11/08/18 22:10:54 UTC
234.55 MHz
TACOMA, WA
Talon and Blue Tail active in the Olympic A&B moas.
 
11/08/18 19:12:08 UTC
311.0 MHz
EDGEWATER, FL
EAM couldn't make out call sign
 
11/08/18 18:40:13 UTC
311.00 MHz
MC KINNEY, TX
EAM from "Messkit"
 
11/08/18 18:22:02 UTC
311.00 MHz
MC KINNEY, TX
"Manifold" wit "Messkit" numerous radio checks
 
11/07/18 23:32:26 UTC
248.65 MHz
CHILLICOTHE, OH
Stings & Blue Ash Ops in Buckeye MOA all freqs from 11/6 active
 

11/10/18 23:06:24 UTC
233.350 MHz
?
 
11/10/18 23:04:59 UTC
276.450 MHz
?
 
11/08/18 20:05:53 UTC
266.600 MHz
?
 
11/08/18 18:32:05 UTC
351.900 MHz
?
 
11/07/18 22:30:58 UTC
284.550 MHz
?
 
11/07/18 22:11:53 UTC
399.850 MHz
?
 
11/07/18 21:53:22 UTC
377.100 MHz
la center?
 



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Here is an article that was uploaded to my old Google Group many years ago about constructing your own MilSat yagi. I build it and it worked out great, it was easy to build. Here are a few pictures of mine. Click on the image for larger view.

How I Built My UHF SATCOM Monitoring Antenna

By: Ted Moran, June - 2003

For about the past 15 years I've been attracted to the idea of being able to receive radio transmissions from military satellites. I've been an avid Milair listener for many years and I was aware that satellite communications over time have greatly replaced or complemented normal point to point communications. Plus, there was just something technically thrilling about the concept of being able to receive these weak and somewhat mysterious radio signals.

The book "Communications Satellites" by Larry Van Horn (Third Edition) copyright 1987 ISBN 0-944543-01-4 (sorry, out of print, dated anyway and hard to find!), really put the bug in me. I experimented around with various types of omni-directional "scanner" antennas, pre-amps and receivers but never really had much luck.

Later I met a friend, Jeff Zeman, who had similar interests. He had some better success than I did. He was using various types of gain vertical antennas and ground reflector plates, low loss coax, pre-amps, band filters and a Uniden BC-895 XLT. We live in Chicago, where the background noise level is very high and makes weak signal reception often challenging.

Jeff and I took a road trip down to our state's capital (Springfield). We rode in his van and had his 895xlt hooked up to a 19 inch magnet mount antenna on the roof. Once we got out in rural Illinois we started hearing quite a bit of satellite communications in the 262-264 Mhz bands. We caught several transmissions which appeared to be from Spanish speaking military forces deployed in the then raging "drug war". I was fascinated.

Later Jeff managed to obtain on the surplus market a Dorne and Margolin military antenna. This somewhat ungainly thing is basically a crossed 6 element yagi (having both horizontal and vertical elements) mounted on a steerable tripod. We had many hours of fun with it, hooked up to his AOR-8000 handheld scanner. Jeff even managed to determine who a couple of satellite hackers in Europe were and established some friendships with them via e-mail. I think one even sent him a QSL card!

Sadly, we also noticed that over the years there were less and less in the clear communications by United States military and federal users. Various forms of digital and rolling code voice inversion scrambling become more common. But I still had the satellite bug! I wanted to sit at home and hear those signals. Many times, after the Internet arrived, I hunted the used surplus market for a similar antenna, with no results for anything I could afford.

Early this year I lost my friend Jeff due to lung cancer. A real tragedy, Jeff left behind a family business, a home, a wife and two great kids and all his buddies in our local radio club. We miss having Jeff's "spirit of adventure" around. We held an estate sale for him shortly after. My buddy Fred Shabec (webmaster at: http://www.carmachicago.com ) beat me in a bidding war for Jeff's satellite antenna. Fred's having a lot of fun with it and I recently joined him for a pleasurable hour or two of satellite listening in his side yard.

