Quantcast

HAM Radio anyone?

The Rocketry Forum

Help Support The Rocketry Forum:

Off Grid Gecko

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2020
Messages
275
Reaction score
117
Location
Southern Missouri
While contemplating telemetry and tracking for upcoming builds, I've stumbled over and over on the hurdles of getting a solid radio setup in a small package for a good price. Let's face it, a radio transmitter isn't exactly complicated by today's standards, but to set one up for purpose on a budget, a HAM license seems a necessity.
I have a friend with a HAM who has agreed to help on "the project," but about two weeks ago I decided that I would check into it. To my surprise I found out that:
--No morse code requirement (though I've been learning some for fun now that it isn't required for the License)
--No FCC evaluation. The ham community has volunteers who can administer the test and actually WANT you to get your license. The testing process is much less stressful than in days of yore.
--No need to memorize resistor color bands, IC serial numbers, or transistor types. There is still some technical knowledge needed, but it's much less than I expected. I have a background in physics and I expected much more on electromagnetic field theory and components.
--Cheap to enter. I ordered an HT setup for $45. Not the best, but enough to play on the radio a bit.
--Tons of free study material online. Along with wiki pages for specific topics, I drilled the test questions and watched YouTube vids on the subject matter. Didn't need to buy a book, but it would probably be better for most to have everything in one place, so the books would be a good idea.

Today was test day. I scored 30/35 on the Technician exam and did even better (31/35) on the General. In about 10 days I'll be listed in the FCC database as a General class HAM and I'll get my callsign! Having a good bead on EM theory from my school days helped, but I'm convinced that just about anyone can get their HAM Technician license these days with some time and effort. I didn't believe this for a long time, and always thought you had to have some strong electronics tinkering skills to qualify. At one time I did have resistor codes and IC chips memorized, but that day has long since faded. The test is about $15 and you have to wear a mask.

Overall the whole proceeding was a good experience. I was really nervous about the General because I knew I had 25 questions nailed, but 26 are needed to pass. The first examiner snuck me a thumbs up after passing my test to the next guy. I could feel the tension around me melt away like a foot-thick layer of putty. I thanked them all for volunteering their time to administer tests and came home with my paperwork. Currently in the plan is building a small transmitter from scratch that I can tether to an Arduino circuit to broadcast my callsign, temperature, etc. from the rocket in flight and on the ground as a homing beacon.

Radio makes sense for everything I'm doing right now, rocketry and otherwise. I'm glad I finally cast off the stigma and looked into it. There is still a lot to learn, but I have the freedom to proceed through several stages of radio stuff with little to no red tape, so long as I continue coloring inside the lines.

Any other HAMs around? I know you're out there. I've seen your posts, hehe. I'll be looking for you on the airwaves once I figure out the local repeater network and get some better gear.
For anyone who has the same hang-ups I had about the process. Check it out. Look up Ham Radio 2.0 on YouTube (his vids helped me a lot) and check out the ARRL website.
 

epflyer

Active Member
Joined
Sep 24, 2014
Messages
32
Reaction score
47
Congratulations on your successful journey to ham radio. I am a ham and a volunteer examiner. I encourage everyone to look into becoming a ham. It is not difficult. A technician class license is all that is required for most rocketry, model airplane and drone related radios. Most of the rocket scientists on this forum are smart enough to pass the test by simply studying the question pool. All the questions and answers are available on the ARRL website.
 

OverTheTop

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2007
Messages
4,131
Reaction score
1,344
Location
Melbourne Australia
Congrats on passing, and welcome to HAM radio! Getting rid of the morse requirement made life easier.

I got my advanced ticket about six years ago. VK3TRK, because I track rockets :). It makes things so much easier when you have that ticket.
 

Jmhepworth

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Dec 14, 2012
Messages
491
Reaction score
172
Location
Kaysville, Utah
I got my advanced ticket about six years ago. VK3TRK, because I track rockets :). It makes things so much easier when you have that ticket.
I’ve been satisfied with a technician license. What advantage would the advanced license give me if all I want to do is track rockets? And I can attest to the ease of getting the technician license just by studying the question pool. The primary reason I haven’t tried to get other licenses is that I would actually have to learn something. KG7DNZ
 

Off Grid Gecko

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2020
Messages
275
Reaction score
117
Location
Southern Missouri
Thanks for the congrats everyone. I started looking for maybe an HF rig for the truck or the house. I have lots of room to run a big antenna if I like, but not a lot of money, so we'll see. I imagine the VHF/UHF HT will keep me busy enough for a while, and I can start playing with electronics and build myself some antennas for both regular comms and directional stuff. Should be fun, and electronic components are cheap and fun.
 

