QRPSPOTS.COM and IHAB Do it Again!

Wow! Great way to bring together a lot of ham radio ops on a Saturday using all sorts of technology!  Way to go! QRPSPOTS.COM is normally used by QRP ops to spot each other when we are out operating portable or to alert others of band openings. It was ALIVE with reports and updates from all over the USA and even a few DX ops adding input too! In addition, several QRP reflectors were buzzing with updates and info. What a great community effort this turned out! Congrats to all and thanks to QRP ARCI for helping get the word out.

iHAB Logo
Iowa High Altitude Balloon Project

One of the 4 States QRP bunch, Terry WA0ITP, provided the 20m beacon again and has some great info on his informative website.

But for me, the coolest thing was listening in on the streaming webcast of  VE3EN and his wonderful IC-7700. Sure wish I had thought of recording a bit or doing a screenshot to share here. But what a treat to listen in and hear the beacon’s signal right up until touchdown. Thanks Kevin for a fun way to eavesdrop on this event since the lawn mowing crew took over my condo’s yard and didn’t allow me to put an antenna out today. There is a ton of info and creative website construction on Kevin’s website and it is worth spending some time looking at the solar cycle data.

Congrats to the team for a successful event today and for bringing so many hams together for a good learning experience and something out of the ordinary. Well done W0OTM, well done indeed!


  1. kd8opi says

    I thought your project was interesting, and I’ve been following it for sometime. The balloon idea has a lot of potential, and I hope you take the critiques (not complaints) as an honest way to make the IHAB project better. As a ham, I feel that the amateur radio portion of IHAB-2 was not successful for the following reasons:

    1) APRS: The APRS beacon was lost for long periods of time, so much so that it became apparent that the chase team did not have an idea where the balloon was (“near Quincy IL” was the update for an hour – then it turned up 100 miles away from that location).

    2) 20m Beacon: Why even include a 20m qrp beacon? The beacon was heard over 1000 miles away in New Jersey before the balloon even took off, really only demonstrating 20m band conditions. I say lose this beacon, you can get the same results on the ground. Also, with all of the qrm on 20m (the CA QSO PARTY) you couldn’t hear it even if you were fortunate enough to get the long bounce.

    I would suggest that the next payload have a radio project that has something to do with altitude. How about a ssb VHF beacon? At least it has something to do relative to height. Better yet, what about a 2m/70cm repeater? Imagine a qrp repeater at 70k feet with a footprint of 600 miles, that’s way cooler than a beacon. Finally, the camera is +/- for me, make it a radio project or a photography one, but you compromise by making it both. Anyway, good luck – if you put something cool up next time I’ll kick in some dough. 73’s KD8OPI

  2. kmack says

    Great feedback, but the project is not mine so hope you send a copy of these to the IHAB project directly. I’m sure they are open to hear feedback and how others may want to be involved.

    I was disappointed that APRS stalled, but figure we can learn from this kind of project. Why did it stall? What could be done differently. I noticed that once the altitude reached a certain point, the signal decreased… guessing that was because of D Layer impact. On the descent it was noticeably louder and yes, it was still cranking when it was on the ground. I thought that was a pretty cool thing. A 66′ piece of wire and 1.6 watts was still copyable while on the ground half way across the USA! That says something about QRP, CW mode and band condx to me which is encouraging.

    These guys are doing something new and I look forward to improvements, changes and seeing what comes next. It is a great experiment and I look forward to more.

    Kelly K4UPG PB #173

  3. Martin says

    Hi, Kelly.

    Nice write-up. I was following along on Kevins IC-7700 also, it was super cool to listen to the balloon. I was also listening along to the chase crew via echolink and of course via QRPSPOTS.com. I wrote an algorithm in the QRPSPOTS.com system to limit the tweets to 1 per 5 minutes for the balloon callsign(s) and I think that worked well, twitter followers of @QRPSPOTS got a ‘sampling’ of the web site reports without their cellphone being overloaded :-)

    I actually liked the choice of 20m for the beacon. It’s an unusual choice of band for an HF balloon beacon and it was cool to see DX reports from Europe of beacon reception. As for the QSO party overloading it, well that’s just bad form on the part of those operators – they should have listened before transmitting to make sure the frequency was not in use. No biggy though, just dialled the filter down :-)

    I do agree with kd8opi on one point though – if they had chosen the standard APRS frequency then all the IGATEs/digis along the route would have been able to keep the track up to date. Not sure what prompted them to chose 144.340MHz with the chase car IGATE’ing into APRS-IS. Maybe to not overload APRS?

    Anyway… nice account Kelly and looking forward to hearing you in the PBMME this season!


  4. kmack says

    Grrrrr! Grrr8t to hear from another PB! Only better if we were on the air, eh?

    Love your blog and grrrr8t photos… I learn a lot and get jealous of the outdoors up there. I miss mountains, but I’ve gotten used to the heat after years in Indonesia and here in Florida. Not sure I could stand the cold any longer. But one of these days, Lord willin’ I’ll come visit you on one of your summertime camping events. Been a long time since I’ve been fishin’ in Canada!

    Kelly K4UPG PB #173

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *