I’ve used the two-way radio installed in our EcoSport to receive a transmission from the International Space Station (ISS), a satellite orbiting the Earth at a height of about 400 km. Tracking satellites is part of my hobby as an amateur radio enthusiast. Installing a powerful receiver in an EcoSport allows me to move around easily and find optimal places to conduct radio-related experiments.
About a year ago, I’ve built a DIY motorized antenna mount (for two-way radio) from a spare stepper motor and controller. There are two design requirements in building motorized mounts: (1) it must be stable enough, even at high speeds and (2) it must be able to lower and raise the antenna even at high speeds.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while now, you would know that I am also a licensed amateur radio enthusiast (Class B: 4I1AWN). A number of modifications done in this EcoSport are geared towards improving my mobile radio setup. In this video, I have shown how I placed a press-to-talk button in the shifter knob for a hands-free operation of the radio.
The modification involves drilling a hole in the shifter knob and then placing a switch (with light). The shifter rod was also shortened to make room for the switch. Spiral telephone wire cables were used to allow movement of the shifter rod with minimal stress to the cables. Installed in 2016, this shifter knob button has worked flawlessly ever since.
To watch a video on how I installed a shifter knob button in our EcoSport, head directly to Shifter Knob Button.
It is always exciting to establish contact with fellow radio enthusiast especially if those contacts are from your home province. In a recent trip to Bicol, I was able to get in touch with a number of amateur radio enthusiasts in Camarines Norte, from the group CANORA (Dx4CN, 144.720 MHz, Camarines Norte Radio Amateurs, Inc.). Not only that I was given a warm-welcome-on-the-air, I was also given access to their repeater, which pretty much covers the whole of Bicol region!
I was also able to get in touch with the Kabalikat group in Camarines Norte.
In October 2018, I’ve performed a series of tests to determine if it is possible to get in touch with fellow amateur radio enthusiasts 200 km away, using only the equipment I installed in our EcoSport. Though the signal was very weak and almost unreadable, I was able to establish contact with stations in Baguio, while the vehicle is in a favorable location—cruising along the NAIA X elevated highway in Pasay! The straight-line distance covered, which is the radio’s effective range, is approximately 210 km. Baguio’s elevation of 1540 m coupled with good propagation, and my station’s vicinity to a body of water (Manila Bay) have likely contributed to the extended range of the radio.
I have recently finished building (DIY) and installing a motorized antenna mount for two-way radio, using a geared stepper motor with a stepper motor driver (I have made a detailed post about stepper controllers in my other blog). This motorized mount allows me to raise and lower my antenna with the touch of a button. The mount’s motor is waterproof and has enough torque to carry heavier loads such as 5/8 wave antennas. It can also be modified to become an antenna rotator, or add another motor to build a two-axis satellite tracker, perhaps for a future project.
Six months after passing the amateur radio technician class exam (Class C), I have now finished setting up the two way radio in my EcoSport. I have made a number of improvements from my first version such as an increased range (with better SWR) and seamless integration with the vehicle.
I have been using this setup for more than 4 months now, and made consistent and reliable contacts with stations within a 30-km radius. The farthest contact made with this setup in this configuration is 210 km (simplex).
Since I do not often use the AM/FM radio, I’ve decided to modify the stock antenna and replace it with an antenna that is tuned to amateur radio frequencies. This antenna shall allow me to use a hand-held transceiver (HT) for scanning and occasionally, for transmitting signals in the amateur band.
Recent tests showed that this antenna is capable of extending the range of my Motorola CP-1660 to about 30 km range, even with obstacles (I was in our garage in Bacoor Cavite, yet I can still use my HT to contact stations in QC, 30 km away, with just 5W!) .
AM/FM reception was not totally lost, as the stock antenna was relocated to the front left pillar of the vehicle.
In the video, I have drilled through the stock antenna mount, and hand-tapped a thread to make it compatible with several of my antennas. Proper coaxial cables and connectors were also made to bring the signal to the HT, located at the left side of the driver.
Any place with high elevation offers ideal conditions to test the range of a radio gear. I was in Tagaytay last week testing out the two-way radio equipment I have installed in my EcoSport. With multiple successful contacts from Tagaytay to other radio stations in Quezon City, I was able to determine that my current radio setup has an effective range of at least 70 km.
The two farthest-ever distances reached by my radio setup is (1) about 135 km, when I accidentally received a “CQ” (a call) from a station in Calapan, Mindoro, while driving along Roxas Blvd., in Manila and (2) about 210 km QSO with local stations in Baguio, while driving along NAIA X elevated highway in Pasay.
The equipment I used for these tests are as follows:
Yaesu 2900R VHF 75-watt base radio
Diamond SG7000 dual band mobile antenna (1/4-wave VHF, 6/8-wave UHF)
Diamond K33 antenna mount
Diamond SX200 SWR meter
4 meters of RG8 cable