The nice thing about this antenna, aside from it's somewhat dubious "portability" is it's high gain and very wide "look-angle". When using it, if it's pointed anywhere up in the southern sky, you'll hear something eventually. It doesn't require very accurate pointing.

Well, after spending the day with Fred I was finally motivated enough to explore trying my hand at building something that would work. Just as an experiment I attached a 26 inch long (about 5/8 wave vertical at 260 Mhz) telescoping antenna to my handheld Yupiteru MVT-7100 scanner and went out on the front porch. With only a slight waving around of the vertical I quickly found a fleet broadcast downlink on 250.550 Mhz. Aha! I knew I should be able to building something that would let me reliably capture some sorts of signals from at least this one bird, if nothing else.

I looked at a lot of plans on the Internet. Helix antennas looked good, but perhaps a little beyond my mechanical skills and pocketbook, both of which are pretty meager. Same for cubical-quad designs, which still look very promising. Web research revealed the signals from the birds are right-hand circular polarized, but my experience has been that satellite signal's polarization tend to get a little "squashed up" in their lengthy travel through the atmosphere. I was convinced a yagi beam might just work, and that I would experiment with vertical and horizontal orientations to see which produced better results. Most other pictures of hobbyist installations I found on the web showed them horizontally configured. A yagi it would be for me…

Listening with Fred's antenna indicated that most of the voice communications were in the 262-264 Mhz range. The 244 Mhz freqs were mostly data. So I planned on a center frequency of 263 Mhz, keeping the desire for about 20 Mhz of bandwidth in mind.

My design strategy centered on two things. First and foremost, satellite listening is different from other types of listening. These are obviously weak signals. But the signals from any given bird are all at roughly the same level. Unlike other types of terrestrial listening, you don't need to design for every last ounce of gain you can achieve. You just need something good enough to capture the signals on your receiver and that's good enough. Unless you have a steerable / rotor mount it's more important to design for a wide look-angle to make pointing and mounting the antenna less critical. The width of the look angle and the front-to-back ratio of a yagi are usually inversely proportional. High front to back ratios mean narrower look angles, generally. So I didn't shoot for a high front to back ratio. But I guesstimated I'd need something around 8 or 10 Db gain for decent results with an outdoor mount.

The other thing is physical location - the mounting point. You want a good open view of the equatorial belt. This is the path in the sky obtained by projecting the earth's equator outward into space. In the Northern Hemisphere you'll find it running east-to-west in the southern sky. The farther north you are, the lower it will be. Here in Chicago it's about halfway up. For me, this really reduced the possibilities. I was left with my garage roof or my existing 20 foot mast on the north side of the house. I settled on the existing mast. But the good thing about satellite listening is, again apart from terrestrial scanning, antenna height doesn't matter. Satcom antennas work as well a few feet off the ground as they do atop a hundred foot mast. A hundred feet doesn't get you closer to, or a better line of sight to a listening target that's 23,600 miles away and up in the sky! Plus, because these are weak signals, you want a short run of low loss coaxial cable to reduce signal loss in the cable. Happily, I had a length of Belden 9913 coax out in the shed, but I'd imagine good quality RG6 quad shield, low loss cable TV cable would work well for a short run in a pinch.

One other consideration - physical durability. The weather in Chicago is much worse than you've heard about. Wind storms, ice storms, tons of snow, burning hot summers, torrential rain, hail, tornadoes, we get it all. I'd scratch built some attic and temporary antennas before but this would be my first foray into a real, permanently mounted outdoor antenna scratch build. If I was going to go through all this trouble I didn't want it destroyed in the next thunderstorm.

Note: Designing, building and mounting antennas can be dangerous. You can easily cut your fingers off, fall off the roof, fall through the roof, get hit by lighting, burn your hands, drill through your wife's dining room table, scare your cats, etc. I don't address lightning protection at all here, you probably should. Persons as crazy as I am who actually follow these directions assume all risk and liability associated with the project. Be safe, we want you around.

