We seek to understand and document all radio transmissions, legal and otherwise, as part of the radio listening hobby. We do not encourage any radio operations contrary to regulations. Always consult with the appropriate authorities if you have questions concerning what is permissable in your locale.

Poll

What is it called? "An unsupervised pirate transmitter beacon that is located in an open or not-authorized place."

a wild beacon
1 (100%)
an undocumented beacon
0 (0%)
a renegade beacon
0 (0%)
a feral beacon
0 (0%)
a brazen beacon
0 (0%)
an unruly beacon
0 (0%)
something else (add your suggestion to this thread)
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 1

Author Topic: Wild Beacons  (Read 489 times)

Offline Exo

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Wild Beacons
« on: September 11, 2018, 0232 UTC »
Beacons Gone Wild!



Let's talk about the kind of pirate beacons... wild beacons... that may be set up in the wilderness, park lands, forests, floating on the ocean or lakes, or perhaps upon urban structures. These are especially popular in the Wild West.

  • Is the name "wild beacon" appropriate?
  • What other names have been used to describe these types of beacons?
  • What motivates wild beacon creators?
  • What are some of the strategies and best implementations for creating a wild beacon?
  • What is the projected lifetime or chance of survival for a wild beacon?
  • Why do we like to listen for wild beacons?

Creators of wild beacons may tend to hide them in places where they hope ordinary people wandering around won't find them. Of course, the creators know that they can be located by RDF. But, if the beacon is in an area without roads, even if the area is known, it can be difficult to actually locate them due to rough terrain or other obstacles. For very low power beacons, the authorities may consider it not worth the trouble for enforcement; especially when they really don't cause harmful interference. Considering that the cost of a tiny micro-power beacon is so low, the creator can simply put another one (or two) on the air to replace it in a slightly different location... with an ensuing escalation of the beacon whack-a-mole game.

Here are some proposed definitions for a "Wild Beacon".

1. "A repetitive or continuous unauthorized pirate transmitter, with minimal content modulation, located in an area without permission."

2. "An unsupervised pirate transmitter beacon that is located in an open or not-authorized place."

Looking up the root definition of "wild", in various dictionaries, we see:
wild : adjective
  • (of an animal or plant) living or growing in the natural environment; not domesticated or cultivated.
    synonyms: untamed, undomesticated, feral
  • uncontrolled or unrestrained, especially in pursuit of pleasure.
  • not subject to restraint or regulation
    synonyms: uncontrolled, unrestrained, out of control, undisciplined, unruly, rowdy, disorderly, riotous
  • characteristic of, appropriate to, or expressive of wilderness, wildlife, or a simple or uncivilized society

wild : noun
  • a natural state or uncultivated or uninhabited region.
    "kiwis are virtually extinct in the wild"

Other possible names  :D  Feral Beacon, Beacon In The Wild, Beacons Gone Wild, Homeless Beacon, Rough Beacon
« Last Edit: September 13, 2018, 2000 UTC by Exo »
Exo
HF aficionado. On the coast of northern California.
Various receivers, transceivers, and broadband antennas.
kiwiSDR receiver on private LAN for multi-freq HF monitoring.

Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: Wild Beacons
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2018, 1559 UTC »
Other possible names  :D  Feral Beacon, Beacon In The Wild, Beacons Gone Wild, Homeless Beacon, Rough Beacon

Undocumented Beacon  8)
Chris Smolinski
Westminster, MD
eQSLs appreciated! csmolinski@blackcatsystems.com
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Offline Josh

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Re: Wild Beacons
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2018, 1749 UTC »
Mischievous beacon
Unruly beacon
Brazen beacon
Incorrigible beacon
Antiestablishment beacon


Undocumented beacon was pretty good, however.

Conveniently located near Vincennes Indiana.

Offline Σ

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Re: Wild Beacons
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2018, 2328 UTC »
I like feral... Makes me think of scruffy tough old cats eating out of garbage cans.
Σ
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Offline Exo

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Re: Wild Beacons
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2018, 0101 UTC »
I like feral... Makes me think of scruffy tough old cats eating out of garbage cans.


Σ, Feral Beacon is kinda interesting.
Does it indicate that the beacon was once a tame pet?
Some of the wild beacons may in fact, be feral beacons, for all we know  ;)

Is Feral Beacon somewhat similar to "Renegade Beacon" ?
Renegade Beacon might describe a beacon that was once law abiding, but now is a solo outlaw beacon, a pirate without a home port.
Almost like Beacons Gone Wild


Undocumented Beacon  8)

That was a really excellent joke, ChrisSmolinski  :D
But oh my, the connotation of "Undocumented" has quite a politically-charged tinge to it these days :)
Will they hunt them down, separate them from their power source, and put the helpless little micropower beacons in Faraday cages?
And, are some of the wild beacons what we might call "patriot beacons", or "native beacons" or possibly "citizen beacon exercising rights of freedom" ?


