Up W7BRI 1150 Radio + Packet Pack Slideshow


I recently finished integrating a radio and packet modem with a bluetooth GPS, FM transmitter and two port USB charger. It is a small, light-weight, versatile and redundant communication station that I believe could complement EmComm (Emergency Communications) and SAR (Search and Rescue) work.

In a real emergency when people aren't thinking as clearly and stuff gets lost, broken, forgotten, etc. I think my pack could really shine because it would allow people with only a bluetooth-enabled laptop to send important packet traffic. Having more options, especially in a disaster, is always better...

The serial-to-bluetooth adapter in my pack allows multiple serial connections from different sources; e.g., many people with different laptops and installs of AirMail, Paclink, etc. can use the pack in turn -- without requiring the primary station operator to do all the work, relinquish his computer, or reconfigure its settings.

Like it or not, fewer laptops are being built anymore with serial ports, and most newer ones can be bought with onboard bluetooth or have it added afterward with a USB adapter. Old serial GPS's simply can't compete with the superior receive sensitivity and other technological advancements implemented in bluetooth models, and are often so finicky that you have to constantly resolve COM port conflicts between them and other devices in your computer.

Although the 1150 does not have an internal battery to power its Kenwood D710A radio, the Aircable Serial 3X bluetooth adapter, bluetooth GPS and Kantronics KPC-3+ Packet Communicator all have batteries that will continue to operate for hours after external DC power is disconnected. The KPC-3+ could still record its coordinates and queue up position reports and e-mails for later broadcast.

I welcome your questions, comments and constructive criticism about this project.

Thanks & 73,


1150 Radio + Packet Pack

1150 Radio + Packet Pack

Here's an external shot of the Pelican 1150 case that houses the Kenwood D710A radio, Kantronics KPC3 Plus modem, bluetooth GPS, etc.. Click on the thumbnail to see a bigger picture. The case is only 9.12" x 7.56" x 4.37"; it's small and light enough to take pretty much anywhere without getting in the way or feeling like a boat anchor.

I made the label with Adobe Illustrator and paid Delp's Awards in Eugene to laser engrave them for me. They do great work, and only charged $3 for each label.

3q profile with console

3q profile with console

Please see the list below for a description of the numbered items in the picture.

1) Comet SBB-1 antenna. See the link to the left or the pictures at the bottom of the page for a better view.

2) Orion OD8015-12HB 80x80x15mm fan. So far, it hasn't seemed to get hot enough inside to need the fan -- but it stays on the entire time I use the pack because I'm not taking any chances with about $1,000 worth of equipment... I bought it at Norvac Electronics in Eugene.

3) Microphone...

4) Zip-Linq CAT6 retractable network cable. Don't get the thinner retractable cables; they either won't work well, or at all.

5) Bulgin PX0833 CAT5e shielded coupler (mic jack). This is a very high quality and expensive ($30+) coupler. As with the other Bulgin bulkheads I used on this mod, it's completely waterproof (IP68) when sealed by its cap. Don't bother with the cheaper couplers sold by Amphenol and others that use a flimsy PCB on the inside.

6) Kenwood TM-D710A console. The pic shows APRS on the left and a local packet frequency on the right.

7) Bulgin PX0833 CAT5e shielded coupler (console jack).

8) Bulgin PX0802 panel mount connector that houses the Anderson PowerPoles that pass power to the case. Directly connected to the PowerPoles is a DC noise filter (black sphere on the far right, over the console). That is attached to a 5ft cigarette lighter adapter (not shown), which is plugged into one of my truck's DC sockets.

Full inside view

Full inside view

1) Aircable Serial 3X bluetooth adapter. It's programmed with over 1,000 lines of BASIC code, which allowed me to configure it as a "Master" bluetooth device (like a computer) rather than a "Slave" device, such as a GPS or printer. This way, the Serial 3X sniffs the air for any bluetooth-enabled computers that match the name filter I told it to look for. When it finds one, it will prompt the PC about the incoming serial connection, ask for the PIN code, then pass all traffic between the computer and KPC3 just as if they were connected with a regular serial cable.

The addition of GpsGate on the PC helps to keep the bluetooth connection "locked in", and lets you redirect the incoming COM port to many different places -- such as to additional COM ports. This is a very nice feature if you want to use WinPack or another terminal program that doesn't work above COM4, or run multiple ones simultaneously. You can also share the COM port with other people... Click the link to see what else this program can do.

When I want to interface the KPC3 with the bluetooth GPS, I simply disconnect the PC's bluetooth link to the KPC3 and turn on the GPS. They connect to each other within several seconds without any intervention because I programmed the Serial 3X to automatically use a second, basic PIN code that only works with my GPS's unique hardware address.

2) Metal D-sub hood kit (cut short), with a straight-through 5-pin serial cable to a right-angle serial adapter connected to the KPC3. See "KPC3, etc. close up" and "Modified KPC3 to Kenwood adapter", below.

3) Bulgin PX0833 CAT5e shielded coupler (mic jack).

4) GlobalSat BT-359W bluetooth GPS. This little guy has a -159dB receive sensitivity and can get a lock on 3+ satellites even with no view of the sky. No kidding.

5) Orion OD8015-12HB 80x80x15mm fan.

6) Philips Transcast FM transmitter. I've tried several bigger models, but all fell short compared to this one. The Philips has no problems transmitting clear audio to my truck's radio through the case.

7) Kenwood TM-D710A mobile amateur radio.

8) KPC3 to D710A cable. See the right-angle serial adapter, below.

