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Your Questions Answered (Baofengs, MARS, & APRS) – Ham Radio Q&A

Your Questions Answered (Baofengs, MARS, & APRS) – Ham Radio Q&A

– In this episode of Ham Radio
Q&A, I answer your questions. So please stick around for more. (upbeat rock music) Hi, I’m Michael, KB9VBR. Your host for Ham Radio Q&A. I’m on a mission to inspire and educate the amateur radio community. So if this is your first time watching, please consider hitting
that subscribe button. Wow, a lot of things are
happening on this channel. We’ve just passed the
10,000 subscriber mark and I’ve been picking up about
50 new subscribers a day. So thank you so very
much for that support, I really appreciate it. I also appreciate the intelligent comments and great questions I receive every day. Sometimes YouTube comments can be sort of a social media wasteland, but I’m always impressed with the quality of comments I receive. It can be a challenge
to call out the best, but let’s dig into this month’s questions. But before we do that, please
stick around to the end as I have a preview of some things that are going to be happening
in the next few weeks. First off, my video on the
purported illegal status of BaoFeng radios are
stirring quite a controversy. Both the original video I posted in August and the October channel update are generating quite a few questions, so here’s a few of the better ones. Robert shares some points
that have been echoed by many. Namely, the FCC Advisory
is silly for many reasons. Number one, there are millions
of these radios in daily use. The toothpaste is out of the tube. Number two, custom built
equipment is popular and can transmit outside the ham bands. Three, some expensive commercial equipment can also transmit outside the ham bands with little or no modification. Number four, it is illegal for hams to, it is legal for hams to transmit outside the ham bands
in case of an emergency. In fact, there are cases where someone has been rescued by doing this. And finally number five, he states, does the FCC want to do
away with the MARS program? Well, you bring up some
really valid points. The FCC’s enforcement
advisory is contradictory how the amateur radio service
has functioned for 100 years. Also, I want to say that
despite what many say, a radio used on the amateur radio service does not need to be Part 90 certified. I believe the FCC really wants to muddy the regulatory waters by deliberately creating this confusion. Finally, I’m gonna talk a
bit about the MARS program, or Military Auxiliary Radio System. MARS is a radio program sponsored by the Department of Defense and provides supplemental
radio services for military. For a long time, MARS operators completed phone patches so that military personnel could talk to loved ones back home. Nowadays, phone patches are
really a thing of the past, but MARS does still provide interoperability communications between the military and civilian emergency management agencies. The MARS program is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense and the MARS operators receive a special operator’s
license and call sign, and use frequencies outside
of the amateur radio service. So the FCC can’t control who can modify their
radios for MARS operation. Gene asks, “Someone please tell me “which model numbers is/are
or now legal or illegal “and which ones are legal?” Well, this is a really tough question as there is no way to know
which radios are allowed under the FCC’s Enforcement Advisory unless the manufacturer or distributor lists the FCC ID in their
product description. I’m not going to say that a
particular radio is legal or not as I’m not an attorney and this advisory really doesn’t specify what the FCC considers to be a legal radio for use under the amateur radio service. But If the radio carries an FCC ID, you can be reasonably assured and assume that the radio is safe and property used on the amateur radio bands. For other radio services like a land mobile radio service, the radio’s going to need
to be Part 90 certified and Part 95 certified if
you want to use it for GMRS. To follow up on that point, I also received this
comment, the person writes, “I contacted the company where
I bought my BaoFeng radios “and they said theirs are FCC compliant. “They even sent me the FCC ID numbers. “So, the statement that all
BaoFeng radios are illegal “is just not true.” You’re correct, some but
not all BaoFeng type radios do have an FCC ID. If the radio carries an FCC ID, then it can be reasonably assumed that you could legally use the device on the amateur radio bands. So, if you don’t want to use
a BaoFeng, and are looking for something inexpensive,
what should you do? As this commenter asks, “I am very new to HAM. “If BaoFengs are illegal for now, “can you recommend a good,
low-cost alternative? “Even the cheapest Yaesus “seem to be five times
the price of a BaoFeng, “on Amazon at least. “Or at least what is the best
lowest-cost alternative?” Well, Amazon is not necessarily the best or the cheapest price source if you’re searching for amateur radio gear from the major manufacturers
such as Icom, Kenwood or Yaesu. Since amateur radio gear
tends to be a niche category, you’re gonna oftentimes
find a better price if you shop the specialty retailers like Ham Radio Outlet, DX Engineering, GigaParts, Universal Radio,
MTC Trading, et cetera. GigaParts has the Yaesu FT-4XR for $99.95 with free shipping. Or you can get the dual band FT70-DR for $159 and that’s got
built-in Yaesu System Fusion. These are all bulletproof radios and they’re gonna give you years of use. In fact, they’re definitely a step above what you’re gonna find
with the Chinese imports. While they might be a bit more expensive than a comparable BaoFeng, you