Mischievous beacon, Unruly beacon, Brazen beacon, Incorrigible beacon, Antiestablishment beacon

Josh, those are all really good.

« Last Edit: September 12, 2018, 0103 UTC by Exo »
Exo
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Various receivers, transceivers, and broadband antennas.
kiwiSDR receiver on private LAN for multi-freq HF monitoring.

Offline Strange Beacons

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Re: Wild Beacons
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2018, 0335 UTC »
If this is a poll, then Wild Beacons would get my vote.

Offline Σ

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Re: Wild Beacons
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2018, 1738 UTC »

I like feral... Makes me think of scruffy tough old cats eating out of garbage cans.

Σ, Feral Beacon is kinda interesting.
Does it indicate that the beacon was once a tame pet?
Some of the wild beacons may in fact, be feral beacons, for all we know  ;)

Is Feral Beacon somewhat similar to "Renegade Beacon" ?
Renegade Beacon might describe a beacon that was once law abiding, but now is a solo outlaw beacon, a pirate without a home port.
Almost like Beacons Gone Wild


Feral cats were either abandoned domesticated cats or the progeny of abandoned cats. Feral beacons were once tamed bench oscillators set free into the wild. If you build it out of parts from a domesticated consumer device then you have the progeny.

Renegade beacons should be high powered in-your-face beacons. Thumbing their noses at CFR Title 47 FCC regulations.

Call them what you want... just get some mods posted for the Blackcat Systems Part 22 beacon
(https://blackcatsystems.com/rf-products/22_meter_band_part_15_beacon_kit.html) so the population can explode. :D
Σ
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Offline Exo

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Re: Wild Beacons
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2018, 0701 UTC »
 
Call them what you want... just get some mods posted (for the Blackcat Systems 22m beacon ) so the population can explode. :D

Σ ,
It would seem quite easy to replace the 13.56 MHz crystal in that wonderful kit with a slightly lower frequency crystal.
Or just hack in a programmable clock oscillator that is pre-programmed.

CPPC4-HT5RT Programmable Oscillator

Theoretically speaking, the 40 meter ham band might work, or even the 80 meter band ;)
Theoretically, adding some more inductance and capacitance to the LPF components would reduce the 2nd harmonic energy. 
Also, multiple packages of the 74HC02 chip can literally be stacked up like pancakes with corresponding leads paralleled, for more RF output power :)
See below image for schematic red line mark up of a possible theoretical mod, not tested, of course.
Note: The mod may have errors. Use +5VDC regulated voltage.
Apologies to Black Cat Systems who has absolutely nothing to do with this fantasy mod.




Add a small waterproofed box for electronics, battery, solar panel, and wire antenna.
Theoretically of course, the battery and solar components need to be appropriately tested and fireproofed, and a site chosen that avoids any chance of wildfire potential (both as a cause and as a risk).
« Last Edit: September 15, 2018, 2134 UTC by Exo »
Exo
HF aficionado. On the coast of northern California.
Various receivers, transceivers, and broadband antennas.
kiwiSDR receiver on private LAN for multi-freq HF monitoring.

Offline Exo

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Re: Wild Beacons
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2018, 2253 UTC »
Questions about wild beacons:
  • What motivates that wild beacon creator to do such a thing in the first place?
  • Does it flow from the same fire in the belly that drives pirate radio ops in general?
  • Or is there something entirely unique and essential from which a wild beacon creator is born?
  • For the wild beacons that are out there in the back-country, doesn't it take someone (or a team) with an eclectic mix of outdoor skills and electronics?
Exo
HF aficionado. On the coast of northern California.
Various receivers, transceivers, and broadband antennas.
kiwiSDR receiver on private LAN for multi-freq HF monitoring.

Offline Token

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Re: Wild Beacons
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2018, 1337 UTC »
It would seem quite easy to replace the 13.56 MHz crystal in that wonderful kit with a slightly lower frequency crystal.
Or just hack in a programmable clock oscillator.

Or, if you didn't mind the increased current draw (if you have ample solar cell and storage battery), use something like a AD9850 DDS and an Arduino Nano to add some versatility.  The 9850/Arduino allow selection of whatever freq you want in the HF range.  One might, for example, sample the Solar Cell to determine if it is day or night, and select different freqs for day and night operation.  Maybe add an RTC and keep track of the date, changing freq sets with the seasons, etc.

T!
« Last Edit: September 14, 2018, 1340 UTC by Token »
T!
Mojave Desert, California USA

Offline Exo

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Re: Wild Beacons
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2018, 2006 UTC »

Or, if you didn't mind the increased current draw (if you have ample solar cell and storage battery), use something like a AD9850 DDS and an Arduino Nano to add some versatility.

