The amateur radio club of Sursee, HB9AW launched a 60 metre beacon project during June 2014. The president of the Sursee club, Kari Künzli HB9DSE has kindly reported the current status of this project.
Kari said that the motive of the project was to investigate 60 metre propagation within Switzerland and Europe. The 60m band is not a current band for radio amateurs in Switzerland but it looks like it could become an amateur band at the next WRC conference. Given the possibility of getting access to the 60m band in Switzerland and other European countries knowing what to expect from propagation is of great interest.
Most assume that the propagation will be somewhere between what we presently achieve on the 80m and 40m bands, however this is only an assumption and a quantifiable investigation would be of great value.
The HB9AW beacon is a cw transmitter which sends its call sign hb9aw at a power of 10W followed by 5 dashes. Each dash is sent for 5s. The first dash is sent at 10W, the second at 5W, then at 1W, at 100mW and the fifth dash at 10mW. The frequency is 5291kHz, occupying a narrow bandwidth of about 100Hz.
So far just over 2000 reports have been received from all over Europe, and the 60m beacon has also been heard in America.
When sending in a report one has to state how many dashes have been heard - this indicates at what power level the beacon was no longer audible.
While these reports are appreciated they can be affected by many parameters including receiver and antenna performance. Some stations have an antenna optimised and resonant on the 60m band while others simply use the antennas that they have which could be completely wrong for 60m.
To obtain more accurate data a standard beacon receiving station is being built, which should provide more reliable signal reception data. The standardised beacon receiving station consists of a receiving antenna, a receiver and a measurement device. The antenna is a loop antenna of approximately 1m diameter, resonant at 5291kHz. The connected receiver has a bandwidth of 100Hz which delivers a signal to the measurement device. The measurement device records signal data in dBm five times per second, which means each dash is measured 5 times per second and the unit sends the values in dBm to a central server where the data is stored and analysed. The intent is to place 50 of these receiving stations in Switzerland and across Europe so that the central system receives simultaneous signal reports throughout Europe for the analysis.
The standardised receiving station is being built by a team within the club. One part of the team deals with the development of the antenna, another part with the receiver and the third part works on the measurement unit. The measurement unit will be a Raspberry Pi. It's development is already at an advanced stage. The receiver development group is led by Hans Zahnd HB9CBU, who is well known for his digital ADAT SDR receiver.
Three prototype systems have already been built.
The team plan to produce fifty receiving stations and would like to sell them to radio amateurs across Europe. The production run has been set at 50 units to meet a reasonable price level.
HB9AW - http://www.hb9aw.ch