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Tracking and recovering weather balloons -- An Update

by Ralph Adams, VA7VZA














Back in October, I described what weather balloons and radio-sondes were and how it was possible to track them (https://karc.ca/node/569). Since then, I have made some interesting progress and discoveries. Here is a short update about how far I have come towards my goal of retrieving a radio-sonde after it has fallen back to earth. As you would expect, there is good news and bad. The good news is that it is relatively easy to track them using simple equipment, but the bad news is that all the balloons launched from Vernon that I have tracked have headed off to the East or South. The only real question each day has been, which inaccessible mountain range will it fall on: the Monashees, the Selkirks, or the Rockies!


Myles, VE7FSR was first in to assist by giving me a Sinclair 7-element Yagi for 406 to 433 MHz. A check with the Rigmaster showed that it worked well at 403 MHz where the radio-sondes transmit. I mounted it on a short PVC mast attached to a camera tripod, the antenna is at about 1.8m and is oriented for vertical polarization. Feedline is a two metre length of LMR-195 from the junk-box that happened to have a good UHF connector at one end and an SMA at the other. The receiver is an SDRPlay RSP1a (links are included at the end of this article) connected to an old Lenovo ThinkPad. I use the SDRUno software supplied by SDRPlay. One advantage of an SDR (Software Defined Radio) is that you can record the IQ spectrum which can be replayed and reprocessed later.  I am using an old Western Digital USB drive to store the recordings, which are large, about half a GB per minute of spectrum recording. The whole system is powered by the internal laptop battery.

SDRUno was setup to use a bandwidth of 15kHz and FM mode, and the demodulated audio was piped into the decoding software using Virtual Audio Cable.  For the first attempts I was not sure which radio-sondes were being used by Environment Canada (EC), so I decided not to purchase decoding software yet. After I had some radio-sonde recordings from the Vernon launches I was able to confirm that the radio-sonde being used is the Graw DFM09 manufactured in Germany. I then purchased the SondeMonitor software (24 Euros) which can decode the DFM09 telemetry.

My First Field Day





by Ken Hoshowski VE7FP

CQ Field Day, CQ Field Day de VE7………

My interest in radio began when I was about 12 years old and I acquired a tube-type AM radio and installed a long wire antenna which was great for listening to American radio stations at bedtime.  When I should have been asleep, I remember my Dad hollering from his bedroom to turn off that radio and go to sleep.  I was determined to get a Ham license and when I was 16, I thought I was ready to write the exams and went to Kelowna for the test.  Unfortunately, the radio inspector had been called away unexpectedly and I was unable take the test.  I came home very disappointed and I instead pursued getting a driver’s license and probably girls!?

Moving ahead 9 years, now married and living in Powell River I saw a car in the parking lot where I worked with the call plate “VE7DO”.  I approached the owner and struck up a conversation which led to a long friendship.  Art Muskett, VE7DO was instrumental in helping me get my license, and I was finally licensed in November 1966 and soon after became a member of the Powell River Amateur Radio Club.  There was much talk about the upcoming Amateur Radio Field Day and although I had no idea what they were talking about, I was put on the planning committee.  Because I was the manager of the local Super Valu grocery store, I was put in charge of feeding the crew, purchasing the groceries (big discount), and managing the kitchen.

KARC in the News!

The Kamloops Amateur Radio Club has been featured in the local and international media recently, following the Club's offer to the TNRD to discuss using our microwave network to assist TNRD communities during disaster events where normal telephone and internet services are disrupted. 

Local reporter Kristen Holliday from Castanet Kamloops was the first to express interest in our offer to the TNRD, and here is the link to her story:





Producer and Host of the NL Noon Report, Brett Mineer,
interviewed KARC President Myles, VE7FSR on January 26, 2021. 
The interview may be listened to below.



KARC interview - Radio NL - Jan 26, 2021


Brett Mineer of Radio NL Interviewing Myles Bruns, President of the KARC on January 26, 2021







They're back! KARC decals now available to members

We have printed another run of KARC decals.  Please help us promote the club and amateur radio by placing the decal on your car, truck, RV or any place you'd like.

Decals are 12" x 3" and are cut from high quality white self-adhesive vinyl material.  Cost is $15 (which covers the cost of the decal plus a $5 donation to the club).

Power line issue on Mt. Lolo December 12-13 affects VE7RLO repeater

On the weekend of December 12-13 there was a power line issue that impacted the VE7RLO repeater.  The power issues started at about 21:00 PST on Saturday, with the power returning to normal around 15:30 PST on Sunday afternoon.  We aren't sure what it was, but our best guess is that during the big wind storm a tree came down on one of the lines going up to Lolo.  From reviewing the logs on the UPS, Lee VE7FET, was able to determine that both the voltage and frequency of the power going to the Lolo site was low, dropping as low as 35VAC at one point!  The unusual part is that whatever it was it didn't blow the fuses on the line and cut the power completely, so we speculate that it may have been a branch or small tree across one of the phases?

Regardless, the UPS did its job and when the power quality got too low it switched over to battery, running for almost 10 hours before shutting down to conserve the battery bank.  Some of you may have noticed that on Sunday morning the repeater was working, albeit sounding very weak and only identifying in CW.  Dave VE7LTW and Myles VE7FSR were able to hold a brief QSO on the repeater so something was working up there, even though neither Lee nor Myles could remotely access any of the IP equipment on Lolo that morning.

Grounding & Bonding: presentation from the December KARC meeting

For those KARC members who were unable to attend the monthly meeting last Thursday, Adam VA7AQD has recorded the presentation which may be viewed here:


The presentation included information on RF ground, safety ground, ground loops, RF safety in the shack, RFI, grounding and vehicles, and a list of resources for those wanting to learn more about the topic.

