Category: Radio, Ham & PMR

COAA PlanePlotter Review Part 3

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USAF JUVAT80 (Gulfstream V, 01-0076) - a successful Mlat!
USAF JUVAT80 (Gulfstream V, 01-0076) – a successful Mlat!

Mlat

Assuming you have a fully operational set-up (GS/MU or just MU), you can now manually “Mlat” non ADS-B aircraft. For the most part these will be military assets, though it will become apparent that there are a fair few civil types that don’t transmit positional data too.

PlanePlotter Multilateration Tutorial PDF – How Mlat works

Unless you have read the Help Topics within PlanePlotter or the PDF file above it may not be that obvious what to do now and how Mlat works. Simply put – if a precise distance from an unknown location (position-less aircraft) can be received by 3 known locations (Ground Stations) it is just a matter of using geometry to determine the position of the unknown aircraft. Of course it is way more complicated than this simplified explanation and I recommend reading the PDF file above for a more thorough briefing.

To use the PP Mlat feature go to View… Aircraft list as position-less aircraft obviously do not appear in the chart view until successfully plotted. It is useful to mark additional sub search parameters from the Aircraft list display options notably: Aircraft without positions (shortcut key U) or Aircraft with Mlat possible (shortcut key M) as this will eliminate aircraft that have positions and make it easier to see what is or not plotted.

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TYT TH-UV3R Review Part 2

As I recently purchased a new PC I decided to program the TYT TH-UV3R using that – a departure from my Windows XP comfort zone as the new one is a Windows 8 machine. I had heard that the USB prolific serial drivers either didn’t work, wouldn’t work or required a load of hassle to get working so I was a bit perturbed. In the end it was all unfounded (for me anyway). I plugged in the USB prolific serial cable and waited. As Windows 8 didn’t install anything I checked device manager (under control panel) to see what was going on. Com 3 was showing up with an error so I downloaded the prolific serial drivers (Windows 7 as there are no dedicated Windows 8 drivers) and pointed the update driver command to the relevant file, whereupon installation took place. Within a few seconds the error had gone and communication had been established. Result!

No problems setting up a COM port on Windows 8
No problems setting up a COM port on Windows 8

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TYT TH-UV3R Review Part 1

The TYT TH-UV3R is a compact and well built FM transceiver
The TYT TH-UV3R is a compact and well built FM transceiver

The TYT TH-UV3R is a really compact 128 channel pocket sized radio. But don’t be fooled by its size this little radio packs a punch and is brimming with functionality.

By default the TH-UV3R is a dual band (136-174/400-470 MHz) radio, however by using the official TYT programming software full tri-band operation can be opened up (200-260 MHz) plus a decent extension to the UHF upper limit (470-520 MHz). The EU version doesn’t support 2.5kHz spacing, however the US version does. That said, its not always obvious what you’ll get so double check with the vendor prior to purchase to ensure you get what you need.

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TYT TH-UV3R Preview

TYT TH-UV3R Camouflage model
TYT TH-UV3R Camouflage model

Just received a pair of TYT TH-UV3R’s from 409Shop. Although the TYT shares the “UV3R” designation with the BaoFeng UV3R, they are actually totally different radios.

The TH-UV3R is an ultra compact VHF/UHF FM transceiver and generally sold as a dual bander (136-174/400-470MHz), however this model is actually a tri-band radio and can be unlocked with the official TYT programming software (available from the downloads section at tyt888.com) to enable 200-260MHz and also extend the UHF range from 470-520MHz.

Power output is a modest 2W on high (touted as 2.5W but we’ll go with the former) and 0.8W low. Features include dual watch, FM radio with presets, scan, VOX, tone scanning, alpha tags amongst others (surprisingly no LED flashlight – now there is a first!). The two things that really attracted me to this model is the scrambler function and price – a real bargain at under $55 direct from Hong Kong.

Available in black, red, green or camo (I chose the latter to be a little different!).

This is a straightforward radio to use and while it has its quirks (and what Chinese radio doesn’t?), so far I’m thoroughly enjoying them.

Full review here…

COAA PlanePlotter Review Part 2

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Now that everything is working (hopefully!), we can proceed to customising the display.

The majority of the aircraft symbols seen will be yellow, but various colours can be assigned and labels expanded or reduced to individual preference. Additional colours are also used – for example expiring aircraft are orange and Mlat white. You may also  catch an aircraft with blue concentric circles radiating from time to time – these aircraft are squawking ident usually as a result of a squawk change.

POLLY01 (F-16 J-632) squawking ident 3635
POLLY01 (F-16 J-632) squawking ident 3635

To change these parameters we need to open up Chart Options (menu or easier via the spanner symbol). Initially the options seem bewildering, however its all quite straightforward, nevertheless I’d recommend changing a few things at a time and re-checking the display to see if its appropriate to your needs.

