Ham Radio License

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dford

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I just picked up level one last weekend. I realized even on an H that level two and for sure level three I am more than likely going to want some tracking. After all, in order to actually become certified the rocket has to come back fly-able with no major repair. Which means it can't get lost, right?

I'm wondering how many, if any, of you rocketeers out there have a Ham license and utilize it in rockets? Is it super better than non license GPS tracking device?
What are some of the benefits?

If I were to get a license before my L2 attempt I would for sure just go for it on a larger K motor.
 

Worsaer

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I went through a lot of effort to obtain my ham license, and in all honesty, I didn't need it. There are some excellent 900 mhz tracking systems that are hard to beat.

They can be found on both ends of the price spectrum, and each have their advantages. I own both, and am very pleased with them. I also own two 70cm BRB GPS systems.

www.eggtimerrocketry.com
realflightsystems.com
 

JToddK

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There are a few systems that work well that do not require the Ham license. That being said, it is worthwhile to get the Ham license as it opens up many options. The more powerful systems that work on the Ham bands like the Altus Metrum and the BRB 70cm have real advantages in real world scenarios.

I used https://www.hamradiolicenseexam.com/ to study for the test. I spent about 12 hours total studying and aced the test. It made it pretty easy. $25 for study plus $15 for the test. Good $40 spent.

Necessary, no, worthwhile, yes.

Todd Knight
TRA #9355
 

BrAdam

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Got mine for same reason. I run BRB. Used Ham Tech app by James Thomas. Works great and super cheap.
 

cerving

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A Ham license is a good thing to get if you're gonna do tracking, if for no other reason than going through the book is going to give you a good background on how radio systems work. You'll get some insight into things like "Can I put the antenna next to metal allthreads?) and "What kind of antenna should I be using?".
 

Danh

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I used https://www.hamradiolicenseexam.com/ to study for the test. I spent about 12 hours total studying and aced the test. It made it pretty easy. $25 for study plus $15 for the test. Good $40 spent.

Necessary, no, worthwhile, yes.

Todd Knight
TRA #9355
+1 for hamradioexam.com
 

watermelonman

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I strongly recommend a license even if you stick to unlicensed frequencies for tracking.

You might have a ton of fun with it!
 

Cl(VII)

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I listened to the below (free, entire series on that youtube channel) series a couple times while I was working, and ended up with a perfect on the test. Getting your license is very little investment for the flexibility it provides.

[video=youtube;mvPVrfoKK0o]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvPVrfoKK0o&list=PL04E03D027A1CC8CB"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvPVrfoKK0o&list=PL04E03D027A1CC8CB[/video]
 

pondman

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There are a few systems that work well that do not require the Ham license. That being said, it is worthwhile to get the Ham license as it opens up many options. The more powerful systems that work on the Ham bands like the Altus Metrum and the BRB 70cm have real advantages in real world scenarios.

I used https://www.hamradiolicenseexam.com/ to study for the test. I spent about 12 hours total studying and aced the test. It made it pretty easy. $25 for study plus $15 for the test. Good $40 spent.

Necessary, no, worthwhile, yes.

Todd Knight
TRA #9355
Welcome Dr. Knight and congratulations! Good to see you on the forum......
 

PropellantHead

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If you get your license, be careful!

I got my license a little over 2 years ago for the purpose of buying the big Altus Metrum package. I never intended to do *anything* else related to ham radio. I got my technician license and someone talked me into buying a cheap little $35 BaoFeng handheld transceiver that covered the 2m & 440 bands. I figured even if I didn't do much with it, I could at least get my $35 worth. It was fun but...I wanted a bit more range... so I bought a J-pole antenna kit, some coax and the some rope to hang it from a high tree limb. Better! But not great. Then I got a small 2m amplifier. Better!

Then I bought a Yaesu 50w mobile 2m rig to use as a 'base' station as well as a 23amp Samlex power supply for it. Awesome!

Then I bought a magnet-mount mobile antenna to use with my Baofeng while driving.

Shortly after that, I won a G5RV dipole antenna in a raffle. Uh-oh.

