In this post from May of last year, I detailed the construction of a 1mW solar-powered HiFER beacon. I named it the Boris Beacon, in tribute to my neighbor’s cat. The beacon was never mounted permanently outside. I kept it indoors, powered from a small solar panel in the window, and feeding an “antenna” of sorts, consisting of the original dipole wires folded up into two small bundles. Obviously, I had no serious intention of it being heard by anyone; I just liked having it come on every day when the sun came up, and transmitting until later in the day, when the light was too low to sustain operation.
Recently, another location became available in my house that seemed like a good place to install a beacon outside. The Boris Beacon was still in operation from inside my apartment. Moving it outside onto this first floor balcony and spreading the dipole legs would be a straightforward task. You’ll notice from the original post on this beacon that, in attempting to seal the holes where the leads entered the enclosure, I used Plastidip. It’s a rubbery solution that sprays on. It’s great for some applications, but not for this one, as I ended up getting the rubbery liquid all over the enclosure. I do like my projects not to look too messy, so for this new iteration of the Boris Beacon, I moved the circuit board into a new enclosure –
Here it is, close to it’s final installed position, on a first floor balcony (Edit – I just noticed, after a year, that I should have called it a second floor balcony. In the UK, where I haven’t lived since I was in my early 20’s, we call the second floor the first floor, and the first floor the ground floor. I guess old habits die hard!) –
In it’s final installed position. The solar panel is fixed to the top of the wooden railing with 2 wood screws, as is the beacon enclosure. The dipole is stretched out behind the wooden fence at the top, and then trails down onto the balcony floor in one direction. In the other direction, it is attached at the other end to the wall of the house, so is partially elevated –
A close-up view, showing the silicone caulk around the entrance/exit holes. The underside of the lid has a foam weather sealing strip embedded in it, which can be seen in the original post, linked to at the beginning of this post –
I was unsure how impervious the little solar panel would be to the elements, so I caulked around the edges. If it fails, these kinds of low wattage panels are cheap and easily available anyway –
The panel I’m using is a small 1.8W one, intended for use as a 12V battery maintainer –
It is probably overkill, but I popped a silica gel packet in the enclosure, to mop up any excess humidity that might find it’s way inside. The dessicant turns pink when saturated, and is blue when dehydrated and ready for action –
Another view, with the gel packet flipped –
The beacon sends the letters “BRS” at 10wpm, with a break of 3 or 4 seconds between the end of one transmission and the beginning of the next, with a mighty power to the dipole of about 1mW. The frequency is a nominal 13556.9KHz (13.5569MHz), which varies either way by a few tens of Hz, depending on the outside ambient temperature. I will be overjoyed if anyone, anywhere hears it! There is no battery, so it transmits during daylight hours only. It comes on about half an hour after local sunrise, and goes off about half an hour before local sunset. I’ll update this with more accurate information, as I observe the on and off times over the next few days.
The Boris Beacon is definitely a successful project. I just need someone to hear it. Even one person will do! If we were allowed to run 100mW on this band then getting spots would be much easier. In fact, if the dipole were situated more up and in the clear, that would help too. As it is, 1mW into a compromise dipole will make this little beacon a super DX catch. I don’t know how long it will remain in operation, as the long-term future of my current living situation is in doubt. I suspect that it will be up and running for much of 2019 though. I will update this page if and when it goes off the air.
Reception reports greatly appreciated!
Almost a week later, and it seems to be faring well in the rain, although it’s early days –
Rain was pooling on top of the panel and although it’s supposed to be weatherproof, I’m not too sure how waterproof this panel really is –
I raised one end slightly, to help a bit –
Still no reports!
EDIT – As of Aug 2019, the BRS beacon is off the air, probably permanently. The space from which I was operating it from is no longer available. It was put to sleep, having received not one report. I put it down to two things. Firstly, it was active during a period of particularly poor HF propagation. Secondly, the power was around 1mW. Even so, I was hoping for at least one report. I think it would have been worthwhile to have reprogrammed the chip to send QRSS.
18 thoughts on “Putting The HiFER “BRS” Boris Beacon On The Air – Finally!”
Congrats on the new beacon location. With a 20 meter delta loop and a shiny new 7300 with a fish finder spectrum display I have have a go at listening
Wow – that’s a fantastic rig Mike. Congratulations! I’m going to put the word out among the folk who make it a point to listen for HiFERS, in the hope that someone will hear it. With the combination of very low power, and a less than stellar antenna, I will be gobsmacked if anyone more than a mile or so away hears it. I can always hope though!
73 for now, my friend,
Dave, Looking good! Glad to see you are back posting!
Vince – NY5AR
Hi Dave, I’ve got my AirSpy Mini and SDR# listening for Boris, with the hex beam is pointed in your direction. 🙂
That would be an amazing piece of DX, if you received Boris. Got my fingers crossed. Thanks for trying Dave!
73 for now,
Hi Dave, nice project, I will listen for your beacon during the daytime here in the shack.
Thanks Orville. How’s that Neophyte doing? It’s surprising how well a simple DC receiver can work.
73 for now,
FYI, another Dave, David Hassall WA5DJJ, in Las Cruces, NM runs a ‘Super Grabber’ covering all bands of QRSS http://www.qsl.net/wa5djj/ . He recently moved his 60m grabber to cover 13,555,300Hz to 13,555,500Hz grabber for the HiFER experimenters here in the USA. If you scroll down to the bottom of his web page he offers two displays, 20 minute and 24 hour. I’ve checked it a couple of time but haven’t seen any activity that looks like a beacon transmitter. Hopefully, the idea of setting up a receiving grabber on some spare equipment might catch on and more of them will be available. Dave Hassall has been working hard to promote QRSS and while maybe Tx-ing only available to hams, your HiFER beaconing will get others interested in license-free experimenting. Good luck!
Al – I read about David’s new HiFER grabber. I’m not sure how I found out about it – perhaps on the LWCA message board. It’s a very good thing and, as you say, hopefully more online HiFER grabbers will become available in the future. Propagation conditions can only improve in the next few years, right? They can hardly get worse than they are now!
My only concern about non-licensed folk experimenting with HiFER beaconing, is that I hope they have the knowledge and discipline to keep their radiated power within the permitted limits. It would be all too easy to exceed the limits and radiate 20, 30, 40mW or more into a dipole. When sunspots and propagation pick up a little, even that low power can take a beacon signal a long way.
Anyway, it’s a very useful Part 15 band. We are lucky to have the use of it!
73 for now,
Hi Again Dave, I will listen for you in the evenings, but I am glad to see you are still building and experimenting. Seems like everytime I check into your blog, I open up a Pandora’s box of good ideas. Keep up the good work and thanks for the blog. N8RVE 73
Hello John! Not too much building going on here, but I am still thinking about several projects. The interest never completely disappears. It just goes into hibernation and takes a nap every now and again.
73 for now, and hope you’re doing well. Have you built anything recently?
Doing good Dave, and I am doing more thinking than building, I am experimenting with a active receive antenna, but so far nothing to brag about. Doing some robotics projects to try to get my 9 year old grandson interested, but if the robots don’t fight, it is all uphill. Talk to you soon when I have something to share.
Is that some kind of speaker wire that you’re using for the dipole?
Yes Keith. I had a length of light gauge 2-conductor zip cord lying around, which I split into two separate lengths.
My cat (also a Boris) APPROVES! Best 73, Dave, KA8SYV Frank
Hey Frank – good to hear from you. Hope you’re doing well!
Dave: Has anyone heard the Boris Beacon? 73 Bill N2CQR
No listener reports yet, I’m afraid Bill.
73 for now,