K5ND Rover

I’ve been doing some rover operations. It began by activating a few nearby grids and vacation grids for satellite operations. Those can happen anytime of the year and the satellite community is always delighted to pick up a new grid. Then I started to seriously consider a contest rover operation. Here’s what I’ve done so far.

Satellite Grids

I’ve activated a few grids on satellites, all on FO-29 and SO-50. I’m using a IC-910H with a MacBook Air and MacDoppler. I record on the laptop using the NoteBook app. So far I’ve activated EN62 and EN63 on vacation in Michigan and EM23, EM22, EM11, EM03, and EM02 nearby my home base of EM12.

VHF Contests

My first contest operation was the ARRL September 2017 VHF Contest. I activated 8 grids around the Dallas – Fort Worth Area. But interestingly enough most of my contacts were south of DFW including Austin. For the ARRL June VHF and CQ July VHF contests, I’ll probably stay at home to snap up six meter grids. But the September and January contests are usually sparsely attended here in North Texas. So it makes more sense to get on the road and light up a few grids.

Equipment Setup

I operate 2 meters and 70 centimeters using my IC-910H. I don’t feel six meters is needed in September, or January.

I use a 5-element Diamond yagi on 2 meters and 15-element Diamond yagi on 70 centimeters. I use a painter pole for the mast at about 18 feet. You can see the brackets I built to attach it to the car.

The painter pole works pretty well. However, but I plan to use the 10-element 70 cm version that is currently on my home mast, next time to minimize the weight and wind load. Even so, if the winds kick up, I’ll probably need some sort of guy line. I’ve also added an Arrow Antennas 4-element portable 2 meter yagi to replace the Diamond yagi as the reflector is bent and near breaking.

The pole is perfectly positioned by the rear passenger door. That allows me to sit down, operate the radio which is sitting on the folded over front passenger seat and use the computer on the folded over rear passenger seat. Plus, I can reach out the door and turn the mast to point the antennas. Not the best ergonomics, but it works.

Logging

Skookum Logger works fine for this application. While it’s not set up specifically for rover operations, it does allow entering different grids for sending as well as designating stations as rovers. The latter allows you to work them several times without getting a “duplicate” warning. It also has location services, which I need to investigate further.

My one challenge is determining where to point my antennas to call CQ or to work a schedule. I had the iPhone compass and I could look up the grid-to-grid bearing on the iPhone. But the screen was really cramped for the latter. I probably should activate a personal hotspot on the phone and use the laptop to activate the Internet queries. More work on that one.

From what I reading about this contest, there’s a great deal of digital modes on the air. I can do that, but need to get it all set up with the IC-910H and MacBook.

Power

For power I have a small 12 volt battery that is also connected to the car’s power system. My thinking is that this puts less stress on the car’s system. I also have a fear that I’ll be so engrossed in making contacts that I’ll run the car’s battery down and won’t be able to start it.

I’m also using a power inverter to run the laptop’s charger. You can tell that I don’t trust batteries. I like to keep them fully charged whenever possible.

That’s my rover operations. We’ll see what happens for the next contests and for satellite operations. It’s one more ham radio adventure.