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The ARRL Letter
December 21, 2017
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ARRL Headquarters will be closed on Christmas, December 25, and on New Year's Day, January 1. There will be no W1AW bulletin or code-practice transmissions on those days. This is the final edition of The ARRL Letter for 2017. The ARRL Letter will return on Thursday, January 4. We wish everyone a safe and enjoyable holiday season.


FCC Penalizes Marketer of Ham-Band Drone Audio-Visual Transmitters

The FCC has imposed a $180,000 civil penalty on a Sarasota, Florida, company that had been marketing noncompliant audio-visual transmitters intended for use on drones in violation of the Commission's Amateur Service and marketing rules. In an Order released on December 19, the FCC explained that Lumenier Holdco LLC (formerly known as FPV Manuals LLC) was advertising and marketing uncertified AV transmitters capable of operating on both amateur and non-amateur frequencies, including bands reserved for federal government use. Some of the transmitters also exceeded the 1 W power limit for Amateur Radio transmitters used on model craft, the FCC said.

"Moreover, entities that rely on amateur frequencies in operating compliant AV transmitters must have an amateur license and otherwise comply with all applicable laws for such operation," the FCC said in the Order. The FCC said that while it generally has not required amateur equipment to be certified if it operates solely on Amateur Radio frequencies, certification is required if a device can operate outside of the ham bands.

Last January, in what it called an "extremely urgent complaint" to the FCC, ARRL targeted the interference potential of a series of audio/video transmitters used on unmanned aircraft and marketed as Amateur Radio equipment. ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, said those transmitters used frequencies intended for navigational aids, air traffic control radar, air route surveillance radars, and global positioning systems.

In addition to paying a civil penalty, Lumenier, which has admitted to marketing the noncompliant AV transmitters, will enter into a Consent Decree with the FCC to settle the enforcement proceeding and terminate the investigation.

The case stemmed from complaints received by the Enforcement Bureau's Spectrum Enforcement Division. "The investigation revealed that some of the AV transmitters marketed by Lumenier were capable of being operated outside of the authorized Amateur Radio Service bands, including on frequencies reserved in whole or in part for federal agencies, but were not certified or otherwise compliant with the rules," the FCC said in its Order. "These AV transmitters are considered intentional radiators and must comply with the Commission's Equipment Authorization and Marketing rules."

The FCC said that Lumenier ceased marketing the noncompliant transmitters after receiving a Letter of Inquiry from the FCC last April.

The ARRL International Grid Chase Kicks Off with the New Year!

Ready, set, go! The ARRL International Grid Chase 2018 gets under way on January 1 UTC (New Year's Eve in US time zones). The objective of the year-long event is to work stations on any band (except 60 meters) in as many different Maidenhead grid squares as possible, and then upload your log data to ARRL's Logbook of The World (LoTW). Many hams are familiar with grid squares from the VHF/UHF and satellite realms, and everyone lives in one. An online calculator by David Levine, K2DSL, can determine your grid square. Enter a postal address, ZIP code, or a call sign, and the calculator will return the grid square for that location. Each new grid square contact confirmed through LoTW will count toward your monthly total.

Any contact you make in 2018 can count for your Chase score; as long as the other operators participate in LoTW, you'll get credit automatically when they upload their logs. This means that contest contacts will also count, as will contacts with special event stations, or other on-air activity that uses LoTW to confirm contacts.

There are no restrictions on modes or bands, as long as they are legal. Satellite contacts are valid for the Chase. The event is open to all radio amateurs.

Complete details of the ARRL International Grid Chase 2018 appeared in the December 2017 issue of QST. For more information, contact the ARRL Contest Branch.

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January 1 Hosts Events for Legacy Keys

Every day is a good day to send CW, but January 1 is reserved for Straight Key Night (SKN), sponsored by ARRL. Enjoy CW as it has been sent and enjoyed since the earliest days of Amateur Radio. The 24-hour event begins at 0000 UTC on January 1 (New Year's Eve in US time zones) is not a contest but a day dedicated to celebrating Amateur Radio's Morse heritage. Participants are encouraged to get on the air and enjoy conversational CW contacts, preferably while using a straight key or a semi-automatic key ("bug"). No points -- everyone's a winner. Submit your votes for best fist and most interesting QSO.

The First-Class CW Operators' Club sponsors a concurrent event, FOC Bug Day. FOC asks participants to send a description of the bug or bugs used, a list of stations worked, and a vote for best bug fist heard, to FOC Bug Day Manager Benny Owens, K5KV.

