Setting up the VX-8GR and TH-D72 for BeeLine GPS

Discussion in 'Rocketry Electronics and Software' started by troj, Nov 25, 2012.

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  1. Nov 25, 2012 #1

    troj

    troj

    troj

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    If you've fiddled with your radio's settings, I'd suggest by starting with a microprocessor reset (page 121 in the manual). Otherwise, you may find yourself chasing your tail on some things -- I once helped someone whose radio was reporting the transmitter as being over a thousand miles away from the radio. Then, I realized he had set the radio to tell the distance from the beacon to GPS coordinates 0,0, which is out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean....

    I'm assuming you're starting from a display similar to what I show here (which matches where you'll start after a microprocessor reset). I'm also assuming you've programmed your callsign into the BeeLine, or verified that it's already there, and that you know what frequency your transmitter is on.

    g1.jpg

    Turn on your BeeLine GPS and stick it somewhere it can get a good GPS signal. If you don't want to place it outside, stick it in a window, and wait 10 or 15 minutes, so it has time to get a GPS lock.

    Turn on your radio, and stick it in the window for about 10 minutes, as well, so it can also get a GPS lock, as well.

    Now, for setup... The -8GR has two receivers; only the second one can be used for APRS. The first thing we want to do is set the frequency for the second receiver to match the transmitter. Press the B button and the lower frequency will become larger, indicating you have the second receiver selected. Then, use the keypad to enter the frequency your transmitter is on. In my case, that's 430.850. I write it on a piece of electrical tape I stick on the transmitter, so I never have to try to remember.

    At this point, you may hear some static, but you should also periodically hear a short squeal -- this is the APRS packets coming from the BeeLine. Annoying, isn't it? Our next order of business will be to turn on APRS Mute, so we don't have to listen to it. :)

    The -8GR has two setting menus. The first is accessible from the main screen, the second (APRS menu) from the GPS screen. We want to get into the APRS menu, so press the Menu button and you should see the GPS screen. If you don't see this screen, keep pressing the Menu button until you do.

    g2.jpg

    Now, press and hold the Menu button to enter the APRS menu. Turn the volume knob until 7 APRS MUTE is selected, and press the Menu button again.

    Rotate the volume knob until "> OFF" changes to "> ON", then press the Menu button again. Now, once we've enabled APRS, the B receiver will be muted. We're not there, yet.

    Rotate the volumn knob until 3 APRS MODEM is selected, and press the Menu button. If you're starting from ground zero, it will display "> OFF". Rotate the volume knob until it displays "> 1200bps", at which point you should hear joyful silence, other than a periodic chime. Press the Menu button again.

    The chime you're hearing is the APRS Ringer. You can leave it on, or turn it off. Personally, I find it annoying. If you want to turn it off, rotate the volume knob until you get to 9 APRS RINGER BCON, then press Menu, rotate the volume knob until "> OFF" is displayed, then press Menu again. Ah, sweet, blissful silence. :)

    To get out of the menu, press the transmit button on the side of the radio. You should be back at the GPS screen. Press Menu once more to go to the Station List.

    g3.jpg

    You should see your callsign at the top of the list. If you don't, you missed a step somewhere, you're on the wrong frequency for your transmitter, or your transmitter isn't configured the way you think it is (check the BeeLine configuration with the BeeLine software).

    To display where the transmitter is relative to your radio, with your callsign selected, press the Band button.

    g4.jpg
    g5.jpg

    This shows distance and bearing from the radio's location to the beacon. It also shows the GPS coordinates, and altitude of the beacon -- use the volume knob to scroll up and down within this display. The altitude is in the Comment Text field and is prefixed with "A=". In my case, it's 1177 feet.

    That's all there is to it.

    At the field, to cycle between displays on the radio, press Menu. Select your callsign and press Band to display distance and bearing to your transmitter.

    Now, go fly a rocket. :)

    -Kevin
     
  2. Nov 25, 2012 #2

    Fdog

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    Thanks, Kevin! My L3 project will be using a BeeLine, and a VX-8GR.

    I was basing my purchasing decisions on faith and a lot of "it works" comments, this makes it much more clear.


    All the best, James
     
  3. Nov 25, 2012 #3

    dixontj93060

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    Wow, thanks! I have been procrastinating on this for a long time...
     
  4. Nov 25, 2012 #4

    gdiscenza

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    Please make this a sticky!
    G.D.
     
  5. Nov 26, 2012 #5

    SSenesy

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    Thanks Kevin!
     