Read all the instructions all the way through from start to finish before beginning. The re-read each step before proceeding. Make sure you understand what the heck I'm talking about before trying it yourself. (I don’t know what I mean half the time myself!).

My next step was to find some really good Yagi antenna design program to play around with. I found the perfect program. It's called "quickyagi" and it's shareware. It's runs good as a DOS program either in DOS environments or in a DOS window in windows 95 and 98. You can get it at: (it only crashed once!)

http://www.raibeam.com/wa7rai.html

I spent a couple of days playing around with the program, trying out different numbers of elements, front to back ratios, element length and gain optimizations and targets for gain and overall bandwidth. I finally settled on a 5 element design. I was tempted to try a four element variation as I was able to create one with almost a seventy degree angle, but the overall gain was a little low. I based part of my reasoning on the fact that the Dorne & Margolin antenna we'd had such great results with has six elements. I knew I didn't want much less gain than it has.

Below is a schematic diagram of the design I settled upon. This is to indicate physical element spacing only, more on the actual construction details a bit later…(drawing not to scale!)

DIRECTORS

DRIVEN

REFLECTOR

 

ELEMEN

 

BOOM TUBE

 

 

 

 

253.4 mm

 

 

 

 

183.8 mm

 

 

 

 

134.7 mm

 

 

 

 

 

163.2 mm

 

 

 

 

 

 

(9.98 In)

 

 

 

 

(7.24 In)

 

 

 

 

(5.30 In)

 

 

 

 

 

(6.43 In)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Element Lengths:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

E1

 

 

R1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D3

474.8 mm 18.69 In

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D2

496.9 mm 19.56 In

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D1

522.6 mm 20.57 In

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

E1

546.4 mm 21.51 In

(Total length, this is two pieces, each 273.2 mm / 10.76 Inches long)

 

 

R1

581.1 mm 22.88 In

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total length of the array is about 737 mm, or a bit over 29 inches. But figure on leaving yourself at least 18 Inches or so extra boom tubing material in back of the reflector element for most mounting situations. More to follow in construction details below. Toss is a couple extra inches for the "fudge factor", and buy at least another two feet of boom tubing material to practice and experiment with drilling, filling and attaching techniques. (You'll thank me later…)

Materials and construction:

Okay so how am I going to build this contraption and get it mounted on my pole looking at a bird?

Most of the web pages I looked at suggested using one-inch diameter PVC plastic plumbing pipe for the boom tube and one-half inch diameter thin wall copper water pipe for elements. Well, that's excellent advice for larger (lower frequency) arrays and those with better mechanical skills, tools and slightly heftier pocketbooks than I have. Plus, you'll end up with a physically bulkier, heavier contraption which might present some mounting difficulties. I needed something fairly streamlined, reasonably durable and very cheap.

A material I was more familiar with working on is one-quarter inch, semi-flexible copper tubing. It's used for air conditioning lines. I decided to try using it and three-quarter inch PVC plastic plumbing pipe for the boom tube. Folks at the helpful local Ace hardware recommended "schedule 40" pipe, which has a thicker wall (stiffer and more durable). I bought 12 feet of copper tubing and six feet of PVC pipe for about eight dollars.

Some words on quarter-inch flexible copper tubing…

Always buy more than you'll think you'll need. After the kid at the hardware store accidentally shorted me 15 millimeters, and after I made a couple of mistakes and discovered a defect in the line I had to go back and buy another 4 feet. You'll also want a tubing cutter. The cheapest one you can find will work fine. I already had one on hand. In a pinch you can try a cable cutter or hacksaw. Make a couple of practice cuts before cutting off element lengths.

You'll find this stuff in the plumbing or more likely, air conditioning section of the hardware store. It will probably be sitting on a shelf in big square, flat box or just sitting in rolls. Help the staff cut it. Explain you need to keep the lengths as straight and un-kinked as possible. Don’t just grab it and pull. Slowly and carefully unroll the reel, keeping the extending length as straight as you can. Once this stuff is bent or kinked it's hard to get it perfectly straight again, which is what you need.

