Carry bag for Yaesu FT-817/818

I have been looking here in England for a small carry bag for my Yaesu FT-817 which is also big enough to hold an iPad, phone, waterproof jacket, sunglasses, water bottle or hydration pack, torch etc., but not so large as a normal daysack or rucksack.

I have now found the perfect bag available in a range of colours from Black, Khaki and camouflaged and configureable as either an over the shoulder sling bag or by moving the supplied straps as a small backpack.

Runature MOLLE sling bag

The rear pocket is padded and it is into this that the Yaesu FT-817 fits perfectly.


Posted in Amateur Radio

Correctly reporting VHF Propagation type on DXcluster spots

The 2019 Sporadic-E season (April to August) on the VHF bands 50 MHz and above has begun here in the Northern Hemisphere and it is generating lots of extra DXcluster spots, which is helping stations to know when and where the Sporadic-E clouds are forming.

Lots of DXcluster spots simply show the callsigns, frequencies, locator squares and mode all of which is somewhat useful, but the best spots also show the Propagation type, for example seen today

DX de PE1BIW 50313.0 LZ2CM JO32BT<ES>KN13OJ 1152Z

In this example the <ES> denotes Sporadic-E as the Propagation type and this information is used to generate E-mail alerts notifying subscribed Radio Amateurs of the ES opening and Live MUF software average MUF maps and alerts. This is great and very useful in particular for the rarer 144 MHz short lived openings each year.

However the problem is where Radio Amateurs misidentify the Propagation type or simply spot every contact as ES, I watched incredulously in recent days where the same G station put every 144 MHz QSO down as ES even when they were no more than one locator square distance away and there was no 50 MHz opening at the time. This resulted in false alerts and completely wrecked the MUF map, which then showed false data.

Many of the common VHF propagation types have set characteristics to help identify them, one key example is distance by type. I have therefore created a simple lookup table to quickly see which VHF propagation type/s is/are most likely for the distance of the other station being heard/worked. This shows at a glance if a Propagation mode is impossible and hopefully might assist others to properly report via Dxcluster.

VHF Propagation mode determined by distance between average ground stations
 0-50 km

 50-110 km

Line of Sight (LOS)

LOS plus diffraction

Mountain top stations maximum LOS is 110 km
 110-700 km Tropo Scatter (TRS) The most common VHF propagation medium
 110-500 km (50/144 MHz) Aircraft Scatter (AS) Exceptionally up to 850 km using 10 GHz
 250-1100 km Aurora (AU) Very distinctive with severe audio distortion
 500-2350 km Meteor Scatter (MS)
 200-4700 km Tropo Ducting (TRD) Requires high air pressure and often associated with widespread fog
 500-7000 km (50 MHz)

 Note minimum distance

Sporadic-E (Es) Seasonal April to August in Northern Hemisphere, sometimes confused with extreme Meteor  showers leading to widespread MS up to hours long duration. Triple hop required for maximum distance.
 1400-3600 km (144 MHz)

 Note minimum distance

Sporadic-E (Es) Seasonal April to August in Northern Hemisphere, sometimes confused with extreme Meteor  showers leading to widespread MS up to hours long duration. Must be preceded by widespread Es on lower VHF bands first. Double hop required for maximum distance.


Posted in Amateur Radio

2019 new mobile digital voice modes?

In 2019 I have one amateur radio with a digital voice option rather than analogue capability and that is my Icom IC-7100 used at home with D-Star. On HF I can recall one time having heard another digital voice call and on VHF due to living in a rural mountainous area with few Radio Amateurs I have never heard any D-Star activity yet.

icom ic-7100

My local VHF 2m and 70cm analogue voice repeaters are almost not used by anyone these days, very few calls heard compared to 10 years ago and calling through them results in no answers, they are not linked to the Internet with resistance being very strong to that move from a long time previous repeater keeper.

Most days of the week I go for long walks with my Vizsla dog and always take my handheld radio, but rarely manage to find anyone to talk to which is frustrating. I have read all about competing amateur radio digital voice modes such as D-Star, Fusion and DMR (none being compatible with the others and no agreed standard between the main amateur radio manufacturers) and if I was to change my handheld to one of these it wouldn’t help my personal situation as I appear to be well out of range of any other repeater that might have even one of these modes.

In the last couple of weeks I have discovered ‘Network Radio’ which uses either your esisting Smart Mobile phones, or PTT enabled GPRS Android walkie talkie style mobile phones that look and feel like amateur radios, to link via the mobile cellular telephone 3G or 4G network or Wi-Fi to other radio enthusiasts (licenced or unlicenced) around the World.



Network Radio seems particularly popular and these Android operating system devices can also run other existing Amateur Radio apps such as Echolink too. The primary Network Radio app is called Zello which is free and is very well moderated.

The conversations I have listened to have been of an excellent standard with users being from the UK, USA, South Africa, Europe and Oman heard this morning all speaking in English and whilst you do not need to be a licenced radio amateur to use Zello everyone seems to have either an amateur radio callsign or an allocated Network Radio callsign of NR###. If you wish you can also set up your own additional ‘private’ channels.

Definitely going to give this a go and whilst from home and in town I have access to Wi-Fi I will need to see where I can get unlimited cellular data from when out walking with my dog or mobile in my car.


Posted in Amateur Radio

Number of 70 MHz squares worked in 2018 soars

Well, prior to 2018 I had been struggling to work new Maidenhead grid squares on 70 MHz due to a previous combination of deaf radios for that band and unsuitable antennas.

However, in 2018 in time for the Sporadic-E season I combined an Icom-7100 transceiver with a small 1.2m long quad band vertical colinear (50/70/144/432 MHz).

Despite this new antenna being vertically polarised and with poor performance reviews especially on 144 MHz, and only being mounted at 2m AGL, due to local antenna restrictions, I still managed to increase my 70 MHz grid squares total from a starting measly seven to 38.

My primary communication mode being FT8 for weak signal and automatic signal reception.

My 70 MHz best distance was when working EA7CI in IM77 square at 1,873 km via Sporadic-E propagation.

Countries worked in 2018 were EA, CT, GI, GW, G, 9H1, DL, 9A4, S57, OK, HA, SP & OK

Posted in Amateur Radio

50 MHz The Magic Band defies previously accepted propagation theories

Today, 24th July 2018 at solar cycle 24 minimum the 50 MHz band defied long established propagation theories and observations when the station of Gary Ashdown VK8AW near Darwin, Northern Australia in locator square PH57 worked several stations in Europe and was heard by many more between 0700-0800 UTC. The furthest station received being G3TXF in England, locator square IO71VE at a distance of 14,118 km and -09dB signal strength!

The weak signal FT8 data mode was being used.

This is absolutely remarkable as in all previously published theory and observations 50 MHz Sporadic-E signals usually never exceed 7,000 km by multi hop, and there should be no F2 or TEP propagation, unless at solar cycle maximum, which we most definitely are not.

However it appears these remarkable distances were, after all, likely achieved by a combination of TEP and Sporadic-E.

It seems the very weak signal mode FT8 is now allowing us to transmit and receive signals and achieve distances that only solar cycle maximum previously supported and we were able to detect. The FT8 use of standardised frequencies and automatic decode with internet reporting is greatly assisting detection. This is extremely exciting for pushing the VHF boundaries of this radio hobby and our understanding of propagation.VK8AW 24.07.2018 50 MHz FT8 hrd


Posted in Amateur Radio