11.26.20

Part 95 (and bootleg VHF/UHF) Surveys (aka Point Search) with Whistler WS1040

The WS1040 and scanners with similar architecture are easy and ideal for this as frequency and service searches can be chained together as objects all in a single bank. In this case you would start by programming the following objects into their own bank:

  • MURS/FRS/GMRS Service search
  • CB service search
  • Sweeper search for VHF-High and UHF bands (2, 5, 6)

The biggest performance obstacle with this arrangement is the difference in antenna size (and resonance) between VHF-high and UHF bands used by the more common Part 95 services, and CB which is technically down in the HF band. If you want to have peak performance on one, there will be degraded reception on the other. Still, however, using a common 2m/70cm ham antenna will still let you hear CB units within a mile or so. Using a resonant antenna (or even one that is close to resonant such as a 10 meter ham antenna) will extend that CB monitoring range out quite a bit. Similarly, the more gain your antenna has on VHF and UHF will equal better detection range on those bands. With that said, on Thanksgiving, 2020 I heard “Radio Roadkill 252” from Amarillo, Texas on CB Channel 3, AM mode, with nothing more than a 22” whip antenna at a distance of 1600 miles. Admittedly though, he’s probably running a lot more than 3 watts.

MURS and FRS are the VHF and UHF free parking spaces on the RF Monopoly board and even if the users of those frequencies aren’t quite operating within FCC Regs, the chances of legal hassles are minimal so it gives all the Baofeng buyers a “safe” place to go play. CB has a bit of a reputation that keeps a lot of people away, despite the fact that you almost never hear anything on the 40 channels except for Channels 6, 19 near highways, and 38 during a band opening. Sad, because a properly installed CB station will always out perform MURS and FRS. You just need to use a proper antenna. However, those Baofeng (and other model) radios can run from 136-174 and 400-520 MHz. Some semi-clever types might consider just playing dial roulette with their transceivers. A normal sector search for those two frequencies would take a while, but using Spectrum Sweeper will decrease that time significantly, along with a decrease in receive sensitivity. Still, the Spectrum Sweeper function will in a matter of seconds detect an HT signal within a quarter-mile.

So what this setup gets you is a means to detect nearby portable and mobile radio activity on the most common frequencies used by non-government actors. Whether are they are good actors or bad actors is either irrelevant, or depends on who and what you are. Either way, a bunch of rando people playing with radios in your neighborhood is something you want to know about.

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03.22.20

Down-Grid Communications At The 11th Hour

So, you don’t have a ham license for whatever reason, and since the guys who administer the test are all over 60 anyway, you’re not taking it anytime soon. You might have one of those fucking Baofeng radios, but you put it in a footlocker somewhere thinking you’ll get to it eventually. Guess what? It’s now eventually.

Fortunately, there’s a nationwide group that has done a lot of your homework for you. You can find them at https://amrron.com/, and specifically you’ll want to read https://amrron.com/communications-resources/ch3-project/.

So, hopefully you’ll know enough about that Baofeng to plug in the frequency of  151.940 MHz, and hopefully have someone within a mile of you to talk with, because that’s all you’re likely to get with just the rubber duck antenna on that handheld.

Better solution: Get a CB from your local truck stop, and a 12V deep cycle battery from your local hardware/ag supply store. Read this article, and then get the parts to build the antenna. The coax and connectors you should be able to get at the truck stop, everything else from the local hardware/ag supply store. Toss the antenna in a tree, hook up the battery to the CB, and tune it to Channel Three. Better than nothing and no license required.