amplifier (LNA) will also give the chip the ability to amplify very low-strength signals, which is necessary for an effective FT8 receiver.” [Continue reading…]
MIDDLETOWN, PA, UNITED STATES
Story by Master Sgt. Alexander Farver
193rd Special Operations Wing
Airmen from the 193rd Special Operations Wing here, who operate the only flying military radio and TV broadcast platform in the U.S. military, transmitted their final broadcast today to spectators at the Community Days Air Show at Lancaster Airport, Lititz, Pa., bringing to close a 54-year chapter in unit history.
The EC-130J Commando Solo mission has helped keep this Air National Guard unit’s aircraft and its Airmen at the tip of spear for nearly every major U.S. military operation since the Vietnam War. Before bombs dropped or troops deployed in the Global War on Terror following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, this specially modified aircraft was already over the skies of Afghanistan broadcasting to America’s enemies that the U.S. military was bringing the fight to them.
“Any world event or crisis that our military has responded to in recent history, our 193rd Airmen – and Commando Solo – were likely key components in that response,” said Col. Eric McKissick, 193rd SOW vice commander. “As we prepare to open a new chapter in our history, we thank those who have enabled us to be among the very best wings in the Air National Guard.”
The genesis for this airborne information operations platform can be traced back to 1968 when the 193rd Tactical Electronics Warfare Group received its first aircraft, called the EC-121 Coronet Solo. In the late 1970s, the aircraft were replaced by the EC-130E before finally being replaced by the current aircraft in 2003. Throughout its history, it was instrumental in the success of coordinated military information support operations, earning the wing the moniker of “the most deployed unit in the Air National Guard.”
These deployments included: Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operations Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector in Libya, Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Resolute Support/Freedom’s Sentinel, Operation Secure Tomorrow and Operation Unified Response in Haiti.
Although this unique mission has earned the wing many prestigious accolades, Lt. Col. Michael Hackman, 193rd Special Operations Squadron commander, believes the mission’s success and legacy lies in winning the hearts and minds of adversaries and providing vital information to allies, refugees and victims in times of crisis.
“This capability has been an essential tool in our nation’s inventory, from the battlefields to assisting hurricane and earthquake-ravaged nations,” Hackman said. “During this time, thousands of Pennsylvania Air National Guard volunteers fulfilled their call to duty in this unique capacity, leveraging this capability against U.S. adversaries and supporting allies while always fulfilling the unit tenet of ‘Never Seen, Always Heard.’”
Aside from sporting an impressive operational record, the aircraft holds another distinction with having completed over 226,000 hours of accident-free flying.
“Having that many thousands of hours of accident-free flying is a testament to the excellence of our maintainers, to the operators and anybody who has touched that aircraft. Thank you for leaving that foundation and setting that example that we’re building from,” said Col. Jaime Ramirez, 193rd Special Operations Maintenance Group commander.
McKissick believes the success of the 193rd in operating the Commando Solo mission over the past few decades has led to Air Force Special Operations Command selecting the wing to be the first and only ANG unit to operate the MC-130J Commando II. The Commando II flies clandestine, or low visibility, single or multiship, low-level infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces, by airdrop or airland and air refueling missions for special operations helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft, intruding politically sensitive or hostile territories.
“Today we honor the men and women, past and present, who have served this unit and mission with unparalleled distinction,” said McKissick. “The Airmen who came before us created an enduring culture and spirit of hard work, innovation and grit. We thank them for that, and we will do our best to carry this forward.”
The final broadcast of the EC-130J was transmitted to the ground and played at the Community Days Air Show at Lancaster Airport. In the transmission, the wing thanked the local community for their support over the past 54 years before broadcasting the Santo and Johnny song, “Sleepwalk.” The transmission ended with the phrase, “Commando Solo, music off.” [Read the full article here…]
The South Eastern Amateur Radio Group (EI2WRC) will be active from The Waterford and Suir Valley Railway station Kilmeaden, Co. Waterford for the ‘Railways On The Air‘ event on Sunday, the 25th of September.