These are worthless without an HF radio, which I couldn't use (except for a small part of one frequency band) since I didn't have my General license.

So then I got my GENERAL ham license.

Then I bought a Yaesu FT-450D HF transceiver, plus a nice LDG antenna tuner & a new 30 amp power supply.

Aaaaaand crap!!! I needed another expensive hobby like I needed another nozzle in my head!

IT'S NEVER GOING TO END!!!

ps- I never bought that Altus Metrum package. :facepalm:
 

grouch

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I have a tech and use the privileges every time I fly. Personally I enjoy RDF tracking as much as I like flying rockets. It's a good skill to develop.
 

dford

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Going ham. Lets see if I can get it all done and ready for my birthday. OctOber 3rd, Roctober, October 8th.
 
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ksaves2

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The app is super cheap or the Big Red? I noticed big red to be 200 and up? (Tx+Rx)

Sounds like I'm probably going to want a license. I'm planning on being in the hobby for a while. It seems like from what is being said it would be worth it.
I suppose I'd want to get my license before asking prices. But, what range are we talking here? Say I wanted to license, first buy would be.....?
I feel like GPS without ham would cost more in the long run. Plus with Ham I can actually use it for radio purposes also.
GPS without Ham license can be economically cheaper if one can construct and use the EggFinder products. Nine years ago when I sat for a Tech and General ticket at one time, APRS was the only economical situation and then for a mapping solution it
was pretty close to $1000.00 for a setup. Kenwood D7A(g), charger (they're extra) a Garmin 60Cs handheld mapping GPS and Beeline GPS tracker. There were some Byonics 2 meter band trackers that required some serious cobbling together if one
wanted to fly one. The unlicensed setup for an ARTS 2 I think was pushing $1500.00. I'll echo all what's been said of the knowledge that can be gained by studying for a Ham license(s).

Range? Read about it here: https://www.jcrocket.com/gps-tracking.shtml The page is dated but the basics about GPS tracking ring true. In a nutshell, the Ham bands carry farther 2m > 70cm > 33cm (ie 900Mhz) with the caveat that power output and
antenna efficiency on the transmit and receive ends factor in also. Does one need "all that power"? Weeelllllll, antenna height above the ground is one advantage one has with rocket flights! You get that last position packet while the rocket is 50 to 100 feet up in the air and it's probably going to touchdown nearby. Who cares if they can't keep receiving positions while it's down? As long as the wind is not blowing it away, ones receive station will get them to the "last known position" and that my friends is going to likely be within the ground radio footprint of the tracker. If one doesn't see the rocket by then, they'll be receiving fresh position packets/sentences.

Power? Hmmmm, Byonics had some 8 watt trackers available for awhile on a single board. Is that better? Given one's rocket could haul up the big battery it would take to feed such a beast the limiting factor is ones deployment electronics. Rf can dork
the altimeters. They can fire on the pad, they can fire on ascent, they might reset at an awkward time or not fire charges at all. Example here with a 2 watt Garmin GPS Dog tracker:

OMGa.jpgOMG2.jpgOMG5 (1).jpg

That was 16 foot tall, 12 inch diameter project that went in completely ballistic. Dog tracker locked up both altimeters probably after everyone left the pads. Telescoped into the ground and took a backhoe to dig up. Flier told me landowner had the backhoe and when they got up 5 feet of the rocket pieces, rest of the rocket was deep enough it didn't bother him. R.I.P. That wasn't my project but I was bit by Rf early in some small projects with
an apogee on ascent and deployment on the pad with some rockets.

Bottom line is test an installation or talk to people who fly the same equipment. Reality check: The lower powered Beeline GPS flies perfectly fine with a RavenII/III sitting right next to it with the antenna poking through the forward bulkhead.

