HamShield lets your Arduino communicate with far away people and things using amateur radio bands.
Nowadays, ham radio represents a great opportunity for Makers and engineers alike to explore the world around them. Whether it’s text messaging over APRS while backpacking or communicating with the space station as it flies overhead, one Seattle startup is on a mission to enable your Arduino to talk with people and things far away using VHF and UHF frequencies with the aptly named HamShield.
Have you ever wanted to innovate with amateur radio but could not figure out what band to choose or which was the easiest to hack into to gain more advanced features? In an effort to simplify this, the HamShield is super easy to control. To get started, Makers can write their own Arduino sketch and turn their board into a transceiver in a matter of minutes. This allows users to build APRS trackers, transmit and interpret Morse code, race remote-controlled cars, or even transform the Arduino into a serial-controlled radio and work with a computer interface. Thanks to its accompanying Chrome app, any PC with a web browser can become a packet radio station. In other words, users can download and write new laptop applications that leverage the flexibility of the HamShield, but may require the user interface or special processing power of a laptop.
“We have also written an application that runs in any Chrome browser and can talk directly to the HamShield. This means that you can also use a low cost, low powered laptop (such as a Chromebook) to control your Ham Radio on the go,” team member Casey Halverson writes.
The HamShield Arduino library gives users the ability to control every aspect of the radio, handling all communication between the Arduino and the shield so that the only thing needed is its simple API. The team has even created ready-to-use functions for common amateur radio modes, such as Morse code, packet radio, SSTV, scanning, white space channel seeking and empty channel detection. Additionally, Audio can be accessed in one of two ways, either through the HamShield’s built-in TRRS jack or by directly interfacing with the Arduino. The HamShield employs the existing Arduino audio capability to transmit and receive packet radio data, which can be found in the library.
In terms of hardware, the HamShield is based on the Auctus 1846S radio transceiver IC, which boasts a fully integrated FM radio transceiver. With its software defined radio core, users have access to several features like sub-audio CTCSS/CDCSS modes, DTMF encoding and decoding, tail noise elimination, RSSI, squelch, VOX, volumes, and even a very powerful tone encoder and decode.
The Arduino-compatible, open source HamShield supports both voice and packet radio modes, as well as a wide range of VHF and UHF frequencies: 134-174 MHz, 200-260 MHz and 400-520 MHz. This, of course, covers three amateur bands: 2-meter (144-148 MHz), 1.25-meter (220-225 MHz) and 70-centimeter (420-450 MHz).
What’s more, the HamShield eliminates the need for a dedicated radio or piece of equipment for each type of operating mode. The unit is compact, lightweight and fully compatible with any board that supports Uno-style shields. Due to the amount of power required, though, it must be connected to an external power supply at all times.
“Care was taken to make sure that the input voltage range was also within the output range of several different types of battery technologies, including 4xAA battery packs and 7.4 volt LiPo battery packs. The HamShield can operate between 5-30 volts DC, and is typically powered by a 12 VDC power adapter,” Halverson adds.
As a bonus, the HamShield’s power supply is also fed into VIN on the Arduino. Portable options, such as GPS trackers, hidden transmitter hunting, and laptop APRS and packet radio are now made possible.
Interested? Head over to its official Kickstarter page, where its creators have already nearly doubled its initial pledge goal. Delivery of the shields is expected to begin in October 2015.