AMSAT will sponsor its second-annual satellite CW Activity Day on January 1. This year's event is dedicated to the memory of Pat Gowen, G3IOR. No rules -- just have fun. Operate CW through any ham radio satellite. The use of straight keys and bugs is encouraged, but not required. -- Thanks to Ray Soifer, W2RS, and Benny Owen, K5KV

Radio Amateur's Invention to Treat Alzheimer's Patients Going to Clinical Trials

Inveterate inventor and radio amateur Eric Knight, KB1EHE, may be on the cusp of medical history as a device he developed in collaboration with a prominent Alzheimer's disease researcher enters clinical trials this month. Both are hoping that the device, which essentially saturates the brain with low levels of RF, may prove to be a viable treatment for the dreaded disease affecting millions.

"Sometimes breakthroughs happen in ways that are unexpected," Knight told ARRL.

Eric Knight, KB1EHE.

Knight learned of experiments that world-renowned Alzheimer's researcher Dr. Gary Arendash was carrying out on mice specially bred to have the disease, exposing them to low levels of RF. Knight said the effects were dramatic, sometimes even reversing the disease's effects in the mice. Borrowing some concepts from his early experiments with small rockets and avionics, he set about developing, and later patented, a device that could provide the requisite RF exposure to the human head.

"In the early 2000s, we were trying to figure out then how to make antennas that would wrap around the airframes of the rockets we were designing," he said, noting that the diameter of his group's space vehicle was about the same as that of a human head. Knight learned that Arendash was attempting to extend his investigations in a similar vein, and eventually they collaborated.

"He came at it from mice and science, I came at it from an aerospace and hobby perspective," said Knight, who patented a device based on a bicycle-type helmet. At the same time, Arendash was developing a similar wearable -- a fabric cap resembling an old-time aviator's headgear. Both devices are embedded with small antennas to bathe the brain in electromagnetic radiation in the 900 MHz spectrum set aside for Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) applications -- some 100 MHz higher than a cell phone's frequency.

"Ironic for sure," Knight said. "Who would imagine that cell phone radio waves could be a potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease?"

Knight, who has no medical background, said the device to be used in the clinical trials consists of the cap plus a palm-sized transmitter and wiring harness worn on the arm. The resulting combination has been dubbed the NeuroEM 1000. Participants will get doses of RF twice a day.

From the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) standpoint, the clinical trials aim primarily to show that the technology is safe, but Knight said he and Arendash are also looking for data that might demonstrate that the device could be beneficial in treating Alzheimer's. The protocol they've developed goes further than what the FDA requires and includes before-and-after baseline data, with cognitive testing, assays of spinal fluid and blood, and PET scans.

"The hope is that there is a tiny bit of efficacy. Then we can work to refine it," Knight said, adding, "No one is expecting a magic cure."

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The Doctor Will See You Now!

"Handheld Transceiver Antennas" is the topic of the new (December 21) episode of the "ARRL The Doctor is In" podcast. Listen...and learn!

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Every 2 weeks, your host, QST Editor-in-Chief Steve Ford, WB8IMY, and the Doctor himself, Joel Hallas, W1ZR, will discuss a broad range of technical topics. You can also e-mail your questions to doctor@arrl.org, and the Doctor may answer them in a future podcast.

Enjoy "ARRL The Doctor is In" on Apple iTunes, or by using your iPhone or iPad podcast app (just search for "ARRL The Doctor is In"). You can also listen online at Blubrry, or at Stitcher (free registration required, or browse the site as a guest) and through the free Stitcher app for iOS, Kindle, or Android devices. If you've never listened to a podcast before, download our beginner's guide.

FCC Proposes $25,000 Fine for Breaking Now-Voluntary Labeling Rules

The FCC has proposed fining Acuity Brands Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia, $25,000 for apparently marketing radio frequency devices that were not labeled in accordance with Commission Part 18 rules in place at the time. The FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) on November 21. Compliance with the particular rule at issue now is voluntary.

"Specifically, Acuity marketed three models of consumer-grade electronic fluorescent lighting ballasts -- two since 2006 and one since 2009 -- that did not have the FCC logo affixed to them," the FCC said in the NAL. Application of the FCC logo, which the FCC no longer requires, was to inform purchasers that a device had undergone compliance testing. The FCC also said Acuity continued to market two models of the ballasts at issue for approximately 6 months after being notified, causing the Commission to up the penalty.