WSVR is a community heritage project. The project has enabled the magic of rails golden age to be brought to life in Kilmeaden. A heritage narrow gauge railway runs along 17 kilometres of the abandoned Waterford to Dungarvan line.
The South Eastern Amateur Radio Group would like to thank the manager Maria Kyte and all the staff of The Waterford and Suir Valley Railway for all their help and allowing us access to the station to do this event again this year. For more information about the WSVR please see www.wsvrailway.ie .
The September meeting of the South Eastern Amateur Radio Group EI2WRC will take place on Monday, the 26th of September 2022 at 8.00 p.m. sharp at The Sweep Bar, Adamstown, Kilmeaden, Co. Waterford, Eircode X91 H588. New members or anyone interested in learning more about amateur radio or the group are as always very welcome to attend.
For anyone that wishes to find out more about the South Eastern Amateur Radio Group and their activities you can drop them an email to southeasternarg /at/ gmail.com or please feel free to go along to any of their meetings. You can check their website www.searg.ie and you can also join them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.
How did NASA communicate with the Apollo astronauts, hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth? The premodulation processor1 (below) was the heart of the communication system onboard the Apollo spacecraft. Its multiple functions included an FM radio for communication to the astronauts, implemented by the Voice Detector, the module second from the top. In this blog post, I reverse-engineer the circuitry for that module and explain how it worked.
The Apollo communication system was complex and full of redundancy. Most communication took place over a high-frequency radio link that supported audio, telemetry, scientific data, and television images.2 NASA’s massive 85-foot dish antennas transmitted signals to the spacecraft at 2106.4 megahertz, an S-band frequency, giving the system the name “Unified S-Band”. These radio signals were encoded using phase modulation;3 onboard the spacecraft, a complex box called the transponder received the S-band signal and demodulated it.4
The voice and data signals from Earth were combined through a second layer of modulation: voice was frequency-modulated (FM) onto a 30-kilohertz subcarrier while data was on a 70-kilohertz subcarrier, so the two signals wouldn’t conflict.5 One of the tasks of the premodulation processor was to extract the voice and data signals from the transponder’s output. These voice signals went to yet another box, the Audio Center Equipment, so the astronauts could hear the messages from the ground. The data signals were decoded by the Up-Data Link, allowing NASA to send commands to the Apollo Guidance Computer, control onboard relays, or set the spacecraft’s clock.
Many systems worked together for communication, but I’m focusing on a single module: the voice detector inside the premodulation processor that performed the FM demodulation. [Continue reading the full article…]
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Markku Koskinen, who shares the following announcement from NAV CANADA:
NAVAID Modernization Program – Phase 6 National
NAV CANADA, the country’s provider of civil air navigation services, conducted an aeronautical study that reviewed the requirement for Non-Directional Beacons (NDBs) and Very-High Frequency Omnidirectional Rangefinders (VORs).
The study concluded that given the comprehensive radar surveillance coverage, and the propensity of area navigation (RNAV) with GNSS equipped aircraft, many navigation aids (NAVAIDS) are no longer required and should be decommissioned.
Where a current NAVAID identified in the study serves as an instrument approach aid or anchors an airway segment, NAV CANADA will ensure that a RNAV (GNSS) instrument approach procedure or RNAV airway segment is published, where required, before removal of the identified NAVAID.
Implementation is ongoing and will progress for the next several years. The sixth phase is represented below. Subsequent Notices of Change will be published for each upcoming phase.