often get what you pay for. So, they really are a good investment. Alright, switching focus, here’s a little bit on troubleshooting. I got a comment recently, that stated, “I can’t seem to get anyone or hear anyone “on my Kenwood TS480SAT. “Not sure if it’s the antenna
or I pushed the wrong button. “I’ve been off radio for years, “and a guy set it up for me
and it worked, any ideas?” Well, I’m not an expert on that rig, so here’s a couple general
things you can check if you can’t hear a signal on your radio. The first thing I’d do would
be to check the antenna switch. The TS480SAT’s got two antenna ports, Antenna 1 and Antenna 2. And being on the wrong antenna port or accidentally pressing a
switch is a common problem. In fact, our club’s got a Kenwood TS2000 and being on the antenna
has been a common problem I’ve run into with helping
a new operator use it. So, if that checks out, and
you’re connected to Antenna 1 and there’s an antenna on Antenna 1, the next step I would do would be to tune the radio to WWV at 10 megahertz. That’s the atomic clock broadcast
out of Boulder, Colorado. Can you hear a signal from that at all? Well if not, then you
may have an antenna issue or there might be something
wrong with your transceiver. I also received a couple of comments on my APRS Fill-In Digi video. “Great video, especially
since my club has been talking “about digipeaters at aid stations “in mountainous and
ultramarathons in my area, “I was looking into building
a few based on Arduino “and forgot that this may work “with some of the stuff
that I already have “like the MFJ TNC2 clones, “and a KAM and a KPC3, thank you.” Building a fill-in digi is a great way to repurpose old equipment and sometimes doing that is easier than building something from scratch out of an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi. Rob says, “KB9VBR, great video. “This just might be the solution “to the digipeater/IGate
problem in our area. “We do not have an IGate or
a digipeater in our county “and I’ve been wanting to
install something for a long time “that it would at least
allow APRS tracking “within our neighborhood and
nearby town of Woodville. “There is a digipeater
in the county next door, “which I think could be
activated from my QTH “if I could put up a small beam.” Well, if you don’t have
a reliable APRS service at your location, I’d probably look at building a full-blown digipeater instead of just the fill-in. Fill-ins work only for the first hop and a true digi has the extra filtering to reduce congestion and also to help remove those duplicate packets. You could host a digipeater
at your home location, and maybe that would be
a good starting point, to get things rolling, but in the long run maybe co-hosting it at a repeater
site might be the answer. Our local club has a digipeater di-plexed onto a UHF repeater system. The repeater uses a dual-band antenna, so it was easy to add the
digipeater to the same system. That might be an option for you. Chris asks a question about the Wolf River Coils review I did. “Any advice for using
this with an MFJ 1979?” Well, the MFJ-1979 is a 16-foot
telescoping whip antenna, just like this one here, and basically it’s great
portable operation. What I do is extend it
out to about nine feet for the 75 to 80-meter band
and then collapse it down to about five to six feet
for the higher bands. If you’re using the 102-inch
stainless steel whips, with this coil, here’s the coil. If you use 102-inch stainless steel whip, you’ll find that you’re
gonna run out of space on the top end of the
band at the coil here. This only goes up to about 20 meters, so you’re gonna need to shorten that whip for 10 or 15-meter bands. Since there’s a little bit of imprecision when you’re using the coils
with the whip antenna, often times what I’ll do
is pre-tune everything with an antenna analyzer
before I get on the air. Another interesting thing
with the whip antenna is that if you extend it
all the way out to 16 feet, you can use this coil
on the 160-meter band. But to do so, you’re gonna need
a really good ground system to get a good match on 160 meters. But, hey, give it a shot. Well, that’s it for
this month’s questions. Please keep them coming, as your question might
be featured next month. As a coming preview, I’m gonna be doing a couple of videos on mobile radio operation. I bought a new-to-me car this last month and right now I’m in the process of installing a VHF/UHF
mobile radio in it. So I’m gonna be giving you some tips on antenna installation,
running power from the battery, and locating the radio unit inside the car itself. Plus, I’ll be shopping for a new radio. So I’m trying to decide
between the Icom ID-5100A or the Yaesu FTM-400XDR. Eventually, I’ll have a review of one of those two rigs coming up. But, if you have a personal
preference between the two, let me know, I’d love to hear it. Finally, the holiday
season is fast approaching, and I’ll have my annual holiday gift guide out in a couple of weeks. This video highlights ham-friendly gifts any amateur would love
to see under the tree. Let me know in the comments
if there’s a particular gift you’d love to receive from Santa. Well, that’s it for another month. For more Ham Radio
articles and information, be sure to check out my blog at and don’t forget, if you love this video, give me a big thumbs up,
I really appreciate that. Check out some of the other videos that are suggested along the side here. And hit that subscribe button if you haven’t already done so. Pressing Subscribe and
the bell notification will let you know when
future videos are released. I’m Michael, KB9VBR.
(upbeat rock music) Your host for Ham Radio Q&A. Have a great day and 73.