Digital Modes Simplified!

Over the past decade ham radio digital modes have grown in popularity and include everything from FT8 on HF to DMR on VHF and UHF.  The most common modes used on VHF and UHF today are D-STAR, DMR, Fusion, and Allstar. Each has their own characteristics, and you can find a lot more information by searching Google or YouTube.

D-STAR (Digital Smart Technologies for Amateur Radio) was one of the first digital modes used world-wide. It works on reflectors and can be monitored by a “dashboard” on a computer. It seems to be more susceptible to sounding like “R2D2” than the more current nodes, but is still used extensively.

DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) is growing more day by day. Personally, I find it the most complicated system to use. I only use mine through my computer as the radios with “code plugs” are very tricky to understand and program. Sound quality is very good too.

Fusion (also called C4FM or Yaesu System Fusion) is propriety to Yaesu and controlled by same. It uses “Rooms and Nodes” but does offer excellent sound quality.  Rooms can be selected throughout the world. As Fusion users transmit their call signs every time they key up the standard announcing of your call is not so necessary.

AllStar (aka AllStarLink) is the latest newcomer to the field. It has the advantage that no special repeater is needed other than it needing an internet connection and obtain a node number. A standard VHF or UHF radio with DTMF (depending on repeater) is all that is needed. Certain DTMF keypad functions will allow you to connect to nodes through the world.

Hot Spots” are a combination of hardware, firmware, and software that enable an amateur radio enthusiast with internet connectivity to link directly to digital voice systems around the world, even if there is no dedicated repeater in your area. Hotspots can link to DMR, D-STAR, Fusion, NXDN, and AllStar nodes.

Over the last 5 years Hot Spots have become a popular device of choice. With a Hot Spot connected to the internet the newer models will let you access multiple different digital modes from the radio of your choice.

D-STAR, DMR, and Fusion all require you to register you call sign with each system. The process is quick and painless and usually completed within 24 hours.

The Kamloops Amateur Radio Club has had a Fusion repeater (VE7FUS) up for a year and now we have AllStar on the VE7RLO repeater which services Kamloops and surrounding areas.

AllStar is certainly the least expensive way to go digital as most of us already have a DTMF-capable radio.

Welcome to our newest club member!

I would like to introduce you to our newest KARC member, Pete, VE7RPJ from Logan Lake.

Pete worked in Facility Management at the City of Richmond for 35 years, and retired seven years ago.  He was a radio operator in the Navy and always wanted to get a HAM license, but it wasn’t until he retired that he found the time to take the course about three years ago.

Currently he is active on 2M from his mobile, but would like to get an HF base station and explore more of the hobby.

He and his wife moved to Logan Lake in October, partly because they couldn’t take the lower mainland any longer, but also to be closer to his wife’s mother who lives in Merritt.  After looking around Kamloops for about a year and not finding a house that met their needs, Jim, VE7JMN, suggested they consider Logan Lake.  Pete is glad that Jim did, because Pete and his wife love their new place in Logan Lake.

If you hear Pete on the repeater, please give him a call.

Welcome to the KARC, Pete, thank you for becoming a member!

Late season repeater upgrades and repairs

Lee, VE7FET and Myles, VE7FSR have been busy this fall with late season repairs and upgrades to several mountain top repeater sites in the region, hoping to beat winter's icy grasp.

On November 11 the two made a trip to VE7IRN (Iron Mountain, near Merritt) to replace the old duplexer, replace a failed network card on the UPS, and add three IP cameras.  Breaking fresh snow, they arrived safely at the top on a frosty morning.  Lee worked on replacing the duplexer and swapping out the network card on the UPS, while Myles installed the IP cameras (two outside and one inside).  By early afternoon the repairs and upgrades were tested and complete.  You can view the new IP camera streams at http://video.bcwarn.net:8085/player.html (outside, east) and http://video.bcwarn.net:8086/player.html (outside, looking towards Merritt).


Kamloops Army Cadets learn about radio communications

On Sunday, November 1 twenty-five Cadets from the 2305 Rocky Mountain Rangers Royal Canadian Army Cadets conducted an exercise in preparation for future survival training and search & rescue operations.  The Cadets, ranging in age from 12 to 18, were led on a 5km morning hike through Kenna Cartwright Park by Commanding Officer Captain Christine Stillborn and Training Officer 2nd Lieutenant Jeff Bingley, supported by MWO Bingley, Sgt Bux and Sgt Marrington.

The Cadet group enjoyed the fall sunshine and ate lunch in the Emergency Management BC (EMBC) parking lot, and following their lunch they received an introduction to radio communications and learned how radio communication is used by Emergency Management BC.  Myles Bruns, VE7FSR, a Public Service Line Volunteer and the Radio Station Manager for EMBC’s Central Provincial Regional Emergency Operations Centre (PREOC) led the information and education session.

Cadets learned about HF, VHF, UHF and microwave radio communication, the role of the ionosphere and propagation, the use of repeaters, basic antenna theory, RF safety, and digital vs analog communication.  Cadets assisted to deploy the portable MSAT (EMERGNET BC) terminal, aligned the high-gain antenna, and calls were made from the MSAT terminal to a Cadet’s mobile phone to demonstrate the latency when communicating through a satellite in geosynchronous inclined orbit 36,000 km above the earth.

Future plans include more instruction in HF, VHF, and UHF radio communication for use in search and rescue operations, and conducting exercises where the cadets will set up portable radio communications stations and pass message traffic, or use radios while orienteering to maintain contact with each other or with other groups.


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