25 June 2015

Of Field Day and Changing Plans

Well ARRL Field Day is coming up fast. As all good plans go, sometimes they aren't meant to be and they have to be changed. No, I'm not talking about the 10 gallons of fuel that I need to take that for a bit I didn't think I had to.

Background:


Normally our club prepares for field day for normal weather or the possibility of storms later in the event. Usually during my time with the club we have not had to plan for rain all day on Saturday and the possibility of thunderstorms all day Saturday. In addition, I do not have a way to take photos in the rain as I don't have rain gear for my equipment and never even thought of it. This is in addition to the threat of lightning. Which is going to be a problem for all.

Additionally, I have a rather large data plan for my smartphone and I tether it to my Chromebook when it gets rather quiet at work. With tethering and portable hotspot I have the ability to connect to the internet on field day. Due to the weather threats this year I have volunteered to monitor real time lightning maps and radar sources to keep ahead of the weather.

What this means for myself and for W3CWC's operations:


This means I have less equipment I have to bring as I was planning on bringing the computer anyway, but no camera equipment needs to come. This also means that my scope of operations changes greatly. We are going to be using handheld radios to provide the communications for weather related information so that means everyone will need a handheld radio.

The showers and more importantly the thunderstorms means that we will have to scale back our operations. Our CW station will be limited to a few bands, we will be deleting our 40 meter station and other details I'm not familiar with yet. We will also be reducing the number of generator sets being used to provide for easier setup/take down and for additional safety (fewer exposed electrical connections).

This year we will have an emergency operations trailer on site with two operating positions, this will give us a few things. This will give us a dry and air conditioned space with diesel generator and two operating positions. Something we haven't had during my time with the ARA.

It is also possible that with the weather conditions we may not be able to set up the majority of our operations until later Saturday or early Sunday.

That's not all:


Poor ground weather conditions are not the only issue we are going to experience. In addition to the heavy rain and thunderstorms there is currently a forecast for a moderate (NOAA G2 Class) geomagnetic storm during the field day period. This may cause problems with making contacts on HF, but may enhance VHF contacts.

Forecasts:



11 June 2015

Field Day Update

It is less than a month until Field Day and the preparations are starting. What am I doing to prepare. Lets take a look.

Administrative:

My normal work schedule is Sunday through Thursday 1500-2330 local, this means I need to schedule time off and for someone to cover for me on Sunday. This has already been taken care of, but it is worth mentioning.

Tools and Misc. Supplies:

I always bring tools with me to the Field Day site in case myself or anyone else needs them. I need to take care of a few things. First I need to take the screwdriver from my bedroom and put back in my toolbox and possibly get a screwdriver just for the stereo as the one component is finicky and jams sometimes. I need to bring my nut drivers home and gather my portable soldering tools. I also need to get fuses for my one multimeter since I managed to blow it. I will also be bringing my handheld radio in case communications on the repeaters are needed. I also have sunscreen and bug spray from last year that I should be able to use as well.

Computing and commercial communications:

I usually try to bring a computer and tether it to my smartphone (likely portable hotspot) in case someone needs information from the Internet. I will bring my Acer Chromebook with my for that. Also may bring my tablet. My Samsung S4 smartphone will provide commercial cellular Data, SMS, and Phone communications including the data connection to the other devices.

Snacks and Drinks:

While the club provides the dinner and some snacks and sodas, I always bring my own to drink. I will be bringing Pepsi and bottles of water to drink as well as some salted snacks such as Chex Mix to eat. Not sure what if anything else I'm bringing for food/drink.

Camera Equipment and setup:

I'll be using mostly the same equipment as last year with my Canon EOS Rebel T5 (which will be synced with the computer for time beforehand) and my lenses. I now have a flash for the DSLR so I will not be limited to the internal flash, slow shutters, or my film camera after sunset. Power will be provided to the camera body by Canon lithium ion batteries and the flash will be powered by either (or both) Lithium Primary cells and Low Self Discharge NiMh cells. I will also bring my Targus Tripod in case it is needed.


Contributions:

In an earlier post I had stated that I would be donating fuel in addition to being the photographer and one of the GOTA station coaches. It appears that the fuel donation will not be necessary. I will still be the photographer and provide GOTA station coaching.

03 June 2015

Updates

Oops, haven't been updating the blog as much as I should have and therefore some updates are in order.

JFK Race:

Last time I posted I was talking about going to provide communications for the JFK Ultramarathon. Things did go well. The only issue I ran into was my own fault. I did not bring a spare battery with me and my battery was running low later in the race when I needed communications. This has been fixed. I was able to spend more time in my car to keep warm between races this year, so I was able to keep warmer than last year.

New (to me) HT:

I finally got a better unit than my FDC160A. Not only does this one have better quality as it is an older Yaesu, but I have more batteries for it and it is easier to maintain. I also have a high gain (Relative to a rubber duck) antenna on the HT to also improve communication and likely will be able to keep communications established on low power. The FT-490 allows me to operate using various different battery packs. I should be able to operate from the 7.2 volt packs on low power, in addition I have three packs (2 7.2 volt and 1 12 volt) and am able to purchase a AA alkaline pack to use with the HT.

RadioShack Stores Closing:

Most of the RadioShack stores near me are now closed. During this time I have purchased batteries, chargers, many parts, an Arduino Mega, a TFT shield for Arduino, and many various parts and bits. While the nearby stores are closed. There is one remaining open within 30 miles so I can still get things from RadioShack, it will just be a longer drive. Hopefully some items will become available when the online store comes back up.

Field Day 2015:

Yes it is that time of year again to start thinking of Field Day. I will likely repeat most of the same things I did last year, EXCEPT, this year I will be donating fuel for the generators and bringing my wonderful girlfriend along. Photos should be posted here to the blog sometime after Field Day.