Indicator – NAVAID Facility Name
YEA – Empress VOR
XD – Edmonton/Blatchford NDB
YHK – Gjoa Haven NDB
NL – St. John’s/Signal Hill NDB
ML – Charlevoix NDB
YPH – Inukjuak NDB
YKG – Kangiqsujuaq NDB
YXK – Rimouski NDB
YMU – Umiujaq NDB
YRR – Ottawa/Greely NDB
UL – Montreal NDB
OU – Quebec/Ste-Foy NDB
YLQ – La Tuque NDB
UFX – Lourdes-de-Joliette/St-Felix-de-Valois NDB
NM – Matagami NDB
YLA – Aupaluk NDB
VLV – St-Georges/Beauce VOR
YZA – Ashcroft NDB
LU – Abbotsford/Cultus NDB
QQ – Comox NDB
IB – Atikokan NDB
VC – La Ronge NDB
ZHD – Dryden/Barclay NDB
YL – Lynn Lake NDB
QW – North Battleford NDB
TH – Thompson NDB
ZTH – Thompson/Headframe NDB
BY – Beechy NDB
QN – Nakina NDB
YSB – Sudbury VOR
ZSB – Sudbury/Noranda NDB
YXI – Killaloe VOR
YSO – Simcoe/Lindsay (Kawartha Lakes) VOR
This change will take effect August 12, 2021 at 0901 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The appropriate aeronautical publications will be amended.
Radio Waves: Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio
Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers. To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’sRadio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Michael Bird, Seyfi Genç, and London Shortwave for the following tips:
When you’re in a sealed, pressurised tube five miles above the ground, being able to communicate effectively is essential. In the early days of aviation, flags and light signals were used before designers were able to fit basic radio equipment into aircraft.
Modern aircraft now have an array of communication devices from the rudimentary HF radios of old to sophisticated satellite-based systems that enable us to talk almost as if we were on a mobile phone.
[…]The most common form of communication in aviation, very high frequency (VHF) radio calls are what we use for around 95% of our communications with ATC. In simplified terms, the transmitting station sends a signal that travels in a straight line and is picked up by the receiving station.
VHF comms provide clear voice communications. However, as the radio signals travel in straight lines, they are limited by the curvature of the earth and objects that they may come into contact with, such as hills and mountains.
The distance which a VHF signal can travel depends on both the height from which the signal is sent and the height of the receiving station. If both the sender and the receiver are on the ground, the distance will be relatively small. If both stations are in the air, the distance the signals can travel is much further.[…]
As the Bushfire Royal Commission continues, the ABC has released independent research that shows Australians turned to the national broadcaster in record numbers during the recent bushfire crisis.
The research shows that the ABC was the most trusted information source during the fires and that lives were saved as a result of people acting on information the ABC provided.
At the height of the bushfire crisis (31 December-14 January) ABC Sydney and ABC NSW local radio produced 296 hours of rolling/continuous fire coverage, ABC Gippsland 134 hours, and ABC Melbourne 83 hours.[…]
New Shortwave Forum in Turkey
73 and hello from Shortwave Forum!
A dedicated Facebook and parallel Whatsapp group, to exchange news and info by SWL’s and DX’ers from Turkey, NOW goes wider and more permanent:
In a strange turn of events, a ham radio enthusiast in Gujarat, India falsely claimed to have made contact with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley during their historic journey to the International Space Station last weekend.
Engineer Adhir Saiyadh told the Ahmedabad Mirror he decided to try to connect with the ISS as it sped over India and “coincidentally got connected to their frequency and received a response from one of the commandants of the capsule,” he said.
But NASA says it simply isn’t true.
Behnken and Hurley blasted off from NASA’s historic Launch Complex 39A on Saturday, May 30. After 19 hours in orbit, the astronauts docked with the ISS and reunited with fellow astronaut Chris Cassidy—whose ham call sign is KF5KDR, by the way—and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.
“We did check with SpaceX to confirm that they were not aware of any communication with the astronauts via ham radio, and the crew did not report having received communication,” a NASA spokesperson told Popular Mechanics via email. “We are also under the impression that may be technically impossible for the Crew Dragon to communicate through ham radio.”[…]