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.