The Amateur Radio/Storm Chaser Slow Scan Experiment

Erik H Jacobsen

Enthusiast
Jan 2, 2021
3
0
1
McKinney, TX
Amateur radio or ham radio has conveniently intersected with my love of meteorology. I discovered skywarn a several months after getting my license in 1988. Several storm chasers have obtained there FCC licenses and use their licenses contribute to skywarn nets and communicate with fellow chasers in the field.

Because of ham radio does not require commercial infrastructure (with the exception electricity), it makes the perfect technology for chasing. I constantly hear feedback that chasers can’t access cellular data services in the field. I am proposing an experiment using slow scan technologies to transmit and receive radar and other weather related images to chasers in the field. I would like to know if anyone is interested in this. Participation in the research phase doesn't require a license, I would like to take my HF radios and meet you all in the field on a chase. I would also like to evaluate the use of low cost shortwave receivers to receive images. Here is my proposal:

Sstvex

You can contact me at mplsvrf@icloud.com

Cheers

Erik AI9O
 

J West

Supporter
Jun 7, 2005
226
4
6
MKX CWA
Interesting thought, but impractical on a few fronts (no pun intended)...

First, antennas. The size of useful, adequate antennas is prohibitive for all except the most "enthusiastic" ham operator. Nobody is hanging a ham stick, Tarheel, etc. from their car unless they already have one.

Second, radios. Even if someone were to be willing to hang an obnoxious antenna on their car, which radio will be used? Most hobbyist SW radios (not amateur gear, mind you) are not meant for use in a vehicle. If ham gear is used, only those which have it already will likely use it due to cost and licensing considerations.

Third, fixed control stations. Who will be the network of ops needed to push the data out on HF freqs? It will need to be more than one station.

Forth, data decoding. Even if all the stars align and now I have received the data in the car, how will it be decoded? PC sound card? How do you get the data onto a smart phone or tablet?

I'm not opposed to the thought, but I see a lot of obstacles. That said, I could see a small group doing some beta testing for fun if they were so interested. I'd also suggest maybe a smaller initiative using 6m due to the smaller antenna considerations and decent range with appropriate fixed infrastructure.
 

Erik H Jacobsen

Enthusiast
Jan 2, 2021
3
0
1
McKinney, TX
Comments inline

QUOTE="J West, post: 370339, member: 431"]
Interesting thought, but impractical on a few fronts (no pun intended)...

First, antennas. The size of useful, adequate antennas is prohibitive for all except the most "enthusiastic" ham operator. Nobody is hanging a ham stick, Tarheel, etc. from their car unless they already have one.

—>Yes HF antennas are big. I live in an HOA area that doesn‘t permit antenna, so I have to run HF Mobile. I know a lot of HF mobile hams. Some are more sucessful than others. In 2018 I did field day as a mobile entrant and made over 300 contacts (https://contests.arrl.org/ContestResults/2018/Field-Day-2018-FinalQSTResults.pdf). Look me up under 1C, callsign AI9O. I disagree with your premise that only the “most enthusatic ham” will run HF mobile. If you ever go to a hamfest, you will see a good percentage of the vehicles with HF antennas. Also if HF Mobile was uncommon, the antenna manufacturers would be out of business<—

Second, radios. Even if someone were to be willing to hang an obnoxious antenna on their car, which radio will be used? Most hobbyist SW radios (not amateur gear, mind you) are not meant for use in a vehicle. If ham gear is used, only those which have it already will likely use it due to cost and licensing considerations.

—>Its an experiment, we wont know until we try it. If you are outside of the city, your radio sitting on top of your trunk *might* work out just fine.<—

Third, fixed control stations. Who will be the network of ops needed to push the data out on HF freqs? It will need to be more than one station.

—>I am working on this. If you were using 20m, it wouldnt be practical, but if all the chasers are in OK on a particular day than 40m should work out good.<—


Forth, data decoding. Even if all the stars align and now I have received the data in the car, how will it be decoded? PC sound card? How do you get the data onto a smart phone or tablet?
—->There is an app for that. Check out SSTV Slow Scan TV in the Apple App Store.<—

I'm not opposed to the thought, but I see a lot of obstacles. That said, I could see a small group doing some beta testing for fun if they were so interested. I'd also suggest maybe a smaller initiative using 6m due to the smaller antenna considerations and decent range with appropriate fixed infrastructure.

—>6 meters would be worth a shot as long as the base station is within 50 miles. It also has the advantage that techs can transmit on this band and its great band for mobile simplex<—
[/QUOTE]
 

Drew Terril

Staff member
I believe the point that J West was trying to make is that most storm chasers with ham licenses never progress past their Tech license, as their primary interest in the hobby deals with Skywarn. I'm one of the few chasers I know that even dabbles in HF, and I do all my HF work from home at that, mostly with PSK-31 and the like rather than SSB voice or CW. Most of my mobile work is the various digital voice modes over VHF and UHF, particularly DMR. Even then, I'm far more involved in the hobby than a vast majority of chasers. I've been to my share of hamfests over the years, and while there are plenty of guys doing HF out there, the overlap between those who do a lot of HF and those who chase is very minimal.

Even when picking up a cheap HF rig (I paid $250 or so for my starter rig that's not mobile friendly), there's enough cost in antennas and sound cards and the like to pay for a few seasons worth of Baron Mobile ThreatNet which is delivered via satellite. Considering I have a WxWorx box in my chase rig, I don't see any real advantage to SSTV, particularly on HF bands that are very limited in bandwidth. Throw in an HF radio that's actually mobile friendly, where you're paying in excess of $600, and it's a lot of cost on the equipment end that doesn't give much overall return. For a true mobile friendly setup that would receive and decode this, I can pay for somewhere in the neighborhood of three full years of Baron data via XM.

That's just the cost to set up, and before you factor in propagation characteristics. If you think of how 20m and 40m propagate, you're talking several hundred kilometers, and that's with vertical antennas and not a dipole that's designed for DX operation. Line of Sight is limited to 100km (approx 60mi) or less. So covering that gap between LOS and propagation would be difficult at best, particularly with bandwidth limitations to display those types of images.

Does it sound neat on paper? Yes. But the practicality is limited at best, considering how much less expensive satellite delivered (and therefore not dependent on cellular data) Baron ThreatNet is.
 
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