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Long Range Communications using Ham Radios and Satellites

It’s possible to do Long Range Communications using Budget Ham Radios and Satellites!

Long Range Communications Using Ham Radios and Satellites

I was tinkering with my Baofeng radio today while doing some research on communications, when I made a discovery. you can do Long Range Communications using handheld Ham Radios and Satellites!

As long as there are satellites orbiting the earth, you can communicate hundreds of miles using a handheld radio (HT). This really expands the abilities of the Baofeng handhelds.

What Gear is Required for Long Range Communication?

You have 2 choices, a satellite phone or HF radio.

Satellite Phone

Reliable satellite phone communication is limiting because both parties should have a satellite phone and satellites could be deactivated or damaged.  You also won’t get to scan around to hear news and reports from around the globe.

Start with a satellite that’s easy to work, SO-50.

SO-50SAUDISAT 1C (or SO-50, Saudi-OSCAR 50) carries a mode J FM amateur repeater experiment operating on 145.850 MHz uplink and 436.795 MHz downlink. The repeater is available to amateurs worldwide as power permits, using a 67.0 Hertz PL tone on the uplink, for on-demand activation. SO-50 also has a 10 minute timer that must be armed before use. Thus, first transmit an initial carrier with a PL tone of 74.4 to arm the timer.

Find out where SO-50 is currently located

Upgrade your Handheld’s Antenna

Your stock antenna probably won’t have the resonance you’ll need to talk to space. You can try the antenna we recommend, but you’re mileage may vary, so please do your research.

For the Baofeng radios or other handhelds that need SMA-Female Connector antennas:

If you’re using the TYT TH-UVF1, or another radio (Icom, Yaesu, but check your manual for verification) that utilizes SMA-Male Connector antennas:

By adding a better and longer antenna, to your handheld, it can greatly increase the transmit/receive range of the radio over the stock rubber-duck antenna.

Do your background research

Here is a website, www.work-sat.com, dedicated to HAM FM communications via Satellite Communications.

They have 2 files that will be very helpful:

Baofeng using SO-50 to communicate from Florida to Texas

Amateur / Handheld Ham Radio

Amateur  Radio has quite a following and many of these operators participate in exercises to be ready to keep essential communications flowing during emergencies.

What does this mean for you?

There are radio operators who are experienced, and trained to relay important information and communiques, even when there is no power from the grid. These individuals will know what information needs to be broadcast and the proper format to present it in. Information in a crisis can be the difference between life and death.

What this also means for you is that amateur radio is a multi-use essential information gathering tool and long range or local communication device. Handheld ham radio or amateur radio involves the non-commercial and private use of certain radio frequencies. You can use this device for socializing, communicating during an emergency, or when trying to communicate via wireless communication.

It is important to note that those who operate ham radio tend to communicate through various means – the most common of which is the voice. Aside from that, you can see them using PSK, radio teletype, Morse code, packet, and sometimes, pictures

This is the bare minimum of gear that you’ll need to communicate long distances over the HF bands.

  1. HF Transceiver
  2. Antenna
  3. Antenna Tuner
  4. SWR Meter
  5. DC Power Supply
  6. Knowledge and practice

Of all of these items listed, #6, is as important or more important than the remainder. Without knowledge and training, it doesn’t matter what ham radio gear you have, you probably won’t ever be able to communicate with anyone. You may be able to hear other communications, but your ability to truly communicate will be severely hampered.

You need to start learning now. Find a local ham radio or amateur radio club to join, or find an experienced ham radio operator to work with to get you the knowledge that you need.

With the proper gear and the knowledge behind it, there will be times that you’ll be able to communicate around the globe.

Here are some simple steps to get you started down the satellite communications path.

Why Survivalists and Preppers Prefer to Use Handheld Ham Radio?

Ham or amateur radios are not the only types of radio that you can use for communication. However, a lot of preppers and survivalists prefer to use ham when dealing with or preparing for emergencies. It seems to be an incredible choice for survival purposes considering its excellent power, flexibility, and range.

There are several reasons why ham radio seems to be the top choice of many survivalists – one of which is that it lets you communicate anywhere in the world. This means that no matter where you are, whether you are in a desert or on top of a mountain, you can use the radio for communication purposes.

You will also find ham radio useful in case of emergencies. It is because those who operate it can easily coordinate and organize rescue and supply missions during any failure of communication. It is also the only choice in case you intend to talk and listen to the emergency service providers in your locality.

Another reason why handheld ham radio is a good choice for survivalists is that it has a wide range of frequency. Unlike other types of radio, it does not seem to become quite crowded. It also makes use of HF (high-frequency) bands that are considered as the best during SHTF situations or emergencies.

It is because this allows anyone to reach several hundreds of miles with ease. This is possible without having to rely on anyone or anything. Ham radio also boasts of its better range in comparison to the others.

Furthermore, it boasts of more power that usually goes around 5 to 8 watts with their base stations reaching up to a max of 1,500 watts. This makes it different from other forms that tend to be limited to only 0.5 to 4 watts.

Is there a Need for a License?

Yes, it is a requirement to have a license so you can legally use and carry a ham radio. Fortunately, it is no longer that difficult to get a license for this radio nowadays. Among your choices are:

Technician License – It is an entry-level license that provides access to all frequencies that go beyond 30 MHz as well as other HF band privileges. This license works for both local and domestic communication and you can obtain it after you pass one examination.