36 comments on “Your Questions Answered (Baofengs, MARS, & APRS) – Ham Radio Q&A

  1. Nice video.Very informative. If it were up to me I would go with Icom. Yesau would not even be considered. I have a personal story that I would be happy to share with you but not suitable for this forum.

  2. Hi Michael my name is Frank my dad was involved in Mars i think you knew him Ka9dqq/N9QQ I ENJOY YOUR CHANNEL MY CALL IS KB9JWQ haven't been active in many years i just need a kick in the but to get going again if not for me for my dad who loved ham radio thank for your videos it giving me a recharged

  3. In my opinion the FCC's main problem with the cheap import radios is that they transmit outside the amateur band out of the box. If I want my Icom, Kenwood, Yaesu, etc. to transmit outside the amateur band I have to modify it. The Baofeng and most of the other brands transmit over their full receive range out of the box with no modification. They could at least make it so you had to enable the extra coverage through programming like some of my Retevis radios.

  4. Great video as always. I am considering getting a FTM-3200DR for home use. What kind of power supply would I need to run it?

  5. I am asking santa to gift me a 2 meter break-away and 2 meter slim jim. I hope he is reading these comments.

  6. Great Videos sir! Mobile rig selection was easy for me. It came down to Memory allocation. I travel throughout the US. Having memory banks (A-Z) allows me to program Repeaters by state in the order from north to south and east to west. Any stations I missed can be added in that group. A simple numeric (1-1000) would not work for me. Keep videos coming!

  7. I just got the id-5100 and its awesome! I installed it in my truck but might bring it back into the house because its way to nice to live in the truck! or maybe ill save up for another one 🙂

  8. Hi Michael – I always enjoy your videos, and just watched this one this morning.  FWIW, we met at the CFMC Hamfest a few weeks back in Belvedere (I was manning the SATERN table right behind yours).  I'm looking forward to your upcoming discussion of the pros and cons of the ID-5100A and the FTM-400 XDR.  As it turns out, I have both.  I purchased the ID-5100A about 1 1/2 years ago, and it is a superb rig in every way.  While I have been moving it between shack and car … mainly for it's D-Star capabilities and GPS-based repeater locator on long trips … doing that for normal local driving did not appeal to me.  So, except for those long road trips, it has found a permanent home in my shack.  There, I keep one side set to our local Digipeater (for Winlink, etc.) and the other side serves for all other 2m/70cm communications.  I considered purchasing a second unit to leave in the car, and that still seems to be a reasonable path (common programming, etc.).  But I realized that for local use (ARES, Skywarn, etc.) I would benefit from having compatible APRS functionality.  So my search led me to the FTM-400 XDR about two weeks ago (GPS, APRS, Fusion, Dual channel).  Now here's the cool part … I had the 5100 bracket mounted on the sidewall in the cargo area of my Jeep Grand Cherokee, right next to the 12 volt/20 amp accessory connector.  The FTM-400 XDR is slightly smaller, but with the addition of a couple of nylon spacers, I can install it in the same bracket as the 5100.  I can mount either control head on a (slightly modified) gooseneck-type seat bolt mount, and just plug in the appropriate cables for microphone and control (too bad the Yaesu doesn't use standard Cat-5 for the mic like Icom does …).  So I think I just might have the best of both worlds.  The only thing better would be to mount them both in the car on those road trips.  I can just hear the XYL on that idea … 🙂  73, Lyn WØLEN

  9. I have tested many handheld radios for compliance with FCC Part 97 emission standards, specifically 97.307(e). Some radios meet the standards for spurious emissions and some don't. No matter what the seller of the radio tells you, if the radio doesn't meet Part 97 emission standards, you can't legally use the radio in the amateur radio service even the radio does carry an FCC Part 90 certification.

