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Diana Eng’s Yagi Antenna Project in MAKE Volume 24

Listeningtosatellites

current_Volume_bug.jpg“One of my favorite things to do is talk with other ham radio operators through satellites or the International Space Station (ISS). To do this, I stand on a rooftop and tune a handheld multiband radio while tracing the orbit of a satellite or the ISS with my homemade yagi antenna.”

So says Diana Eng, the author of “Listening to Satellites” in MAKE Volume 24 (our “DIY Space” issue). Diana, like many contributors to MAKE, is a “broad-spectrum” enthusiast. She is best known for her beautiful and tech-enhanced fashions, seen on her appearance as a contestant on Project Runway. She is also a jewelry designer. (My wife’s favorite necklace is a Diana Eng creation that uses a couple of reed switches as a pendant.) And she is also a licensed amateur radio operator who loves to make her own ham radio equipment. In her article in this volume, Diana shows how to make a “yagi antenna,” which offers much better reception than a standard whip antenna, and costs about $25 to make.

Diane’s article includes a section on “hamspeak,” which is jargon for the jargon that hams use when they chat with each other. It will come in handy when you use your antenna to tune into shortwave radio conversations. For now, I’ll sign out with an “88” and a “73.”

Check out MAKE Volume 24:

MAKE blasts into orbit and beyond with our DIY SPACE issue. Put your own satellite in orbit, launch a stratosphere balloon probe, and analyze galaxies for $20 with an easy spectrograph! We talk to the rocket mavericks reinventing the space industry, and renegade NASA hackers making smartphone robots and Lego satellites. This, plus a full payload of other cool DIY projects, from a helium-balloon camera that’s better than Google Earth, to an electromagnetic levitator that shoots aluminum rings, and much more. MAKE Volume 24, on sale now.

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24 thoughts on “Diana Eng’s Yagi Antenna Project in MAKE Volume 24

  1. I’ve been thinking about trying out antennas for my police scanner. A yagi is pretty directional so it wouldn’t pick up signals from ambulances or taxis but I might be able to aim it at the airport or fast-food, drive-thru window. Could a discone article be forthcoming?

    1. My attention was caught a wile back but i still didn’t buy a scanner.
      This is going to change after seeing this article.
      But what scanner does she use? It isn’t very readable in the picture. We can’t subscribe to MakeZine here in Belgium sadly :(
      So can someone help?

      1. I’m not a expert but it looks like the Uniden BC72XLT. Personally I have a Uniden BC346XT which is at least twice the price of a BC72XLT but can do a few extra tricks. I imagine one of those hand-held “2-meter” radios would work as long as you didn’t hit the transmit button.

  2. She is actually using a Yaesu VX-6R in the image displayed. It’s a nice amateur radio transceiver that can transmit and receive in the 2 meter, 220 MHz, and 440 MHz bands, not a scanner.

    The antenna depicted is used for transmitting and receiving signals from amateur radio satellites that rotate around the Earth.

    Diana usually posts about amateur radio antennas and topics, so I doubt a discone antenna article will be coming soon (great for receiving signals for scanners, horrible for transmitting for amateur radio).

    Check out her other articles for more info: http://blog.makezine.com/archive/author/diana_eng/

    1. You’re right, the shapes and sizes of the two radios are similar but after looking at a bunch of pictures the Yaesus have their keypad on the bottom and the Unidens have their speaker on the bottom. I guess if I’m going to go nerdy this is the best website for it.

      A little off topic but I think we live in the same city.

  3. So what would be a good choice for me as a beginner?
    And what would be better(more fun)? a 2 meter radio (hand-held) or a scanner?
    I don’t have a license do I need one for operating a 2 meter radio (hand-held)?

    1. You need a license to transmit, but you may legally purchase a 2 meter radio (or any ham radio, for that matter) and use it in receive mode without a license. So if your ultimate goal is to get a license and use the radio for two-way communication, then you could get the radio first and then work on getting your license. Just be careful not to hit the “transmit” button until you have your license.

      On the other hand, scanners are generally cheaper than ham radios, and many have features that make listening to police, fire, NASCAR, etc. more convenient than with typical ham rigs. So if you’re strongly interested in these kinds of scanning activities, you might want to get a dedicated scanner.

  4. I would recommend checking out the American Radio Relay League’s website at http://www.arrl.org/. They have a lot of free resources to learn more about amateur radio.

    If you live in an area that is fairly active with radio amateurs, I would recommend on getting an amateur radio instead of a scanner. In my area we don’t have many active clubs or organizations for amateur radio, so people like me are really on our own.

    In order to transmit on an amateur radio, you’ll need a license from the Federal Communications Commission. The license is free, but you’ll have to take a test that generally will cost about $15 (see the ARRL website for more info on testing).

    We have three license levels that correspond to the various frequencies you’ll be able to transmit on. You’ll start by getting a “Technician Class” license. This will get you on the most popular frequencies, including 2 meter, 220 MHz, and 440 MHz. This will give you excellent local coverage, especially if talking through a repeater.

    The other two licenses are “General Class” and then “Extra Class”. You’ll get them in sequence and each class provides additional frequency privileges.

    1. Well I was actually thinking of getting a license and buying a 2 meter hand-held transceiver but people told me first to get a scanner…
      So do you have a suggestion or is it really better getting my license first?

      1. Scanners and ham radios are two different things. It depends on what you want to do. A 2-meter radio can talk and listen on one frequency. A scanner can’t talk but can search through lists of frequencies and listen when someone else starts talking.

        With a scanner you don’t need a license and you can listen to police, ambulances, fire trucks, railroads, buses, taxis, delivery services, fast-food orders, airlines, race car drivers… the list goes on and on. What you’ll hear ranges from gripping drama to daily routine to comedy gold. But a scanner won’t let you talk to anyone. With a ham radio license and the right kind of radio you can talk to people in your home town, your country, other countries and continents, even in outer space using your voice, Morse code (which isn’t required for any kind of ham radio license), computers, faxes, even send images. However listening is harder if there’s a group of frequencies being used and people only talk to each other occasionally. You may get parts of a conversation or nothing at all.

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Mark Frauenfelder is the founding Editor-in-Chief of Make: magazine, and the founder of the popular Boing Boing blog.

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