  6. Nov 26, 2012 #6

    MGL

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    Thank you very much. My 8GR will be here Tuesday and I ordered the BRB gps/beacon combo tonight.
     
  7. Nov 27, 2012 #7

    bigredbee

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  8. Dec 6, 2012 #8

    compuvet

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    Kevin:

    LOL I know whose VX-8GR was reporting over a 1,000 miles away. Thanks for the reset and configuration update. VX-8GR is working properly now and has been put to good use several times since LDRS this summer.

    Keep the BRB posts coming. Perhaps something about the different packet formats that the Bee can transmit and how they show up differently on the radios.

    See ya soon.
    Craig
     
  9. Dec 6, 2012 #9

    lkal32

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    I used to use my VX-8GR a good bit, but then it was in storage for a year or so. I took it out for a flight and I had to re-learn all of the steps I once knew. So I made this sheet while I taught myself (again) so I wouldnt have to relearn it a third time.

    Where it says (typically ______________), write in the frequency you use on the Beeline so you have that, and the other blank line is for your callsign (we had a few GPS units in different rockets with a few users, so that was able to change, but yours should be constant).

    Hope it helps.

    PS, you dont have to type in your channel on both A and B, but I do just so I dont hear two stations at once and do something wrong... This sheet is for a no thrills setup but one that I know works. You use it how you like...

    View attachment VX8GR_TrackingInstructionsSheet.pdf
     
  10. Dec 6, 2012 #10

    troj

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    Yeah, that one certainly threw me for a loop! Fortunately, Tim had his radio, so I could compare and figure out which setting was causing that. :)

    Interesting! Now I have some research to do!

    -Kevin
     
  11. Dec 6, 2012 #11

    troj

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    This works, as long as you're not using the radio for some other purpose.

    I'm typically tracking on the B receiver, and using the A receiver to stay in contact with the group I hang out with.

    -Kevin
     
  12. Dec 6, 2012 #12

    butalane

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    Troj,

    Thank you for taking the time to write this up, it was very helpful.
     
  13. Mar 9, 2013 #13

    Fdog

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    Just received my Big Red Bee GPS. Followed your instructions to the letter with my VX-8GR.....

    PERFECT!

    Thank you Kevin, you saved me an afternoon of tinkering and swearing!


    All the best, James
     
  14. Jun 5, 2013 #14

    GregGleason

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    Can someone supply a parts list that one needs to get in addition to the Yaesu HT?

    Greg
     
  15. Jun 5, 2013 #15

    troj

    troj

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    I use an Arrow Antenna Yagi. 5 or 7 element (if you get the 7, get the split boom -- trust me on this); mine is a 7.

    The radios all have SMA connectors, and the Yagi has a BNC. You can use a BNC-SMA adapter, then a BNC-BNC cable. I don't like the bulk, so I bought a cable with an SMA connector on one end and a BNC on the other.

    -Kevin
     
  16. Jun 5, 2013 #16

    CarVac

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    Why do you need a Yagi for a Beeline GPS? Just in case you need RDF?
     
  17. Jun 5, 2013 #17

    markjos

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    I find the 1100mAH battery pack to be a bit lacking, especially with much GPS use (or transmitting), so I'd recommend buying the 1800mAH pack, and using the 1100 as a spare. It kinda bites that Yaesu wants so much $$ for their batteries, though.

    As for a beam antenna, as Troj says, the Arrow is great, though I've been using a 6-element one for years that I built from this design, straight from Greg Clark's Big Red Bee FAQ. There's no comparing the gain (or lack thereof) of the rubber duck to that of a decent beam - as long as you're pointed in the right direction. There are certainly many reports of folks receiving the BeeLine GPS packets well with the original antenna - maybe you want to try it. I wind up DFing regular beacons, so I tend to just use the beam at launches.

    ---------
    Mark Joseph
    TRA/NAR L2
    Central Illinois Aerospace
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2013
  18. Jun 5, 2013 #18

    GregGleason

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    That's helpful. Can you post a pic of the Yagi? How compact is it?


    Ok. I'll keep that in mind.

    Greg
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2013
  19. Jun 5, 2013 #19

    markjos

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    Sorry - you were too fast! I edited a typo in my post while you were replying. I meant to say that there are reports of folks receiving BeeLine GPS packets well with the original antenna. Perhaps some of them will speak up here.

    Mark
     
  20. Jun 5, 2013 #20

    GregGleason

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    Since you edited your post, I edited mine. It's all good!

    Greg
     
  21. Jun 5, 2013 #21

    troj

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    That, and if it goes down behind a hill and you have to find a signal once it's on the ground.