General License – You can get this license if you already took a hold of the technical license for quite some time. If you have a general license, expect to have access to all handheld or amateur radio bands. You can also access all operating modes, further improving your communication capabilities. Getting a hold of this license requires you to pass an examination composed of 35 questions.

Amateur Extra License – The amateur extra license is the ultimate license that an aspiring ham radio user can get. It is available only for those who got the general and technical licenses in the past. With this license around, you can legally access all operating privileges provided by all bands and modes. Obtaining this license involves passing an exam with 50 questions.

What to Consider When Planning to Invest in a Handheld Ham Radio?

Once you have obtained a license to operate a ham radio, you can start shopping for one. However, you can’t just buy any ham radio introduced to you without figuring out if it is truly worth the money and if it does a pretty good job for its intended purpose. Your goal is to look for a high-quality device.

Two of the most vital factors to consider are price and portability. However, you can also find other factors that can help you get the kind of experience you wish to enjoy from utilizing it. Some of the most vital factors are the following:

Frequency – Keep in mind that the specific frequency you are allowed to use legally is dependent on the license that you got. With that in mind, you also need to examine the specific bands a specific ham radio can legally access before your final purchase.

If you are a beginner, you may want to find a ham radio, which can access UHF and VHF bands. It is because they need lower power than HF bands. Also, note that it is not that important to go for HF frequencies, especially if you do not prefer more improved capabilities and if you lack the required license for it.

Power – Spend time assessing the power of a specific ham radio before buying, too. Note that while the majority of handheld ham radios have a 5-watt power limit, you can still find those with a higher power. In most cases, a 5-watt power is enough.

However, it is beneficial to buy radios featuring low and high power settings. It would be much better if you can adjust the power manually based on your specific needs. That way, you can enjoy some benefits – one of which is saving battery whenever necessary.

Band – Generally, you will need a 2-meter ham band for communication purposes during emergencies. You may also want to take advantage of the 440 MHz band. Aside from checking the band itself, it is also advisable to assess band-related features – one of which is the dual-band. With the help of this feature, you can keep track of two frequencies simultaneously.

Another feature related to the band you have to carefully assess is the general coverage. One advantage of having this feature is that it gives you the chance to not only make use of the ham radio band but also collect frequencies from TV, AM, and FM. Other advanced features you have to look for are CW and SSB.

Programmability – It also helps to look for a handheld ham radio with a programmable feature. It would be a great advantage if you can program the radio based on your preferences and requirements. If possible, it should let you program it manually using software.

If you intend to buy a ham radio that you can connect to PCs as a means of programming them, determine if the whole purchase includes the programming cable first. One great thing about manual programming is that you can use buttons and keypads as a means of completing the whole process whenever and wherever you are.

Antennas – You can find ham radios with built-in antennas. Others, on the other hand, are not equipped with it. In such a case, you may want to buy one. Just make sure to choose one, which is not only of top-notch quality but also compatible with the radio you have chosen. If the built-in antenna of your radio is not good in terms of quality, then look for another one. This is a big help in boosting transmission and reception.

Apart from the already mentioned factors, it is also advisable to assess the ham radio’s backlit display, memory slots, and user’s manual. All these factors and features will have a say on your overall experience when using the ham radio so make sure to consider them before making your choice.

See how easy it is to do some long range communications using handheld ham radios and satellites. Now we have viable comms that can cover hundreds of miles in an emergency or bug out situation!

7 COMMENTS

  1. This is awesome man. I just actually got a UV-5R a couple weeks ago and happened to come across this.

    I’m a super new HAM, so I’m still learning how to even transmit, but will have to give this a rip!

    thx,

    Dan

  2. I have done some pretty extensive work with HAM radio and satellite comms. There are several challenges that you would need to overcome to work the FM easy SATs. The first would be knowing which satellite is going to be over head at exactly what time of day and exactly where it will come up over the horizon. The pass of each satellite only lasts around 8-12 minutes as they are not in a geosynchronous orbit.

    There is software out there can can use the tracking data that’s available and generate a real time map of the satellite locations and let you know when the next passes would be.Try this, its’s free and works remarkably well. During a SHTF this software will become unreliable because it gets it’s tracking data from the internet.

    With just an extra long whip you may find it rather difficult to follow the satellite overhead and get a good signal. I would HIGHLY recommend a 2m/440mhz dual band yagi for talking to satellites.

    The yagi will give you enough signal gain to reliably hit the bird in the sky. You might also want to consider mounting the antenna onto a cheap tripod which would allow you to easily track the bird through its arc in the sky. The antenna in the link above can quickly be disassembled and fits into a small carrying bag. This makes it great for heading out away from your home to initiate communications to prevent unwanted people from triangulating your location. The yagi will also give you a very focused and narrow beam transmission which will also make it more difficult for tracking and triangulation.

  3. I know this is a rather old post, but for a few years, I have been using the android app “ISS Detector.” It is free (but for a couple of dollars it gets much much better).

    This app allows you to get info on when the ISS and all satellites out there will be passing in your area. It gives you the frequencies of each and a comoass so you can aim your phone or radio. And it even has an alarm to alert you that a pass is coming up.

    It comes with real-time graphs of the passes and has links to several ISS- and satellite-related links.

    Give it a try.

    Richard, KR4ZAN

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