"We take this action today as part of our duty to ensure that radio frequency devices are marketed in accordance with the Commission's rules," the FCC said. "Consistent with this goal, we find it necessary to enforce the rules requiring that devices subject to equipment authorization are properly labeled to inform a consumer that such devices have been tested for compliance under the Commission's technical rules, because those devices could easily cause interference if they do not conform to those rules."

The AccuPro Model AP-RC-432IP-120-1 ballast.

In January 2016, the Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) conducted tests on Acuity's AccuPro Model AP-RC-432IP-120-1 fluorescent lighting ballast after receiving complaints of interference said to have been caused by the ballasts. The matter was referred to the FCC Enforcement Bureau, to determine whether Acuity marketed the model at issue before receiving equipment authorization.

A footnote in the NAL points out that the use of the FCC logo became voluntary on November 2, but Accuity's alleged violations occurred before that. The FCC adopted a rule that allows the FCC logo to be physically placed on a device at the discretion of the responsible party consistent with §18.209, but "only if [the] device complies with the applicable equipment authorization rules." Presence of the logo "will not obviate the need to provide required compliance information or maintain pertinent records related to device testing," the FCC said in adopting the change.

Acuity submitted test reports showing that the two types of fluorescent lighting ballasts it markets did comply with relevant technical requirements, but the company conceded that three models of its consumer-grade lighting ballasts did not have an FCC logo affixed for nearly 10 years.

ARRL has in the past -- and without response -- complained to the FCC regarding the marketing and sale of interference-causing lighting ballasts, as well as about a lack of required compliance notifications.

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More Room for Hamvention® at Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center

Hamvention® reports that the Greene County Commissioners and the Greene County Fair Board have approved the construction of a new building at the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center, the new Hamvention venue in Xenia, Ohio.

"Greene County officials have decided to move forward with construction of a new building, as it will continue to expand their presence in the region as a world-class Exposition Center," Hamvention Spokesperson Michael Kalter, W8CI, said in a news release. "Hamvention certainly benefits from the decision to expand the Expo Center footprint. Construction is planned to be complete ahead of Hamvention 2018, and [the new building] will be used for the event."

In addition to the new structure, another building on the property, previously known as Fairgrounds Furniture, is being vacated and will be available for use by Hamvention in May 2018. Additional details are forthcoming.

Kalter said Hamvention has been told that the additional floor space will cover an area larger than the tents Hamvention used for some activities in 2017.

"Although this decision was made to expand opportunities at the Expo Center, Hamvention is grateful for the support Greene County, Xenia Township, and the city of Xenia," Kalter added.

Bouvet DXpedition Nears its Moment of Truth

The group mounting the 3Y0Z Bouvet Island DXpedition reports that it's sorting through the myriad of details necessary to make a DXpedition to the second most-wanted DXCC entity a reality. Plans call for 3Y0Z to be on the air in late January and early February.

A shipping container holding tons of gear is now in Punta Arenas, Chile, set to be moved out of "customs bond" soon. Last-minute supplies being collected to take as extra baggage include ice screws, "should we find ourselves camping on refrozen melt areas on the glacier."

Shelter and antenna layouts have been finalized, as has marine transportation. Team members will take a marine safety course before embarking. Still under negotiation is the cost of helicopter shuttles from the ship to and from the island.

Two years of detailed planning have gone into the Bouvet Island DXpedition. "We want to live up to all that is expected of us on this 'generational' DXpedition, which is likely the largest and most challenging DXpedition ever," the DXpedition team said earlier this fall. "Indeed, there may never be another like it."

The 3Y0Z Propagation Page has been updated and now includes a button visitors can click, enter a call sign and grid square, and get a propagation forecast specific for their location -- all bands over a 24-hour period.

A dependency of Norway, Bouvet is a sub-Antarctic island in the South Atlantic. The last Bouvet activation was 3Y0E, during the winter of 2007-2008. -- Thanks to The Daily DX for some information

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Vietnam Vet, Radio Amateur Granted Dying Wish to Get on the Air One More Time

Vietnam War veteran John Nugent, WA2EQJ, got on the air for what likely will be his final time earlier this month, thanks to help from the Amateur Radio community. The 75-year-old US Army Signal Corps veteran, who has cancer, lives at the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Illinois. Licensed since he was 16, he told a social worker at the facility that one item on his "bucket list" was to operate on ham radio one last time. Staffers at the facility got in touch with the Lake County Veterans Assistance Commission, and replies came from the American Legion Amateur Radio Club, the North Shore Amateur Radio Club, and Lake County Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), among others.