    Remember, not everyone flies in the vast flatness of a lakebed.

    -Kevin
     
  22. Jun 5, 2013 #22

    troj

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    They have a good image on the website

    A couple years after I got mine, they did start offering a bag for storing the disassembled Yagi. Very handy!

    -Kevin
     
  23. Jun 6, 2013 #23

    UhClem

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    I just checked on Batteries America and they have the OEM 1800mAh for $70 or their 2000mAh battery for $46. I have been happy with the NiMH battery I purchased for a Kenwood HT so I suspect that their Yaesu products will be as good.
     
  24. Jun 6, 2013 #24

    Longmmont_Steve

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    I have the Yaesu 8-GR with the Big Red Bee 70cm GPS (16mw version) and it works well (so far...). I got the spare 1800 mah battery pack, car charger, the Arrow 7 element Yagi with SMA to BNC adapter (VX-8GR is SMC female, so antenna requires SMC male) and Bag, and a Diamond SRH77CA (with male SMA). The latter-most is supposedly an improvement over the rubber duck antenna -- I have no definite data to support this. It's a slightly longer variant. From 4 miles away it picks up the BRB 70cm GPS just fine. (This is my current distance from launch record). I don't use the YAGI with it. (I got the Yagi for the beacons). You will lose signal when it drops behind ANYTHING blocking the line of sight. No problem, the last packet is in the unit. Just walk to the last point and it will re-acquire. The fun thing is you can get an altitude read out per Kevin's description. It took me some time to figure this out. But once you do, you can actually get altitude while it's descending and even get an inkling if the main deployed even when you can't see the rocket! (you can set up the reporting interval of the GPS unit in the software...)

    I am not a Ham geek. APRS takes a little bit of understanding, but is easy with the YAESU-8GR. I recommend it. (Thanks Kevin for your posts -- they heavily swayed my decision to get this set up). For anyone who is interested, getting the Ham technician's license is easy. Use Ham Test Online to study and it is SUPER EASY. (hamradiolicenseexam.com) I also fly dog collars. Big Red Bee is comparably priced but offers a smaller package (fits in 38mm NC easily), offers altitude in the air, and gives you a super walkie talkie for communicating at a launch. Also, you can purchase inexpensive beacons from BRB for small rockets. (requires another thread, or two. )

    Caveat: Turn on the GPS Unit and APRS unit before setting it up. I forgot to turn on the GPS and I had issues getting it up and going. It's easy, but you'll have problems until it's on. BRING YOUR YAESU MANUAL WITH YOU.
     
  25. Jun 7, 2013 #25

    JimJarvis50

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    When I got my radio, it was strongly recommended to get the SMA to BCN connector shown below. It reinforces the relatively weak SMA connector on the radio.

    If you have any interest in using the radio with the RF trackers, then you should also get the arrow attenuator.

    Ditto on the battery.

    Jim

    DSCF0142.jpg

    DSCF0141.jpg
     
  26. Jul 30, 2013 #26

    medmike

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    Hi, I'm getting into rocketry so new to a lot of this. Me and my son plan on payload missions in future. I have a HAM for using r/c plane equipment but not sure i can spend that kind of cash on the VX-8GR. Could I rig a Baofeng ($40 on Amazon) to receive the data? Think I saw someone on line using cell phone/mic ports, etc. Anyone have experience with this?
    Thanks!
     
  27. Jul 30, 2013 #27

    Fdog

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    Inquiring minds want to know where you sourced this little piece of intelligent engineering.


    All the best, James
     
  28. Jul 30, 2013 #28

    troj

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    Any radio that can receive 70cm can receive the packets, but you'll need a TNC to decode them. You'll need to find a hardware or software TNC to use, and will need to connect the two together. External TNCs can be fiddly, because they're very sensitive to output volume of the radio -- when cabled together, you'll end up needing it barely audible, or you'll saturate the input of the TNC.

    -Kevin
     
  29. Jan 10, 2014 #29

    WillMarchant

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  30. Feb 18, 2014 #30

    Wayco

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    Looks like the Yaesu VX -8GR has been replaced with the VX-8DR and no longer has the GPS built in. I'm looking for an all in one handheld unit that works well with the BRB GPS. Is the Kenwood TH-72A the only one left? Has anyone bought the VX-8DR and upgraded it to GPS?
    Any suggestions?

    OK, I just found another Yaesu with built in GPS, the FT-1DR. Has anyone used this model for downloading APRS packets from the BRB?
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2014

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