The theme for Hamvention® 2018 is “Amateur Radio…Serving the Community.” Ron Cramer, KD8ENJ, Hamvention General Chairman, said the theme acknowledges the role that ham radio operators play in their communities, especially in times of emergencies.
“During recent disasters, hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico and wildfires in the West, Amateur Radio operators were once again called upon to provide emergency communication assistance when regular services failed or were overtaxed,” Cramer said.
Nathan “Chip” Cohen, W1YW, of Belmont, Massachusetts — the founder of Fractal Antenna Systems Inc and inventor of the fractal antenna — has been granted a patent for deflective electromagnetic shielding — essentially “cloaking” technology to defend against detection by radar and similar technologies.
“Ham radio experimentation can lead to some pretty cool innovations!” Cohen said in response to a recent QRZ forum post about the patent. “Let’s keep that spirit alive in 2018.”
Philippines Amateur Radio Association’s (PARA) Ham Emergency Radio Operations (HERO) volunteers assisted with emergency communication support in the wake of two severe weather events. Tropical Storm Kai-tak — known locally as Urduja — hit first in the central Philippines on December 16, leaving nearly dozens dead and forcing others to evacuate. It was followed on December 22 by the more-severe Tropical Storm Tembin — known locally as Vinta — which caused significant damage and claimed some 200 lives in the southern Philippines. Hundreds more are reported missing.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey made her Amateur Radio debut on December 14 — the state’s 198th birthday — at the same time becoming the first person to use the state’s bicentennial call sign, AL2C. Alabama will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2019, and AL2C will be on the air for 2 years as part of the statewide celebration.
The FCC has imposed a $180,000 civil penalty on a Sarasota, Florida, company that had been marketing noncompliant audio-visual transmitters intended for use on drones in violation of the Commission’s Amateur Service and marketing rules. In an Order released on December 19, the FCC explained that Lumenier Holdco LLC (formerly known as FPV Manuals LLC) was advertising and marketing uncertified AV transmitters capable of operating on both amateur and non-amateur frequencies, including bands reserved for federal government use. Some of the transmitters also exceeded the 1-W power limit for Amateur Radio transmitters used on model craft, the FCC said.
The FCC has proposed fining Acuity Brands Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia, $25,000 for apparently marketing radio frequency devices that were not labeled in accordance with Commission Part 18 rules at the time. The FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) on November 21. Compliance with the particular rule at issue now is voluntary.
“Specifically, Acuity marketed three models of consumer-grade electronic fluorescent lighting ballasts — two since 2006 and one since 2009 — that did not have the FCC logo affixed to them,” the FCC said in the NAL. Application of the FCC logo, which the FCC no longer requires, was to inform purchasers that a device had undergone compliance testing. The FCC also said Acuity continued to market two models of the ballasts at issue for approximately 6 months after being notified, causing the Commission to up the penalty.
The massive and barely contained Thomas Fire in Southern California has consumed more than 230,500 acres, and the emergency has caused residents in fire-threatened areas to evacuate. Amateur Radio volunteers remain active supporting communication for American Red Cross shelters in Ventura County. More evacuations are likely, although the need for Amateur Radio assistance remains dynamic. Cal Fire said today (December 11) that evacuation operations will occur ahead of westward fire growth, speeded by low humidity and gusty Santa Ana winds, which will push the fire further into Santa Barbara, County. One of several fires that have broken out across Southern California, the Thomas Fire is far and away the largest.
The first Amateur Radio satellite to employ the D-Star digital voice and data format — D-Star One — was among about 20 secondary payloads lost on November 28 after an otherwise nominal launch of a three-stage Soyuz 2.1 booster from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in the far reaches of eastern Russia. The mission carried the Russian Meteor M2-1 satellite — the primary payload — as well as a Canadian Telestar experimental satellite, and 17 other secondary payloads, including D-Star One. According to reports, a fault occurred in the sophisticated and autonomous Fregat upper stage, which, after separating from the launch vehicle, inserts multiple spacecraft into their respective orbits. A so-called “space tug,” Fregat has been in service for nearly 2 decades and has suffered three previous failures. Russian space agency Roscosmos is investigating the Fregat failure.
The Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2017 – S. 1534is alive, but with legislative action slowed to a glacial pace on Capitol Hill in recent months, there’s been no real progress to report since this past summer. At present, the bill is under consideration by the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and it remains an active concern for ARRL. The League is working diligently to shake the bill loose and move it forward.
While it may appear that time is short, S. 1534 does not need to pass the Senate by this years’ end. We have until the current session of Congress adjourns, which is not until December 31, 2018. Once the bill passes both Houses, the FCC would still have to implement its essence in the Part 97 Amateur Service rules.
Introduced on July 12, 2017, S. 1534 marked another step forward for the landmark legislation. Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sponsored the bill in the Senate. The US House version of the legislation, HR 555, passed the House of Representatives by unanimous consent in January 2017.
The wave of software-based digital modes over the past several years has altered the atmosphere of the HF bands. Some suggest the popularity of modes that make it possible to contact stations neither operator can even hear has resulted in fewer CW and SSB signals on bands like 6 meters and 160 meters. Traditional modes require far more interaction and effort on the part of the operator; the newer digital modes not so much. The recent advent of the still-beta “quick” FT8 mode, developed by Steve Franke, K9AN, and Joe Taylor, K1JT — the “F” and the “T” in the mode’s moniker — has brought this to a head. Some now wonder if FT8 marks the end of an era and the start of a new, more minimalist age.