Spring 2006 Issue

Bandswitching for Multi-band Rover Contesting

Microwave contesting presents many unique challenges.
In this article N5AC covers how he met his challenges.



By Steve Hicks,* N5AC

In a microwave contest, there are usually two key types of participants: the fixed stations and the rovers. The fixed stations operate from their homes, a club station, or perhaps even a portable location, while the rovers drive from grid square to grid square making contacts. Without a tower in the yard and with a love of driving, I decided early on that roving was for me. However, constructing a rover station presents a unique set of challenges.

Anyone who has been roving with a microwave station during a contest will tell you there are so many little things you have get right, that anything you can do to simplify your life is probably worth the effort. All of the difficulties are exacerbated by some contest rules that limit roving operations to two amateurs. Imagine getting a group of transverters, an IF rig, and all of the interconnect hardware to work, mounting antennas on a car (or having to assemble each time you stop on a hill), driving, logging, and navigating for 24–27 hours with only two people!

Since every rover configuration and situation is different (everyone has their own goals and a unique set of radios and configuration preferences), it doesn’t make a lot of sense to “cookbook” explain how to construct a rover station. There are, however, some key components that every rover station needs, and the ability to control radios is a key one.

On my first roving trip before constructing any control hardware, I met up with Greg Jurrens, WDØACD, in south Texas. We had several beams and were operating on 6 meters, 2 meters, 440 MHz, and 1296 MHz, all with commercial amateur gear. Our beams were long and required assembly; some of the booms were in multiple sections. We had to setup on the side of the road when we were ready to operate. We quickly realized that manually switching the radio to different antennas was a lot of trouble and that there were probably a lot better ways to accomplish this (never mind actually assembling the antennas on the side of the road).

 

 

Photo 1. Four surplus 6-pole SMA relays.

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