John Nugent, WA2EQJ (center), with his son, Chris (right), and daughter-in-law Nina. [Don Whitney, K9DRW, photo]

"He was just over the moon," social worker Alesia Behnke told the Chicago Tribune. "We had no idea we were going to pull it off."

The various Amateur Radio volunteers did, however, setting up an antenna outside the facility and a simple HF station inside. David Hartnett, K9DRH, and crew Don Whitney, K9DRW; James Nelson, K9QF; Harry Hahn, WB9R, and Scott Campbell, KC9SJP, were among those who made it happen. ARRL Illinois Section Manager Ron Morgan, AD9I, spread the word that WA2EQJ would be on the air.

"John is terminally ill and wanted to make some 20-meter radio contacts one last time," a post on the Lake County RACES page recounted. "He has been in the [Lovell Center] for more than 3 years." Nugent had volunteered to serve in the Army and was wounded during his Vietnam service.

On December 5, Nugent -- with help from his family members and Lovell Center staff -- turned on his radio and contacted stations in California, Illinois, and Texas. After the contacts were in the log, Nugent's son, Chris, thanked the Lake County RACES and other volunteers who facilitated his dad's last wish.

Among the stations Nugent contacted was special event W9F, operated by members of the Fermilab Amateur Radio Club (WB9IKJ) to mark the 50th anniversary of the National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab).

"We were able to add dying Army vet John Nugent, WA2EQJ, to the W9F special event log because of the rapid e-mail alert from the ARRL Illinois Section Manager, notifying ARRL members that it was Mr. Nugent's dying wish to make a final radio contact," Michaline Przekop, KC9ARP, told ARRL. "It was truly a touching and unforgettable experience."

Video of the event is available.

In Brief...

World Radiosport Team Championship 2018 (WRTC 2018) has named 65 referees (63 on site and 2 alternates). These individuals will be monitoring the two-person competing teams during the competition July 14-15 in Germany. A referee will be at each station site to verify compliance with the rules and make decisions on any rule questions competitors may have. "The referees must be top-level contesters, because they must simultaneously listen to the audio from both operators for the entire 24 hours of the WRTC 2018 competition," WRTC 2018 said in making the announcement. Managing the referee application and verification process was Ulf Ehrlich, DL5AXX. More than 130 applied, and the selection process considered many factors, including geographical area, language skills, and SO2R ability. The Judging Committee of WRTC 2018, which Ehrlich heads, made the final choices.

Carlos Beviglia, LU1BCE, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, will take over as the International Amateur Radio Union Region 2 (IARU R2) Monitoring System Coordinator on January 1. The Region 2 Monitoring System has been inactive recently. Licensed at age 16 in 1979, he represents the third generation of radio amateurs in his family that began with his grandfather, LU2BJ, in 1927, and that he hopes will continue with his own children. He prefers to operate CW and is active on all HF bands. He served as president of the Radio Club of Argentina from 2007 until 2017 and participated in the club's 2016 Summer Antarctic Campaign at LU1ZI -- Carlini Base, South Shetland Islands, Argentine Antarctica.

There's Been a Change to December 30 West Coast Qualifying Run. The West Coast Qualifying Run for Saturday, December 30, was scheduled to be transmitted from Maritime Radio Historical Station (MRHS) K6KPH. Due to antenna maintenance, however, K6KPH is unable to conduct the run that day. Jim Michener, K9JM, will handle the task, at least on two bands (K6KPH normally handles five bands). K9JM will transmit the scheduled Run on 7,047.5 and 14,047.5 kHz at 2200 UTC on December 30.

Noted contester and DX station builder and operator Jim Sullivan, W7EJ, died on December 19. Sullivan, 64, lived in Hillsboro, Oregon, and had been an ARRL member. Licensed in 1970, he had been an active contester since 1973. Starting in 1989, he began constructing stations in DX locations -- including FG5R in Guadeloupe, 9M8R in East Malaysia, and CN2R in Morocco, which hosted some of the luminaries of the contesting world. Sullivan's stations racked up several contest records. Professionally, he was involved in hardware design and programming, and owned a small company, which developed websites and Windows applications. He also enjoyed outdoor activities including hiking.