How precise do you have to be? As close as you can, but a millimeter here or there is only going to make a few hundred kilohertz difference frequency wise. Try to get within a millimeter or two on all dimensions. The hardest and most critical part is centering the elements in the boom tube material. I suggest marking each element's exact center, then making a mark on the element about eleven millimeters on either side of the center point.

While you are at the hardware store go back to the plumbing section and pick up a tube of epoxy plumbers putty. Then go to the wood supplies. Get two, three-foot long five-eight's inch thick, hardwood dowels (sticks) and at least one or two three-foot dowels which will fit inside the quarter inch copper tubing. Slightly oversize is okay. The concept here is the thicker dowels are going to go inside the PVC pipe, nice and tightly. Different diameter PVC pipe may require a different sized dowel. Five-eight's inch dowels worked really nice with my Schedule-40 PVC pipe. Get a can of outdoor enamel spray paint, color optional, I used blue. In the hardware section look for two U- Bolts which will fit over the PVC pipe easily, as long as possible and preferably either stainless steel or zinc treated to prevent rust, get nuts and washers for same.

Tools you may have on hand and will probably want: Small tubing cutter

Electric drill, bits: one-quarter inch, nine-sixteenths inch, half-inch counter-bore key-hole bit Medium grain sandpaper, couple sheets

Small files Knife

"Sharpie" or other permanent ink marker pen

-The wife's Dremel grinding tool came in very handy -Handsaw or similar for wood and plastic

-Pliers and/or wrench to fit U-Bolt nuts -Side cuts or cable cutter

-Scissors (No, not the wife's good kitchen scissors, I'm trying to keep you out of trouble!)

Odds and ends:

-Roll of duct tape (of course!)

-Black, 14 inch plastic heavy duty cable ties (of course!)

-Scrap piece of 2x4 lumber about eight to ten inches long, preferably pressure treated wood and another scrap piece of same to serve as a drilling block (I don't own a good vice!). (Don't drill into the wife's new table!).

-If you or a friend owns a drill press or drill stand it will be a god send. I don't and did it by eyeball, so can you. -Scrap piece of medium thickness stranded copper wire, about two feet long.

Junk from Radio Shack:

-Suitable length of their quad-shield RG-6 cable if you don't have decent coax laying around going to waste -Suitable connector for same, probably a PL-259

-Two of their U-Bolt antenna mount clamps contraptions, part 15-826 -Pack of their coax seal tape and some solder.

-I finally splurged. Their 100 watt el-cheapo soldering gun was on sale for $12.99. Very handy for heavy soldering.

My total cost was under fifty bucks for everything, including the soldering gun. Wife approved. Project kept me out of her hair for three days anyway.

Ready? Here we go. Go slowly before each step and measure everything carefully twice before cutting or drilling.

Assembly:

Step 1. Hard part - using your permanent marker, draw a perfectly straight line down the length of the PVC tube. I used the gaps between the boards in my front porch deck to lay the pipe partially into to serve as a guide. If you mess up, do it over.

Step 2. Run sandpaper over the lengths of the thicker wood dowels until they fit fairly smoothly inside the PVC pipe. I got close, got tired of sanding, got them started in the tube then banged them the rest of the way by holding the PVC tube vertically and slamming the end of the dowel down onto the sidewalk. When you try this technique you will hit too hard, cracking or breaking the dowel and/or splitting the PVC pipe. Again, this is why it pays to use thicker walled PVC tube. Got the tube filled? Okay…

Step 3. Use the handsaw to cut right through the PVC Pipe / Inner dowel combination boom tube. I'd say you want at least a 40 inch long stretch of boom tube pipe, but your mounting situation may differ. Leave at least 18 inches of excess for now anyway. Set aside the left-over length of tube. That's your practice piece.