I've complied a sort of time lapse graphic here that illustrates colour changes as RYR96YE climbs to altitude (note nose colour cyan). In addition the aircraft data labels show what you can do by adjusting the Label settings under Chart Options...
I’ve complied a sort of time lapse graphic here that illustrates colour changes as RYR96YE climbs to altitude (note nose colour cyan). In addition the aircraft data labels show what you can do by adjusting the Label settings under Chart Options…

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COAA PlanePlotter Review Part 1

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At the heart of the PlanePlotter system is Mlat. Here a USAF E-3C (SHUCK80H) is being successfully Mlated (manually by me - the blue lines are hyper curves used during the process). Note also the KC-135R (QID81) and MC-130J (LEGIT41)
At the heart of the PlanePlotter system is Mlat. Here a USAF E-3C (SHUCK80H) is being successfully Mlated (manually by me – the blue lines are hyper curves used during the process). Note also the KC-135R (QID81) and MC-130J (LEGIT41)

PlanePlotter Version Reviewed: 6.4.1.0-6.4.1.2 (GS/MU rN)

As an aviation enthusiast of many a decade I can tell you that this sort of hobby evolves over the years. Back in the 1980’s the only tools I had were a pair of binoculars, a copy of Ian Allan’s abc Military Aircraft Markings, a note book and pencil. As time went on I added a 35mm SLR (remember those?) and a collection of high powered lenses. The 90’s saw the addition of my first scanner plus a spotting scope for good measure. I was pretty much sorted – not much got past me at my local airfield.

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WouXun KG-818 66-88MHz (4M) Review Part 2

WouXun KG-818 66-88 MHz at Amazon.co.uk

Time to grab the manual and start programming!
Time to grab the manual and start programming!

Programming the KG-818, can be accomplished with either CHIRP or WouXun KG-816 software. CHIRP will definitely get the job done with little fuss and I cannot recommend this universal radio program highly enough – its freeware and continually developed – supporting just about every transceiver currently available on the market.

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WouXun KG-818 66-88MHz (4M) Review Part 1

WouXun KG-818 66-88 MHz at Amazon.co.uk

The WouXun KG-818 is a very sleek compact unit
The WouXun KG-818 is a very sleek compact unit

The WouXun KG-818 is something of an enigma. There isn’t much info about this radio on the internet but having recently purchased the 4M/2M KG-UV6D I felt safe in the knowledge that this single band radio would live up to expectations.

This model was on my original short list, back when I was weighing up numerous WouXun’s. At that time I really needed a dual band but the KG-818 kept calling!

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SDR Software (Free Stuff!)

Check out the Realtek RTL2832U+R820T USB SDR at Amazon.co.uk

So you are in receipt of a shiny new Realtek RTL2832U+R820T SDR dongle and I understand the first thing you want to do is start decoding ADS-B, ACARS or some other exotic data format. Maybe you just want to listen in to some local comms? Well we really need to get some software loaded up.

There are two popular SDR tuning programs and both are freeware: SDR# (SDRSharp) and HDSDR. I’ve tried both, but highly recommend SDR# as its more user friendly – especially for newcomers so we’ll stick with that.

SDR# (SDRSharp)

There are numerous SDR# versions available (stable/nightly builds) and a degree of experimentation is required to get the program up and running. Installation worked flawlessly on one PC but was a total nightmare on another. Eventually I got it working on both (funnily identical Windows XP platforms!). SDR# requires .NET Framework to be installed prior to running and the problems I had installing SDR# on my laptop was because I had 4.5 installed and not 3.5. To be on the safe side I ended up installing .NET Framework versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.5 and 4.5 (overkill or what?!).

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Realtek RTL2832U+R820T USB SDR Review

Check out the Realtek RTL2832U+R820T USB SDR at Amazon.co.uk

RTL2832U+820T fired up
RTL2832U+820T fired up

Check out the NooElec RTL2832U+R820T USB SDR at Amazon.com

I had my first real taste of radio decoding back in the 90’s. Things were a little different then though. For starters you needed a scanner or HF radio (or both), a demodulator (from Pervisell), leads to connect the radio audio output to a computer soundcard and of course software (or just plain old DOS) and a PC to process everything. At the time I had a subscription to Shortwave Magazine (sadly no longer in print) and the decode section was a godsend.

Each decoding practice had different protocols and often things didn’t work out as planned. Many hours (or days) were spent tinkering with leads, interface settings (bloody COM ports!) and antenna locations. If you were unlucky the Windows blue screen of death would make an appearance every now and again!

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