  10. Also, since you mentioned the Yaesu FT-4XR, I happen to own one of those radios and I've tested it for spurious emissions. It meets 97.307(e). Also, the Anytone AT-3208UV II that I own meets 97.307(e) and it's generally half the price of the FT-4XR. Both of these radios are made in China.

  11. I love the color and menu system of the Yaesu ftm400 but I hate the touch screen. The touch screen of the Icom is much better but the menus are more confusing to me at least. so it just depends on what ya like.

  12. I'm trying to figure out if I can use my Baofeng UV-5R+ I just bought to communicate with my airsoft military simulation team during matches. Are there any open channels for public communication that are generally acknowledged as safe to use?

  13. Certified radios, have the ID number on the back under the battery. Then simply go to and you can look up for what "part" (90,95 etc) it is certified for.

  14. how about we all just talk and try to be civil and the hell with anyone who wants to regulate freedom. They should not have the right to tell anyone what air you can use. Just my opinion

  15. Just my opinion … I feel that the big stink is brought on by the Big 3 makers of Ham Radio … we all know who they are … I remember when Alinco came onto the market and the Big 3 made a stink about them, however Alinco stuck it out … now there is a radio that I can now afford and the big 3 want to shut them down and say they are Illegal .. I rather pay $40 buck per radio and buy 2 or 3 instead of paying any where from $200 to $400 per radio … This is just my opinion, Thank You .. De Randi N9UOM

  16. Looking forward to seeing your mobile install. I've been thinking about installing a mobile rig in my car, but I'm not very handy and therefore not very confident. I have the same Yaesu handheld that you have, and have been looking at Yaesu mobile radios.

  17. Thank you for this video. I own a few Baofengs that do not have an FCC ID number printed on the radio. Is it ok to disable the TX features in Chirp and legally use these receivers as stand alone scanners in public? You have a wonderful channel, a new subscriber here.

  18. I believe the Baofeng controversy is political. The Trump administration has been haggling with China over trade tarriff's. Since all of these are imported from China, it makes sense that the FCC under this administration would do this to try and snub the importation of these radios. They are not illegal to use on the ham bands.

  19. To muddy the water my Baofeng UV-5R has an FCC ID. If you look up that certificate it is only certified for up to 1.78 watts. Since it can transmit more than that then technically it's breaking that certification and is illegal. Good reason for me to buy a Kenwood. 😉

  20. So I bought one of those walkie-talkies. I am safe to use one? I work at a warehouse that’s in a big airport. And I need it to talk to someone that’s in the other side of the warehouse.

  21. I'm a new ham and am also wanting to purchase a radio to put in my jeep. I'm really leaning towards the yaesu ftm-400xdr. I'm a little confused on adding an exterior antenna. Which one, how, where, using what cable? Could you help a newbie out?

  22. The ban is completely impractical. I personally know of two different companies using these Baofengs as their primary HT buisness radios. Truth of the matter is, that if an individual/business can get a 100$ radio, or a 30$ radio that performs all the functions of a $100+ radio, , theyre going to go for the cheaper one. Thats just economics 101.

  23. People need to be aware that the FCC has jurisdiction over "marketing, importing and selling" RF transmitters in the USA, in addition to various "operations". That means the foreign and domestic VENDORS are supposed to jump through the hoops to get permission to import and sell legally, such as Part 15 "type approval" (for incidental transmissions) or Part 80, 90, or 95, etc. In theory, once a unit has been lawfully imported and sold, a licensed US ham may modify and use it in the ham bands, regardless of what "type approvals" it once had. Obviously, once its transmission characteristics have been modified, it would probably void any other "type approval", but hams are largely responsible for policing themselves.

    Specific rules apply to MARS (military auxiliary) use of equipment, under DoD rules, such as AR-25-6(2014), both in the USA and US installations abroad.

    Back when I supervised "equipment certifications" for a computer company (in the 1980's), we had to remind our sales people going to trade shows NOT to actually offer to sell anything that did not yet have an FCC-ID showing compliance with Part 15, since there were (in fact) FCC agents looking for violations. 47 CFR § 2.803 Marketing of radio frequency devices prior to equipment authorization. Additional import rules were added in 1991, e.g., 47 CFR § 2.1204, offering limited exemptions.

  24. Hi, new to your channel. Very insightful. But I’ve got a random question, the last couple of years I’ve not heard any stations on my 10m rig during rf propagation. Has the 10 meter band died off in ham? Thanks and 73’s. WX5DAC

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