Step 4. Mark the boom tube for the element holes. Mark a cross spot on your centerline about an inch back from one end for the D3 element (shortest Director). Then CAREFULLY measure back each spacing dimension from there, making a cross mark at each spot.

Step 5. Practice. Get your practice length of scrap boom tube. Lay it your scrap 2x4. Mark a bunch a cross spots on the centerline a couple inches apart. Kneel with one knee on the scrap tube, pinning it and the scrap 2x4 to the ground. (No, not the wife's new table!!!). Fix the quarter inch bit into the electric drill. Poke the tip of the bit into the first cross mark on the PVC scrap boom tube. Hold drill perfectly downwards at a ninety-degree angle, perpendicular to the tube. Remember, you are working in three axis here, center of the tube, right angles to the tube and right angles across the tube's length. Fire up drill at near full speed and punch right on through. Repeat a dozen times until you get it right. Or, until you drill through your hand or knee, or until the tube spins back at you striking you in the crotch. Go to hospital.

Seriously, practice drilling first. You only get one chance on each hole on the real pipe. Mess that up and you'll be cursing my name. I'll hear you and feel your pain. Back to the hardware store, buy more tube, curse at Ted. In truth, one of my real holes was about a millimeter and a half too high above the center line. Didn't make much difference performance wise. Quarter inch semi-flexible copper tubing is pretty forgiving and you can flex elements back into the plane of design if you mess up a little. But I did manage to get them all at ninety degree right angles, only because I practiced first. I'm less than handy with a hand drill. You can see where a drill press or drill stand would come in REAL handy. Sigh… there's always Christmas!

Step 6. Drill the real quarter-inch holes at the marks on the real boom tube. Go slow and precise.

Step 7. Measure out and CAREFULLY cut each element from your length of copper tubing. Come up a quarter inch short on the last one and you'll wish you bought some extra like I told the first time!

Step 8. On the E1 element - the driven element - the one we going to attach the coaxial cable to later, cut it exactly in half. No, I meant EXACTLY.

Step 9. On the E1 Element - the driven element, carefully slightly ream open the inside of one end of each section, just a little. Use a sharp knife. This is soft copper. It trims pretty easily but will ruin knife blades, too. Oh well. These are the centers, remember them. We will be almost joining them together.

Step 10. Take some sandpaper and lightly rough up the E1 elements outer surfaces about two inches back from either center end.

Step 11. One at a time, take each E1 element and hold it's end over a gas flame. If you have a torch, use it. I used our gas stove. Scream in pain because you should have used a pliers to hold it. Copper heats up real quick! When it's nice and hot (before it catches fire - yes copper will eventually ignite and burn your house down) take it out of the flame and carefully melt some solder onto it's outer surface around the center end. Doesn't have to be perfect. If you haven't done this before, it's tricky, use patience. After it's cool, go over it thoroughly with sandpaper, then wipe it down with a wet rag. The goal is a very, very thin smooth coating of solder on the copper, no big globs.

Step 12. Stick the elements, except the E1 driven element, through the boom tube holes. Center each exactly. Start each one by pushing an end through, then pulling through the remaining length. You may have to open up the holes very slightly either with a small file or by reaming a little with the drill. Leave the E1 driven element hole empty for now.

Optional: For stiffer elements you can try inserting wood dowels inside them. I tried this and found it too frustrating and not worth the effort. If you don't do this it will be easier to correct drilling mistakes by slightly flexing the elements into place. If they have wood dowels inside them they won't flex or bend very much. I think the quarter inch tube is stiff enough that gravity and wind wont deform the array much over time, I'll be seeing in the future if I'm right…

Step 13. Mush up some globs of the plumber's epoxy putty. I used some disposable plastic gloves. I hate this stuff. It stinks. Stick a little glob at the juncture of each element and the boom tube on each side. I rolled out a little string about an inch and half long and kind of wrapped it around each element where it met the tube, then pinched and smooshed it tight. Make any final adjustments quick; this stuff sets rock hard in about thirty minutes. Sand to perfection if desired. Also seal up each of the end the boom tube and it's inner dowel for weather protection.

