Author Topic: NEAR-Fest uses Digital VHF Radios to Promote Amateur Radio  (Read 5722 times)

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Offline W1RC

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NEAR-Fest uses Digital VHF Radios to Promote Amateur Radio
« on: December 01, 2013, 06:30:50 AM »
NEAR-Fest is embarking on a test project that we hope will bring the excitement and thrill of working "DX stations" to many new amateur radio operators and potential hams, especially young people. This can be accomplished for well under $500.00 without any complicated radio/antenna requirements and can be operated by anyone with a Technicial Class license.

As many of you know digital VHF and UHF radios are becoming quite popular these days with the two major formats, D-STAR, (Digital Smart Technologies for  Amateur Radio) being marketed by ICOM and Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) based on Motorola MotoTRBO technology.  These radios are of sending and receiving both voice and data.  Special DMR and D-Star digital repeaters can be linked to each other or connected to reflectors and talk groups located all over the world via the Internet.  When linked a local repeater is capable of worldwide communications and because these radios operate above 30 MHz anyone with an entry-level Technician Class license may use them.

Many "old school" radio amateurs tend to discount the value of the use of infrastructure-based systems to affect world-wide communications because we are much more accustomed to point-to-point contacts as experienced for so many years with using HF radios.  The main criticism seems to be that it is dependent on infrastructure and if any component goes down it is virtually useless.  Then there is the D-Star "R2D2" audio effect which some find somewhat annoying and at times difficult to understand.  Plus both are perceived as "complicated to use". 

Despite these valid points the advantages of using lightweight, inexpensive equipment with no restrictive antenna or power requirements by any licensed amateur far outweigh the negatives so many of us are beginning to accept it and appreciate it for what it is and not what it isn't.  To be sure there is a learning curve but it isn't overly complex and there are some wonderful online resources that will even program the radio for you for repeaters that are accessible from the ZIP Code that you enter. 

Regardless of our philosophies we are excited by the prospect of being able to demonstrate world-wide amateur radio communications to people without the complications of setting up an HF station, especially the antennas. 

With the above in mind, four of these D-Star radios have been installed at the following locations:

The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (formerly the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium) KA1SKY, Concord NH
The Eric Falkof, K1NUN (Memorial Amateur Radio Station at the Irving K. Zola Center, Newton MA
The Mid Coast CERT Team, Brunswick ME
The Clay Center AmateurnRadiomClub, Brookline MA

Larry, N1PHV, John KB1FQG and John K1JJS have been appointed as D-Star Coordinators and Educators for the three locations respectively.  They will be learning all about D-Star as well as how to program and operate the radios.

NEAR-Fest would like to thank Cal, WA1WOK of Ham Radio Outlet in Salem NH along with Paul, N1PA, Terry, KA8WTK,, Bill Barber, NEDECN, John, K1WIZ,  Ray Novak, N9JA, and ICOM AMERICA for their assistance with this project.  If it works we will seriously look into providing D-Star and MotoTRBO DMR radios to other similar institutions in the future.

The best site to learn all about DStar is.
If there is one single site that covers it all in easy-to-understand language so even an "old-school" ham like me gets it, this is it!

Information about DMR info may be found on the NEDECN site and


MrMike, W1RC