The DDS and sensing of light with solar cell voltage to change frequencies for night operation, is a great idea, Token!
If battery sensing is added, the transmitter could be turned off if the battery ran too low, preserving the battery longevity.

For that kind of advanced concept, a fresh PCB design and firmware would probably be better than modding the kit, don't you think?

For a simple cut-and-jump mod to the existing kit, without the need to write code, it makes sense to use a purely hardware thru-hole hack.
It's hard to beat that cheap programmable clock oscillator for simplicity.
The oscillator can be ordered from Digikey pre-programmed to any frequency, or a programmer system can be acquired.

In the case that lower power consumption might be desired by the wild beacon designer, the programmable oscillator could be keyed by the microprocessor's keying line.
The programmable oscillator (see data sheet) pulls as much 45mA.
Since the microprocessor asserts a logic Low on the keying control line for "transmit", the keying line would need to be inverted to key the programmable oscillator's control input (which requires logic Hi).

A single inverter of a 74HC14N or similar device could be inserted in the control keying line from the microprocessor, to key the programmable oscillator.

The logic invert could also be cut-and-jumped from the kit's existing 74HC02 crystal oscillator circuit, which would eliminate the need for that additional 74HC14 inverter (See mod version 1b) .

But, the value of pancake stacking of 74HC02 devices for more RF power output is attractive, and losing that section to the inverter makes it somewhat less attractive.

All this mod to the kit can be done dead-bug style:
1. Remove Y1 crystal.
2. Remove Jumper at C16.
3. Remove RV1 and put a jumper on the bottom of the PCB in place of it for full power.
4. Do the other cut-and-jump mods around the 74HC02.
5. Replace the toroids with 2 new inductors in the Low Pass Filter mod.
6. Add the 3 capacitors in the Low Pass Filter mod, leave the original capacitors in place.
7. Double sticky foam tape the Programmable Oscillator upside down to the board in the area where the crystal was.
8. Wire the Programmable Oscillator into the appropriate points on the board.
9. Test the unit.

Note: This is not an official authorized mod. Black Cat Systems had nothing to do with this mod. Test your kit first the way it was designed. Then you can do the mod, knowing that it started out working OK. If you mess up your kit, don't blame Black Cat Systems. When you do this kind of wild and crazy mod, it's totally your own responsibility. 

Below: Schematic of mod version 1b.


PARTS For mod version 1b.
QTY, Item, Value
2pc, Inductor, 1.5uH  part link Digikey
2pc, Capacitor, 470pF part link Digikey
1pc, Capacitor, 680pF part link Digikey
1pc, Programmable Oscillator, CPPC4-HT5RT part link Digikey


« Last Edit: September 15, 2018, 2307 UTC by Exo »
Exo
HF aficionado. On the coast of northern California.
Various receivers, transceivers, and broadband antennas.
kiwiSDR receiver on private LAN for multi-freq HF monitoring.

Offline Token

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Re: Wild Beacons
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2018, 2235 UTC »

Or, if you didn't mind the increased current draw (if you have ample solar cell and storage battery), use something like a AD9850 DDS and an Arduino Nano to add some versatility.

The DDS and sensing of light with solar cell voltage to change frequencies for night operation, is a great idea, Token!
If battery sensing is added, the transmitter could be turned off if the battery ran too low, preserving the battery longevity.

For that kind of advanced concept, a fresh PCB design and firmware would probably be better than modding the kit, don't you think?

As a bench project exercise I have pretty much written the code and gotten the concept and core hardware to work.  I never added an RF amplifier section after the RF source, but other than that I made it all work on the bench.

It was an Arduino, an AD9850, and a few discrete components (to scale voltages).  Used the Arduino onboard AD's to sample the solar and storage cell voltage.

It operated near 4096 and 6700 at night and shifted to 8000 and 27700 during the day.  It was never fielded, but did run for several weeks on the bench into a 50 Ohm resistor for a dummy load.

The AD9850 output is pretty low, on the order of -10 dBm or so.  But all I would have needed was to add an RF amp after the source, a little filtering, package it up, and it would have been ready to go.

T!
« Last Edit: September 15, 2018, 2238 UTC by Token »
T!
Mojave Desert, California USA

Offline Exo

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Re: Wild Beacons
« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2018, 2313 UTC »
  The AD9850 output is pretty low, on the order of -10 dBm or so.  But all I would have needed was to add an RF amp after the source, a little filtering, package it up, and it would have been ready to go. T!

That's really cool! What a great concept, especially the freq switching scheme.

It's so tempting to just throw a 1watt MOSFET into the beacon mod just before the LPF.
It might only take a couple extra passive parts to make it work, and of course, perhaps a level shifter or something so that the MOSFET could run directly from the raw +Battery.
Exo
HF aficionado. On the coast of northern California.
Various receivers, transceivers, and broadband antennas.
kiwiSDR receiver on private LAN for multi-freq HF monitoring.