Step 14. Okay, we do need a wood dowel inside the E1 element. I had to do a lot of hand sanding on a thin wood dowel to make it fit. The goal is to have the two elements with their centers facing each other at the middle of the length of dowel. The middles must not touch each other. I broke several dowels while trying to sand them to the correct diameter, tricky work - thin stuff.

I did it by making the dowel slightly thinner than it really needed to be. I coated it's middle with about a half-inch of epoxy putty and then slid down each half of the E1 element down it's length, solder coated ends facing each other, until a little glob of epoxy got smooshed out between the ends, leaving about a one millimeter gap. Here's what mine looked like:

SOLDER COATING

SOLDER COATING

After the epoxy middle dries up nice and hard carefully sand off any excess until the center of the entire assembly is all about the same, even quarter-inch diameter.

We are going to slide this through the remaining E1 element boom tube hole. Chances are, between the solder coating at each tube's center end and the epoxy joint, you are probably going have to widen this hole more than you did the others. Mine took several tries and ended up being a nice tight fit. Be very careful. This element is not continuous like the others and it's VERY easy to snap it in half at the wood/epoxy joint when working it through the boom. You'll probably have to rebuild the E1 element if you do. Another good reason to buy more quarter inch copper than you think you'll need.

When it's centered in the boom tube you should have some silvery solder coating on each portion of the E1 center element protruding from each side of the boom tube. This is where we'll be attaching our contact wires. If you think it needs it you can put a VERY thin, small bead of epoxy putty around the boom tube hole / E1 element joint at this point. Don’t put a big glob like we did for the other elements, nothing more than maybe a millimeter thick. Finally, seal the ends of the E1 elements with epoxy putty. (I forgot to do this and will be up on the roof tomorrow!).

Step 15. Making the E1 Element contacts.

There are several techniques for doing this, all of which are valid. I'll show you my technique. The goal is two good electrical connections at the base (center) end of each E1 element section with as little (none) protruding wire as is possible, at least no more than you'll need to connect to the coax inner conductor and outer braid.

Strip off all insulation from your two foot long piece of stranded copper wire, then cut it in half. We are going to use each length of copper wire to tie a constrictor knot around the silvery solder coated end of either section of E1 element, right in snug where the element section meets the boom tube. Don’t know how to tie a constrictor knot? You should! It's great knot and easy to tie. Here's how:

Or, if that doesn't make sense, try:

http://www.northnet.org/ropeworks/reader/constric.pdf

Twist the ends once back around and twist them together. Trim off one of the ends, leave one intact as a contact point (connection wire). Then solder the connection closed to the copper pipe, leaving that one trailing end free. Again, the goal is to get the connection point close in against the boom tube on both sides. Use some coax seal tape to seal everything up except the trailing contact wire. Pre-solder coating the copper tubing should make the soldering much easier and make for a much better connection, that's why we did it.

Step 16. Connecting the cable.

Strip out about 4 inches of inner conductor and braid at one of the coax. Be careful to keep them slightly separated so as not to cause a short. Run this up the length of the outside of the boom tube from it's base (Reflector element end, the long one). Get the stripped out cable endings exactly even with the contact wires. Wrap both the boom tube and the cable together with duct tape. I also used a (tight!) cable tie around the cable and boom right at the connection point just for extra measure.

Twist together the inner cable conductor to one trailing connection wire. Do the same with outer braid of the cable and the other connection wire. Make the connections as short as you can. Solder the connections together, trim excess and seal with coax seal tape. Be especially sure to seal the exposed end of the coaxial cable where the inner conductor leaves the jacket and braid.

Voila, we are done electrically, you have an antenna. Mount a connector on the other end of the cable.