Ulrich "Uli" Bihlmayer, DJ9KR, who was active in the Deutscher Amateur Radio Club's (DARC) Band Watch program for more than 40 years, died on December 16 after a long illness. Bihlmayer, who was 77, headed the DARC Band Watch from 1986 until 2012, and he served as Deputy Coordinator of the International Amateur Radio Union Region 1 (IARU-R1) Monitoring System (Intruder Watch) (IARUMS) for 7 years. The DARC recognized his contributions to promoting international goodwill through ham radio by conferring its Gold Badge of Honor. He received the IARU Region 1 medal in 2011, before he stepped down from the IARU Monitoring Service the following year. Licensed in 1964, Bihlmayer was a top-tier DXer.

One of the few US broadcast stations east of the Mississippi that sport K-prefix call letters -- KQV in Pittsburgh -- will go silent at midnight on January 1 after nearly 1 century on the air. "It's a sad day for broadcasting and for the news business," KQV Station Manager Bob Dickey Jr. told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. The family-owned news-talk station operates on 1410 kHz with 5,000 W into a five-tower array that provides separate day and night patterns. Unofficial accounts indicate that KQV started out as "special amateur station" 8ZAE, to be used by the Doubleday-Hill Electric Company primarily for two-way communication with another station in Washington, DC. (Doubleday-Hill also sold radios.) In October 1921, the Federal Radio Commission issued the station a "limited commercial license," randomly assigning the KQV call letters.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: The first 6 days of the December 14-20 reporting week saw no sunspots. On December 20 one new sunspot group appeared (2692) with a sunspot number of 16. The average daily sunspot number decreased from 6.9 to 2.3 over the previous reporting week.

Average solar flux increased from 71 to 71.5, the average planetary A index went from 7.4 to 9.4, and mid-latitude A index rose from 5.5 to 6.1. Solar flux for the next 45 days is predicted to be 75 on December 21-28; 74 on December 29-January 1; 76 on January 2-5; 74 on January 6-13; 72 on January 14-19; 74 on January 20-28; 76 on January 29-February 1, and 74 on February 2-3.

The predicted planetary A index is 5 on December 21; 8 on December 22-23; 5 on December 24-26; 10 and 8 on December 27-28; 5 on December 29-30; 10, 25, 15, and 10 on December 31-January 3; 5 on January 4-6; 10, 12, and 8 on January 7-9; 5 on January 10-12; 22 on January 13-14; 20, 16, 10, and 8 on January 15-18; 5 on January 19-22; 12 and 8 on January 23-24; 5 on January 25-26; 10, 25, 15, and 10 on January 27-30; 5 on January 31-February 2, and 10 on February 3.

Send me your reports and observations.


Getting It Right

The story "Radio Anniversaries Abound in December," in the December 14 edition of The ARRL Letter contained incorrect information about the location of Marconi's receiving station in Newfoundland. Marconi set up near Cabot Tower in a "fever hospital."

The 2018 ARRL RTTY Roundup announcement in the December 2017 issue of QST includes an incorrect log submission deadline. The correct date is January 12, 2018.


Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • December 24 --RAEM Contest (CW)

  • December 26 -- DARC Christmas Contest (CW, phone)

  • December 27 -- SKCC Sprint (CW)

  • December 30 -- RAC Winter Contest (CW, phone)

  • December 30-31 -- Stew Perry Topband Challenge (CW)

  • December 31 -- Bogor Old and New Contest (Phone)

  • January 1 -- AGB New Year Snowball Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • January 1 -- SARTG New Year RTTY Contest

  • January 1 -- AGCW Happy New Year Contest (CW)

  • January 1 -- AGCW VHF/UHF Contest (CW)

  • January 1 -- QRP ARCI New Year's Day Sprint (CW)

  • January 1-7 -- All IQRP Quarterly Marathon (CW, phone, digital)

  • January 2 -- ARS Spartan Sprint (CW)

  • January 3 -- UKEICC 80-Meter Contest (Phone)

  • January 3-7 -- Linc Cundall Memorial CW Contest

  • January 4 -- NRAU 10-Meter Activity Contest (CW, phone, digital)

See the ARRL Contest Calendar for more information. For in-depth reporting on Amateur Radio contesting, subscribe to The ARRL Contest Update via your ARRL member profile e-mail preferences.


Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division Conventions

Find conventions and hamfests in your area.


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The ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that is available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise and readable.

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