OverTheTop

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2007
Messages
4,131
Reaction score
1,344
Location
Melbourne Australia
What advantage would the advanced license give me if all I want to do is track rockets?
When I went for mine I think I needed the advanced in order to be able to use digital transmissions for telemetry. I don't think standard included digital modes. I also figured that as a communications engineer I should be able to pass to the required level. Turned up to one class out of the ten and ended up scoring 94% on the exam. Top of the class. I have been involved with all sorts of radio stuff from CB back in the '70s and radio-based vehicle tracking systems in the 80's, so I sort of know my way around a bit ;).
 

PXR5

Starship Hijacker
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 3, 2015
Messages
1,245
Reaction score
551
Location
Monroe, NC
My license expired many years ago :(
I have thought about getting back into it.

My first contact was Japan!!!
5wpm CW in the 40 metre band
I had a Johnson Viking and an ARC5 receiver.
 

Off Grid Gecko

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2020
Messages
275
Reaction score
117
Location
Southern Missouri
My license expired many years ago :(
I have thought about getting back into it.

My first contact was Japan!!!
5wpm CW in the 40 metre band
I had a Johnson Viking and an ARC5 receiver.
You might be excited to know that even though it's expired, you only need to pass the element 2 exam to get back your prior class. At least that is what I understand from the current training. Even if you were extra, take the tech exam and get your extra license back.
 

hartlch

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2009
Messages
102
Reaction score
10
I’ve been satisfied with a technician license. What advantage would the advanced license give me if all I want to do is track rockets? And I can attest to the ease of getting the technician license just by studying the question pool. The primary reason I haven’t tried to get other licenses is that I would actually have to learn something. KG7DNZ
Note that the OM who mentioned the advanced license is in Australia. Here in the US we don't have an advanced class license any more - just technician, general, and extra. You probably don't need to upgrade if you are only interested in rocket tracking.

73, Chuck / KM3V
 

OverTheTop

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2007
Messages
4,131
Reaction score
1,344
Location
Melbourne Australia
We have foundation, standard and advanced down here. I think digital modes are now permitted in standard, but I would need to look it up to be sure. Not something I need to worry about with an advanced :) .

Interestingly they have just changed the regs so that you can have one three-letter callsign (the "TRK" in mine for example) regardless of which level you are. Previously there was a certain range for foundation, and other sub-ranges for things like scouts/rovers (S?? triplet). Now whichever level you can get any three letters that are available. This makes sense if you move say from foundation to advanced and you can keep the same callsign. Not sure if the R?? triplet is still for repeaters. I suspect so but don't know for sure.

VK3TRK
 

John Kemker

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Aug 25, 2019
Messages
1,534
Reaction score
648
Welcome to Ham radio! My journey started back in the 70s with an Elmer in Houston, but I didn't follow through and get my ticket, then. Instead, when I was prefect of TARA, a ham donated an ATV transmitter to the club for a club project (Pritchett's Pride) and one of the members held a ham radio class. Got my Technician, shortly upgraded to Tech Plus, then when they dropped the code requirement, got General and later upgraded to Extra. Have enjoyed it immensely!

73 de W5NNH
 

PXR5

Starship Hijacker
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 3, 2015
Messages
1,245
Reaction score
551
Location
Monroe, NC
Does the Tech class now offer AM/SSB on the HF bands or just the upper ones?

I was never really interested in VHF/UHF, well maybe Six metres, I was fixing up a Heathkit Sixer :)
 

John Kemker

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Aug 25, 2019
Messages
1,534
Reaction score
648
Does the Tech class now offer AM/SSB on the HF bands or just the upper ones?

I was never really interested in VHF/UHF, well maybe Six metres, I was fixing up a Heathkit Sixer :)
Tech has limited access to phone on 10 meters. Take the General. It's really not that difficult, if you've passed Technician. Then you get phone and data privileges on all the HF bands.
 

