World Amateur Radio Day

Every April 18, radio amateurs worldwide take to the airwaves in celebration of World Amateur Radio Day. It was on that day in 1925 that the International Amateur Radio Union was formed in Paris.

From the 25 countries that formed the IARU in 1925, the IARU has grown to include 160 member-societies in three regions. IARU Region 1 includes Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Northern Asia. Region 2 covers the Americas, and Region 3 is comprised of Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific island nations, and most of Asia. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has recognized the IARU as representing the interests of Amateur Radio.

Though some may wonder about the value of Amateur Radio in this age of the Internet, there are actually more ham radio operators in the US (graph from 2014) than at any time in the past — thanks to interests in disaster preparedness, the maker movement and a variety of service functions that the hobby provides.

Spring Weather Safety Preparedness

tornadoGrowing up in Indiana, spring always brought with it once thing – tornados. Indiana is ranked as the number one state to die from a tornado. Growing up we used to call them trailer magnets, since tornadoes through them around like straw, when they came through.

Since I now live in Texas, it’s clear I haven’t learned. Tornados are scary.

Although most people don’t know it Raytheon does quite a bit with NOAA. Most of the weather information you see every day came through Raytheon, one way or another. One of these efforts is the Weather Ready Nation project where they have safety modules to share what do to for certain kinds of natural disasters. Spring safety is one of the areas of focus in this NOAA post of last year. For some reason, the CDC also has a focus on Spring Weather – that really makes me wonder about the underlying meaning of spring fever though.

In any case, it is a good time to think about what might happen and prepare. Dealing with Indiana weather was one of the things that kept me involved in Amateur Radio growing up.

Morse code activity

Though my skills with Morse code are not as strong as they used to be, it doesn’t stop me from leveraging it with my other hobbies:

Every once in a while, I have the opportunity to play World of Warships — sometimes with my son who lives many states away. Besides being a challenging, multi-player naval simulation, WoW often provides some history on the ships and men it is based on.

Their latest background post had just a bit on the background of Morse code and its use by the various Navys of the world  – Squall line: Morse code.

It can be strange how various parts of your life can intersect.

Ham Radio Field Day 2015

2015 field dayThis weekend is Amateur radio field day. This is an annual exercise (in the US and Canada on the fourth full weekend every June) to have radio operators out in the field testing their emergency responsiveness. It is also a contest to see how many contacts can be made in 24 hours under emergency conditions (usually).

This is the most popular annual on-the-air event with more than 35,000 radio amateurs operating from remote locations.

ARRL has created a Field Day event on Facebook, and you can also join the conversation by using the hash tag #ARRLFD. Share your plans, tips and tricks to a successful Field Day!

Some people think that the Internet has killed off this hobby, but Amateur Radio growth in the US continues to soar. At the end of 2014, the total number of radio amateurs in the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS) database reached an all-time high of 726,275.

As I tell people fairly regularly, this is one hobby where there are multiple dimensions left to explore. No matter how knowledgeable you are about HF, Digital, Satellites, electronic building… there are always new areas on the horizon. There are numerous podcasts and vlogs out there to learn more.

Liquid Metal Antennas – new research comes to light

antennaFor those interested in antenna design, one of the more recent innovation has been dynamically tunable antennas. This trend started out with screwdriver antennas (where a screen mechanism is used to adjust the antenna length) then a few years ago a hydraulic approach was used to dynamically change the structure of Yagi beams

Now, North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers have released a paper titled A reconfigurable liquid metal antenna driven by electrochemically controlled capillarity describing “a new electrochemical method for reversible, pump-free control of liquid eutectic gallium and indium (EGaIn) in a capillary.”

Flashbacks to the 2nd terminator movie anyone?

There was a good IEEE article about this antenna research, but to summarize: by placing a positive or negative voltage across the interface between the liquid metal and an electrolyte, the researchers found that they could cause the liquid metal flow into a capillary changing its operating frequency and radiation pattern.

“Using a liquid metal — such as eutectic gallium and indium — that can change its shape allows us to modify antenna properties [such as frequency] more dramatically than is possible with a fixed conductor,” explained Jacob Adams, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NCSU.

It looks like some amateur radio operators have been experimenting with liquid metal antennas for a while.

World Amateur Radio Day

14961889544_9e008a5799_mTomorrow (April 18) is World Amateur Radio Day (WARD). It was on April 18, 1925, that the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) was founded in Paris. The primary purpose of World Amateur Radio Day is to highlight Amateur Radio and its benefits to countries and communities, especially for their contribution to disaster relief workers in areas with little to no communications.

If interested, there are a range of techniques to listen to Ham Radio for those who have radios as well as those who do not.

photo credit: Star trails around antennas via photopin (license)