UC ARES News
Ed, KE8ANU tested out a NVIS antenna at Keckley Park on World Amateur Radio Day. The video is of the antenna setup and in operation.
Your NVIS Day Checklist
C. Matthew Curtin, KD8TTE
NVIS Day is this Saturday, April 24! Are you ready? If your plan is just to operate your NVIS antenna without any specific objectives, you’re not ready. Let’s run down the checklist and get you ready. We’re just under a week away!
Remember the concept with NVIS Day: get everyone operating during the same period of time so there are other participating stations with whom you can exchange signal reports, all for the purpose of understanding how different antennas and configurations work.
We return to the Section Emergency Coordinator column from the March issue of the Ohio Section Journal for the statement of goals.
• Goal 1: Construct a working NVIS antenna (or several) and try them out for performance.
Near-Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) propagation isn’t difficult to achieve. In fact, unless you’ve specifically built your station for DX or otherwise have the antenna up high, that’s probably what you’re using most of the time, at least at frequencies of 5 MHz and lower.
Being an ARES event, NVIS Day is about operating for emergency and public service, which means not only making random contacts, but establishing the ability to make specific contacts. Working on behalf of an agency means you need to communicate with specific stations and nets. If your county EMA can’t effectively exchange messages (whether directly or through a relay net) with the state EMA, the job isn’t getting done, and the ability to talk to the Czech Republic isn’t a consolation prize for the agency’s boss.
Dale Hunt WB6BYU has some excellent information on how NVIS works, and the interplay among the antenna, its configuration (including height), and the critical frequency. As Dale writes, “Successful NVIS operation requires being able to change frequency to suit current conditions, rather than making assumptions and hoping the ionosphere will cooperate.” (D. Hunt, “Near Vertical Incident Skywave (NVIS) Antennas,” Practical Antennas. https://practicalantennas.com/)
• Goal 2: Operate with a completely off-grid power source (battery, solar, generator, whatever)
Do you remember the excellent presentation from Eric Jessen N8AUC about solar power at the Ohio ARES Conference 2019? It’s a good time to watch it again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?
What kind of battery might you use? Terry Russ N8ATZ has written about portable operation, most recently with his HAMMO CAN XL. While it’s a VHF-UHF station, it does need to bring its own power, so there could be some ideas there. (T. Russ. “ARES Rapid Response Equipment Boxes.” Stark County ARES. http://www.wd8aye.net/. See also, B. Darden, “Car and Deep Cycle Battery FAQ,” http://www.batteryfaq.org/)
• Goal 3: Make contact with your district net or DEC on HF (DEC’s make your info known!)
Will your ARES District net be in operation? How will you get a message to your DEC by radio? Your DEC should have published this information by now, and if you don’t know it, contact your EC to get the information! Do not passively wait for someone to do it for you: if you’ve got a station, plan your communication!
Stan added further in the Easter Edition of PostScript that District operations may take place on VHF and even with repeaters. http://arrl-ohio.org/news/
• Goal 4: Make contact with the Sarge on 3902
This is a goal that gets a lot of practice throughout the year, though through the winter of 2020-21, the net was not in operation, so some HF operators are just getting used to operating there again. The weekly practice in the early evening is great, but with an operation taking place in daylight hours (six hours starting at 10 A.M.), NVIS Day will be quite a bit different as the 75 meter band is sensitive to ionospheric changes throughout the day.
Have you practiced making in-state contacts during hours of operation recently? You’ve got a few days left to get ready. Try OSSBN, which operates a 10:30 A.M. session (NTS Cycle One). The next session is unfortunately not until 4:15 P.M. (NTS Cycle Three), by which time NVIS Day will be over. Nevertheless that session can also help be instructive for comparison of conditions against the morning session. (http://ossbn.org/)
Also, try Buckeye Net, which runs a mixed-mode session at 1 P.M. (NTS Cycle Two). The best band for in-state communication at that time of day has lately been 60 meters, listen for that on Channel 4, and if it’s not here listen on 75 meters. See the Signal Operating Instructions for more information. (https://buckeyenetweb.)
If you haven’t been operating during the day, you definitely want to spend some time preparing. I can tell you that it has been very difficult these past few weeks and especially if you want to use phone mode with sideband you’re going to need to be very patient and might have hours where you struggle to maintain a contact for long.
• Goal 5: Send a message to W8SGT
Messaging is a critical function for ARES. Compose a message for W8SGT with your callsign, the location of your operation, the antenna type(s) you’re using, and how many operators you have. Don’t send it by email!
Radio messaging is what we do, so the question becomes how you’ll get that message to W8SGT. Is your District Net capable of taking and relaying such a message? Your district net should be in operation to do so.
Whether your district net needs relay to get the message to W8SGT or you don’t have one, the district net can send a rep or you can go directly to an Ohio Section net that will be in operation during NVIS Day.
Remember OSSBN? (Yeah, you checked into the 10:30 and maybe 4:15 sessions to get ready for NVIS Day!) Since OSSBN’s morning session will be during the event, you can get that message composed early and maybe handled in the 10:30 net. They’ll want an NTS radiogram to provide accountability for the message and to ensure good relay. If you’re not quite sure how to do it, just say you need help “originating” (use that word) your message to W8SGT and let net control get you some help.
Remember Buckeye Net? (You were also joining that net at the 1 P.M. sessions every day to practice early-afternoon operation before NVIS Day, right?) Buckeye Net is mixed-mode and can take messages in voice, digital, or CW as long as the band is there to support it. Buckeye Net can also take any format for which there is a relay procedure. Try NBEMS digital, FLDIGI, FLMSG, and FLAMP. You can compose your message with FLMSG but save it and try transmitting it with FLAMP, which is more likely to work well on HF even in poor conditions. See the Activation Warning 1 to get an idea of what’s happening and to find the link for coordinating. (https://groups.io/g/QTC/) If you need help originating your message, just say so when you enter the net and net control will give you some help.
OHDEN will be operation for the duration of the event. You can pass digital messages on 3585 to The Sarge. They will have net control operators on duty for NVIS operation.
Check your other options, too. Other nets might be operating for NVIS Day. Check with them to see what they’re doing, and whether they will establish liaison with any of the nets known to be operating during NVIS Day to help get messages relayed to W8SGT. Maybe Winlink will work for you. Simply address your message to W8SGT. Whatever you’re doing, remember it’s NVIS Day, so using 20 meters to get to a Texas Winlink RMS is better than not using radio at all, but best would be to find an RMS that you can work within about 300 miles of where you are and test out that NVIS antenna!
• Goal 6: Have fun; take a break for the grill and lunch!
Don’t forget to take pictures of your operation and share them. Yes, what we’re doing has a serious purpose and it can be difficult but that doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy ourselves in the process.
Mark, N8VJF will be net control for the DMR net on the Marysville talk group 313966 at 9pm. The net will provide the opportunity to test out DMR equipment and also DMR repeater coverage areas. The net will meet monthly on the 2nd Tuesday of the month. We look forward to hearing you on the net!