Most economical unlicensed situation but ya haf' ta build it yourself or have some else build it for you: EggFinder tracker or TRS with an LCD receiver with an HC-06 BT module one gets off of Ebay.
The Android program GPS Rocket Locator now has an offline map download feature one can get some maps and carry them out to the field on their device. No phone or internet service needed. Opens up using
any Android device and not necessarily a phone. Pair with the EggFinder LCD that has the HC-06 and get ready for some "fun" tracking. I use a Nexus 7 2013. Another "pearl" the bigger the screen, the easier it is
to "see". See the comment on the "box" below too.

Ham Radio APRS? Of course Greg Clark's Beeline GPS trackers for a pure tracker or Altus Metrums Tele-GPS or their GPS deployment altimeters. Power? If one is a sport flier stick with 16mW. No need to go higher power.
If going with higher power, better to do a ground test with contained, bare ematches, turn everything on with the rocket in the upright launching position and let it run for an hour. This is more important if the deployment
electronics are going to be sitting in the Rf field. If going with a nosecone mounted tracker, with the electronics in an aft ebay a distance away like in a conventional DD, much less likely to be a problem.
16mW in the nose? I doubt there will be an issue but the AIM III altimeter (not the Extra) specifically stated in their instructions their altimeter doesn't work well with Rf trackers. I fly mine in projects that don't need Rf trackers.
Mapping solutions? There are a variety of APRS programs that will run on a laptop and tablets. Trust me. Some of these new, cheap tablets are good for portable use but put a matted screen protector on them and put' em
inside a box the inside of which is painted flat black. You'll be able to see the screen better in the sun light. Oh, it's hard to run around the field tracking with a laptop. Best for recording a flight from a stationary position if desired. UI-View can "record" a flight
in real time for saving and later "playback". Kinda neat. Oh, bring a hand held mouse. Winblows tablets aren't as nice as Android stuff. APRS Droid is possible software on Android with a Bluetooth TNC like a Mobilinkd:
https://www.mobilinkd.com/
As far as Ham Handi-talkies go, you take your chances with the cheap Chinese radios these days. I've seen some folks have a heck of a time getting them to receive APRS packets intact to allow an outboard TNC to decode them properly at fringe ranges so beware. I use a TH-F6A with a Mobilinkd along with a D72A. The F6A has the potential to work on the B band with the Com-Spec RDF stuff but I've never been able to do a side by side test with a native receiver.

Kurt Savegnago
 
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JToddK

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Going ham. Lets see if I can get it all done and ready for my birthday. OctOber 3rd, Roctober, October 8th.
dford,

The advice I got and turned out to be correct was don't drag out studying. You will spend a lot of time having to relearn the material. I did the online training and spent 5-6 days cramming it in my head. Did a few practice tests the afternoon before the test and knew I was all good.

Don't drag it out over 2 months. Find a date within the next 2-3 weeks that they are giving the test close to you and commit to getting it done then. It will focus you on the task at hand and give you a deadline. Spend an hour studying each day (about 10-12 hours total) and don't take any practice tests until a day or two before actual test, you will be shocked at how well you do.

Todd Knight
TRA #9355
 

dford

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dford,

The advice I got and turned out to be correct was don't drag out studying. You will spend a lot of time having to relearn the material. I did the online training and spent 5-6 days cramming it in my head. Did a few practice tests the afternoon before the test and knew I was all good.

Don't drag it out over 2 months. Find a date within the next 2-3 weeks that they are giving the test close to you and commit to getting it done then. It will focus you on the task at hand and give you a deadline. Spend an hour studying each day (about 10-12 hours total) and don't take any practice tests until a day or two before actual test, you will be shocked at how well you do.

Todd Knight
TRA #9355
Solid advice. That is good news because my intention was to take the test as soon as the next availabe date to get my paperwork mailed and back in time to order a tracker and install it by the beginning of October. I know I'm pushing it, but why not try. There will always be another time if I don't get everything I need in time.

I like your thinking.
 

timbucktoo

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Instead of the regularly scheduled tests in your area, I was able to take it at someone's home at my convenience. I just searched this website, https://www.w5yi.org/exam_locations_ama.php and found someone local and they offered me the exam the next weekend. It's worth a shot if you want to get it out of the way before a local club offers it in your area!
 
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