1. SOTA Activation of San Pedro Mountain, W6/NC-410

    Summits on the Air (SOTA) combines two of my favorite pastimes, amateur radio and hiking. The objective is to climb to a nearby peak, then contact as many people as you can on the radio. While most SOTA peak activations are on HF, my only portable gear at the moment is a few HTs.

    On Saturday Nov 7th, I activated San Pedro Mountain, which is 1058 ft tall. It's located in Harry A. Barbier Memorial Park in the hills above San Rafael, next to China Camp State Park.

    I took the Knight Dr route, from Tom AI6CU, hiking along the Ridge Fire Road. The hike up took about 45 minutes, and some sections of the trail were very steep. I ...

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  2. Oakland Radiosonde Investigation, Launch, and Recovery

    I've recently stumbled upon the radiosonde_auto_rx project. I've always been interested in tracking radiosondes, and even watched a radiosonde launch in Inuvik, NWT a few years back. Worldwide, there are over 800 launches every twelve hours of every day, and this data feeds into weather forecast models.

    The radiosonde_auto_rx project is built around decoding many different types of radiosondes with a software-defined receiver. The preferred receiver is a RTL-SDR Blog v3, and I already had an extra one of those (because they are so inexpensive!).

    Most radiosondes worldwide use 400-406 MHz as their downlink, but the United States also uses some frequencies around 1680 MHz. Reading the documentation on which frequencies are in use, it appeared that 1680 MHz was ...

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  3. Decoding AIS Signals for Marine Monitoring

    Automatic Identification System is a system for boats to broadcast their location. This is very helpful in congested waters, such as in the San Francisco Bay, where many ferries, huge container ships, and small pleasure craft are trying to avoid each other. Onboard digital chart plotters can show nearby ships, their heading, speed, and expected position a few minutes from now. Early AIS transmitters were very expensive, but the new generation of Class B transmitters are actually pretty inexpensive.

    AIS operates on two frequencies, Marine VHF channels 87B and 88B. These are the high-side duplex frequencies of channel 87 and 88, and they are 161.975 and 162.025 MHz. The data link layer is 9600 baud GMSK, packet length ...

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  4. High-Altitude Balloon Launch from Davis

    The SF-HAB group got together in the beginning of August to do another high-altitude balloon launch. The purpose was to test out a new 3D GoPro camera to see how well it would perform at altitude. We also had a LoRA transciever onboard, which we are thinking about using as a remote cutdown device that we would fly on future launches.

    The jet stream in July was really unsettled, so we delayed for a few weeks while the winds picked up a bit and shifted heading. Watching the predictions from HABHUB gave us a good idea when to launch. This was one of our predictions before launch.

    Prediction from Dixon

    Unfortunately, I really goofed up when doing the launch predictions. As you can ...

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  5. High-Altitude Balloon Launch from the Berkeley Marina

    After the success of the KD4STH launch in September, we decided to do it again! A new group formed for San Francisco High Altitude Balloons (SF-HAB), and we started scheming. The hardware and time stars finally aligned on Sunday March 8th, and we decided to launch from the Berkeley Marina. Unbeknownst to us, this was only a few days before the whole world shut down due to COVID-19. Great timing!

    Preparing the area for the launch

    Getting ready to fill the balloon

    The balloon was a Kaymont 3kg balloon, and we used an entire K-sized tank of hydrogen for lift. Unlike some previous launches, we didn't use weights to carefully measure/specify the ascent rate, we just used the whole tank. During the chase, we calculated our ascent rate at about 1400 ...

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  6. Radiosonde Launch from Inuvik, NWT

    In September 2016 I visited the Environment Canada Weather Station in Inuvik, NWT. I arrived just as they were preparing for the 2300z weather balloon launch, and they let me hang around and take some pictures.

    Every twelve hours around the globe, approximatley 800 radiosondes are launched. These weather balloons record temperature, pressure, humidity, and location from the surface all the way up to 100k feet, or higher. These measurement are fed into weather models for long-term weather forecasting. These launches happen worldwide at 1100 and 2300 UTC, which gives the balloon enough time to be up at altitude around noon and midnight UTC.

    This is the Vaisala RS92-SGPD radiosonde, which measures location, pressure, temperature, and humidity as the balloon ...

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