PXR5

Starship Hijacker
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 3, 2015
Messages
1,245
Reaction score
551
Location
Monroe, NC
Tech has limited access to phone on 10 meters. Take the General. It's really not that difficult, if you've passed Technician. Then you get phone and data privileges on all the HF bands.
Thanks, my theory is solid, it's the CW that's lacking
 

Kelly

Usually remembers to get the pointy end up
Joined
Apr 26, 2010
Messages
312
Reaction score
167
Location
Oregon
My Dad, and Grandpa, were hams. I saw all the equipment in the basement and was intrigued by it, so I studied theory and code to get my novice license when I was 12. My dad was inactive, though, and was never able to get a transmitter running when I was ready to take the test, so I never did. Skip forward about 40 years, and I got the license mostly for use in hobbies such as rocketry. Took my Dad's callsign as tribute to him.
My son passed his technician test at age 14, just by studying the online guides. So, yeah, if he could do it, virtually anyone reading this board ought to be able to. We find the HT's to be very useful communication devices, as many of the areas we frequent are out of cell tower range.
 

russell_t

Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2019
Messages
15
Reaction score
37
Location
Salem, VA
Passed my Novice exams in 1976, then on to Technician and General class. My interest in the hobby waned for a few years until I found that my license was in the grace period of expiration and I quickly renewed. Advanced class since the early 90's, which is grandfathered. Digital modes (such as PSK31) kept me more active in the years that followed. Working the Canary Islands on 6 meters on my 50th birthday was an enjoyable present.
73 de WB4OFN
 

ether

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Oct 22, 2019
Messages
110
Reaction score
57
Any recommendation on which study guide, find a couple listed on amazon
 

epflyer

Active Member
Joined
Sep 24, 2014
Messages
32
Reaction score
47
Great thread, you guys are motivating me :)
You can have your previous license level restored.
If you pass the technician level test and you can show proof that your expired license was a higher level. Your new license will be at the previous level. Be sure to take copies that you can leave with the examiners.

Do it it's easy.
 

OverTheTop

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2007
Messages
4,131
Reaction score
1,344
Location
Melbourne Australia
I just read through the "500 Questions for AOCP Candidates" and "1000 Questions for AOCP Candidates". That let me figure where any holes in my knowledge were.

Not sure how they translate to the USA requirements. I suspect the ARRL have suitable material too.
 

PXR5

Starship Hijacker
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 3, 2015
Messages
1,245
Reaction score
551
Location
Monroe, NC
You can have your previous license level restored.
If you pass the technician level test and you can show proof that your expired license was a higher level. Your new license will be at the previous level. Be sure to take copies that you can leave with the examiners.

Do it it's easy.
Sadly I don't have any copies of my license nor do I even remember my call sign :(
 

Off Grid Gecko

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2020
Messages
275
Reaction score
117
Location
Southern Missouri
Sadly I don't have any copies of my license nor do I even remember my call sign :(
That could be an ouch. You might be able to find yourself in the FCC database. I couldn't locate my dad in there (passed a few years ago and was a HAM way back when I was knee-high to a cockroach). Either way, if you know your way around a radio, the testing is easy now. All of the possible test questions are available from ARRL, and it includes how many are used from each group on the test, so you can break it down segment by segment as far as what you need to really buckle down on. As a physics guy, I didn't pay much attention to the Ohm's Law questions, for instance.
Also, in reference to something else you posted, there is no Morse code requirement. The FCC abolished the requirement, it no longer exists.

ether: The ARRL has a study guide that they recommend, make sure you get the current version as it will have the most recently updated test questions and answers. There are several videos on YouTube, as well as a few sites that offer practice exams (Just Google "HAM license practice exam"). You can also find local testing sites and dates on the ARRL website. I had to drive 2-1/2 hours to mine, hopefully you have better luck.
 

dinoburb

Active Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Dec 30, 2005
Messages
42
Reaction score
18
And as a note, during the current medical unpleasantness, online testing is now happening. No travel at all!
 

John Kemker

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Aug 25, 2019
Messages
1,534
Reaction score
648
I already know the history of my callsign:

Issued to my Great-Uncle David Kemker when he was living in Metairie, Louisiana. He kept it until he moved out of the area to Tennessee, whereupon he was issued K4IND. I picked up W5NNH when contacting Dave's son to get information to prove that Dave had passed so I could get K4IND as a vanity call. His son told me about the original callsign and a funny story about a ham operator driving through Mexico talking on his mobile rig (this was in the late 1940s) with a petite XYL, my Great-Aunt Julia, in the front and three young boys in the back. How the Federales stopped them to find out what the Norde Americano was doing talking on a radio in Mexico, neither side speaking much of the other's language.

Great-Aunt Julia's old callsign is currently held by my eldest daughter.
 

JohnCoker

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2013
Messages
1,774
Reaction score
435
Quite a few of us got our Technician licenses when venturing into telemetry and RDF for rocketry. (Me when the BigRedBee came out and you needed a ham license.) I have yet to talk to anyone by radio, other than using the FRS bands at 5W at launches with an HT.
 
Top