Note: Purists will insist I am all wrong. They will say you need a matching transformer, balun or matching stub or coil to connect a Yagi to 50 or 75 Ohm coax. Well, I tried doing that, having a 300 ohm -to- 75 ohm matching transformer on hand. I was anticipating I would need it. But big surprise - I got almost 2 S-Units better strength signals when NOT using the matching transformer. Mine worked MUCH better without it and simply using a direct coaxial cable connection as I describe. So there, the proof is in the pudding! Fie on the purists! I tried it both ways and mine worked better without the transformer. Your results may vary.

Step 16. Finding a bird to listen to

Connect the connector to your scanner, set to these frequencies:

250.350, 250.400, 250.450, 250.500, 250.550, 250.600, 250.650, 250.700

Taking the boom tube mast up by it's base in one hand and the scanner in the other march bravely outdoors. Watch the elements when going through doorways! Watch the neighbors run away in terror.

Turn on the scanner, carefully adjust the squelch. Set to "scan". Hold the mast out in front of you at arms length while facing south (in the Northern Hemisphere). Rotate the mast in your hand so the elements are horizontal. Elevate your arm skywards at about a 45 degree angle for starters and slowly swing it in an arc from the eastern to the western horizons and back again. (The sky path you want is about that which the moon follows). I'll bet a dollar to a doughnut that if you followed the directions at some point your scanner will stop scanning and you'll hear a crackling boat whistle like sound on one or more freqs. When it does, where the antenna is pointing is where your bird(s) is/are. One for each of the freqs. Make a mental note of that point in the sky. (I located two good birds in about 10 seconds doing this).

Do some wavering around to really try your best to pinpoint the exact sky locations. You can also try rotating the mast for a vertical orientation of the elements; I got much better results with horizontal. You results may vary. The closer you peg the point in the sky the stronger your signals will be. But don't go too crazy with it, with this design within a few degrees one way or the other is more than close enough.

I found two good birds. One, which I think is FLEETSAT7 due south on 250.350. It provides coverage to North and South America and was my primary intended listening target. I found another low on my east-south-eastern horizon on 250.550 which I think is a UHF-follow-on package providing western Atlantic / Eastern seaboard coverage.

Oddly, I got a slightly better signal strength off that bird. I reconsidered the coverage areas, signal strengths, likely types of traffic and decided instead to go with the western Atlantic bird, at least initially.

Okay, so cool, it's working. If it's not, well, you hopefully didn't spend more than about forty bucks, didn't cut any fingers off and learned how to tie a constrictor knot. Back to the drawing board, double-check your connections and all dimensions.

If it still doesn't work at all you may need a higher gain design. Use the quickyagi program to design an array with four or five directors instead. Other designs worthy of scratch building include helixes and cubic-quads. But for those you are on your own, they are beyond my very limited mechanical skills (for now).

Oh, almost forgot.

After you've spotted out one or more birds give the whole array at least two good coats of spray paint. It will go a long ways towards protecting your work from nature's elements. PVC tubing is very prone to UV decay from the sun's rays.

While you wait for the paint to dry start eyeballing possible mounting locations. You can build some nifty, tripod like designs and use remote controlled rotors if you have the inclination (pun intended). Some good ideas can be had by surfing amateur telescope building web sites - look for "equatorial telescope mounts".

But mine is not such a lucky nor skilled lot. I'll show you next how I built a mounting block out of a scrap 10 inch piece of 2x4 lumber to get my array up on my already overcrowded antenna mast and pointed fixed at a bird of interest, low down on my east-south-eastern horizon.

Where's that ladder…

Step 17. The mounting.

The catch here is that basically none of the U-Bolts were long enough to reach clear through my 2x4 lumber piece. So I counter-bored all the holes for the nuts using a one-half inch keyhole bit in the drill, a fine art. I also used my wife's Dremel tool with a conical, soft grinding bit to counter-sink the heads of the U-Bolts down into the block and to carve out some small valleys for both the boom tube and the vertical antenna mast.

Here's a crude drawing, might give you some ideas. Every mounting situation is different and all require some innovation. Sorry I can't be of more help here, every situation is unique.

Here's my finished antenna! Good luck with yours! - Ted