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Man Portable Digital Communications

For quite some time now, I have been talking about radio comms and electronics gear from the “Lego Block” perspective. Everything working with everything else. Everything supporting everything else and so on. Well for about a month now, I have been testing antenna equipment from a company called Chameleon Antenna.

Before we continue, I’d like to kick off this concept by coining the phrase “Modular Portable Antenna System” or MPAS to accurately describe the methodology of the functionality expected from this type of antenna system.

Most of the hardcore comms people will already know of the company. We also know that the company makes some rugged, high performance gear, which very well mimics the comms gear used by many armed forces’ and NGOs deployed around the world.

Well the Lego Block idea, having kept me awake quite a few nights, has finally become tangible. I’ve used lots of different antenna systems, but none striking a good balance between compromise and performance. Certainly none as modular as these.

The system is based on an endfed base called the Hybrid Micro. The Hybrid Micro has some accessories which make it possible to configure the antenna in a variety of different ways. That’s not to say the Hybrid Micro isn’t a fine antenna system on its own. It very well is!

In the following video, we demonstrate one configuration option, by deploying the Chameleon MIL WHIP, MIL EXT, and Hybrid Micro, in stationary configuration. The system is attached to the Land Rover, at the trailer hitch, using a Jaw Clamp bracket carried with the MPAS system.

If you’re one of the cool kids, you’ll already have arrived at the point. My bug out bag radio, the Yaesu FT-817ND. This man-portable all mode all band radio suffers from the lack of a good antenna system. Surely there are antenna systems we have seen like the ATX-Walkabout or ATX-1080, … But to be truthful, those antenna only work well between 17 meters and 50Mhz! There are also monoband antennas which are quieter, perhaps even more efficient, but lack the deployment options, and broadband nature of this system.

The Challenge is made more difficult as participants are required to document the excursion with photos, videos, and a log of all radio contacts made during the event. Participants carry all gear with them, including power and food preparation, and take no support from any external sources during the event.

Why so many cables? The problem with APRS Trackers!


In this video we open a valid question about the stalled technology behind APRS trackers. Cables, RS232 connectors and components lumped together without any forethought makes these brilliant little devices, and serious headache for man-portable communications.

Now I do believe that wired trackers have their place. I am just hoping to raise the question, so that app and hardware developers, start to realize that just because they have done it one way for a decade, doesn’t make that way of doing something the best way.

PRS is an excellent SHTF or Emergency communications tool. Keeping in touch with group members, loved ones, or as command and control, APRS has endless uses. However, with the cables, external GPS, having to externally power a device, the simplicity of these devices is made too complex by simply having to figure out what the hell to do with all those wires. So from this perspective, the purpose built Kenwood and Yaesu HT radios with built-in GPS, and APRS functionality, shine above traditional solutions.

Finally, the point of this article isn’t to point out the short comings of any particular device. It’s simply to open the minds of those who might need a gentle push to catch up with the times.


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