Amateur Radio News

DX Engineering Equipment Supports the Expansion of the Reverse Beacon Network

DX Engineering ARAV4-1P Active Vertical Receive Antennas are being used as part of an effort to add 15 “nodes” to the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN)—a global system of software-defined radio receivers that monitor amateur radio bands and report CW, RTTY, and FT4/FT8 signals to a central database.

Each node includes the DX Engineering Active Vertical Receive Antenna, a Red Pitaya 122-16 SDR, and CW Skimmer software by VE3NEA. RTTY Skimmer and WSJT-X software can also be used.

Benefiting both hams and the space weather/geophysics scientific community, the global RBN node project is made possible through a grant from the Yasme Foundation in cooperation with Amateur Radio Digital Communication (ARDC). Yasme is a not-for-profit organization committed to funding research, supporting youth in the hobby, and helping amateur radio flourish.

Among other benefits, the RBN enables hams to see near-real-time band openings on an animated map, maintaining a database of “spots” that record what stations have been heard, on what frequencies, and at what times. Reports from RBN receivers can be used to assess antenna performance and where a station is being heard after one or two CQs. PSK Reporter and WSPRnet are complementary networks that also spot automatically received and decoded signals of other modes.

The archived data has been used by the research community to analyze ionospheric and geomagnetic phenomena, as well as solar events like the August 2017 total solar eclipse. Use of RBN data is discussed on the HamSCI website, which provides a forum for researchers and amateurs to interact and conduct studies and experiments.

In October, a Yasme-funded node was successfully installed in Tunisia, bolstering RBN representation in northern Africa. Additional nodes are planned for Algeria and Libya. The success of this small program led to the global 15-node project to expand the RBN into under-represented areas such as the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Central Asia, the Middle East, and South America.

“This large and growing database of records supports scientific research and allows hams to be more effective on the air and in planning operations and station design,” said Ward Silver, N0AX, president and director of the Yasme Foundation. “Researchers are particularly interested in the RBN data because it covers such a wide area with so many stations—a capability that is unusual in research. However, the network still has some under-represented areas where there are few amateurs or where equipment has not been available. Our 15-node RBN project is intended to ‘fill in gaps’ where there were no nodes before. Our selections were guided by the research community at HamSCI. By adding stations in these areas, the network’s data quality and coverage are improved to allow better analysis of events and openings beyond what was previously available.”

DX Engineering Plays a Role

Designed and manufactured by DX Engineering, the ARAV4-1P Active Vertical Receive Antenna can be used in installations when spacing from transmit antennas is less than 1/2 wavelength but more than 1/10 wavelength (on the lowest frequency). They are recognized for their weak-signal sensitivity, third order intercept of plus-30 dBm, wide bandwidth (100 kHz to 30 MHz), reduced noise, and durability.

“We are thrilled that our receive antenna was chosen as a critical piece of equipment for these new RBN nodes,” said Tim Duffy, K3LR, DX Engineering CEO. “It is satisfying to know that the ARAV4-1P will be playing a role in serving the global ham radio community with valuable propagation data, just as these units have helped many operators who have installed them in their own backyards.”

As N0AX observed, “This project has brought a lot of people together, working together around the globe. The RBN team deserves a lot of credit for creating an important asset that combines amateur radio and science in the best traditions of both. We look forward to helping keep that spirit alive and well.”

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