9) I-XT dual USB charger. I removed the male cigarette lighter tip and replaced it with Anderson PowerPoles. I paralleled the fused input power cable from the customized Red-Dee-2 PS-4 PowerPole splitter (#11) with the fan cord (yellow shrink tube next to #6) to save the space a Y-cable would require. Sorry, I don't have a link. I bought it for $8.50 at Knecht's.

10) Male-to-male UHF (PL259) adapter coupled with female-to-female UHF (SO239) adapter through a Bulgin PX0802 panel mount connector. Both UHF adapters can be found at Norvac, Fry's Electronics, Ham Radio Outlet, Universal Radio, and many other places.

11) My version of the Red-Dee-2 PS-4 PowerPole splitter (see pictures and link, below).

12) Bulgin PX0802 panel mount connector (PowerPole jack).

13) Bulgin PX0833 CAT5e shielded coupler (console jack).

If you look close, you can see the RJ45 jack coming out of it. It's actually two jacks crimped end-to-end with a rubber ring between them. This snaps right into the D710A's console port...

Lid close up

Lid close up

The bluetooth serial adapter (upper left), bluetooth GPS (center) and FM transmitter (right) are all fired up and ready to go.

KPC3, etc. close up

KPC3, etc. close up

Here I pulled up the radio so you can see the goodies. It may look like a mess, but every cable and connector is customized and placed precisely where it needs to be. Despite the cramped quarters, the radio, KPC3 and USB charger are all fused separately.

1) Right-angle metal D-sub hood kit (modified to 180 degrees); the cable runs along the side of the case to the D710A's DIN6 port (#13). See "Modified KPC3 to Kenwood adapter", three pictures down.

2) ATS in-line blade fuse holder for D710A. I got it at Norvac.

3) Snap-lock glass fuse holder for I-XT 12V to 5V USB charger. Also at Norvac.

4) Another right-angle metal D-sub hood for the serial cable that runs to the Serial 3X bluetooth adapter.

5) Bulgin PX0802 panel mount connector (PowerPole jack).

6) Snap-lock glass fuse holder for KPC3.

7) Customized Red-Dee-2 PS-4 PowerPole splitter. Sorry, only the top is visible here. See pictures below.

8) Kantronics KPC3 Plus Packet Communicator. 'Nuff said for the EmComm folks.

9) USB charging cable for the Serial 3X bluetooth adapter (see blue shrink tube on black cable in upper left of pic).

10) USB charging cable for the GlobalSat BT-359W bluetooth GPS (see green shrink tube in upper right).

11) Bulgin PX0802 panel mount connector (antenna jack).

12) Customized I-XT dual USB charger.

13) KPC3 to D710A cable (originates at #1).

14) D710A bracket. Industrial velcro on the bottom and silicone heat pad on the top seem to provide adequate space, cushioning and heat protection between the radio and modem. Tests are ongoing...

Modified PS-4 #1

Modified PS-4 #1

Customized Red-Dee-2 PS-4 PowerPole splitter above the original version. I took two sets of red / black PowerPoles, cut short the reds, crimped bare copper wires into both sets, twisted positive-to-positive and negative-to-negative and separated them with multiple layers of electrical and heat shrink tape. The resulting adapter was zip-tied in the center and bent into an "L" shape for maximum compactness.

Modified PS-4 #2

Modified PS-4 #2

Different view...

Modified KPC3 to Kenwood adapter

Modified KPC3 to Kenwood adapter

This right-angle metal D-sub hood kit was a great find because it works in very tight spaces. This pic shows the adapter that connects the KPC's DB9 radio jack to the Kenwood D710A's DIN6 port. I drilled a hole in the adapter and installed a rubber grommet so I could route the cable 180 degrees to the other side of the case.

The other right-angle adapter connects to the KPC3's serial port via a Slimline DB25M to DB9F adapter. This pushes out the RA serial adapter past the RA radio adapter, letting me run the cable along the bottom of the case and up to the Serial 3X.

Console and PowerPole jacks

Console and PowerPole jacks

On the left is a close up of the Bulgin PX0833 CAT5e shielded coupler for my D710A's console.

On the right, I put a set of Anderson PowerPoles through a Bulgin PX0802 panel mount connector.

After looking in vain for a good sealant / adhesive to fill the gap around the PowerPoles and hold them in place, I decided to try something else. I'm very happy with the result. See the following three pictures.

Modified PowerPole #1

Modified PowerPole #1

After messing with messy, ineffective sealants, I discovered that the PowerPoles fit perfectly inside a Bulgin SA3230 screw terminal insert, after I cut the PowerPoles short and Dremeled them down a little. I simply popped out the pins from the insert, expanded the holes for the positive / negative cords, and lined up the groove on the side of the red PowerPole to match up with the key running down the side of the insert.

I also replaced the Bulgin sealing cap cords with stronger monofilament (bought at Wal-Mart) that won't snip off so easily.

Modified PowerPole #2

Modified PowerPole #2

Here's another view. The key on the side of the insert keeps the PowerPoles from rotating. It's so tight that I doubt they'd move, anyhow. I put a little super glue on the sides and back, just to make sure. The cap will still screw on all the way with the PowerPoles sticking out like this.

Modified PowerPole #3

Modified PowerPole #3

Here's the back side of the PowerPole bulkhead. I cut off a couple of the plastic fins that used to partition the screw terminals; this separates the power cords nicely, and gives them some strain relief.

Antenna jack

Antenna jack

This is the UHF female-to-female (SO239) antenna adapter screwed into a Bulgin PX0802 panel mount connector.

Comet SBB-1 antenna

Comet SBB-1 antenna

I really like the Comet SBB-1 antenna because it's small, flexible, and can handle 60W output.

Packed up

Packed up

Everything fits in a small shoulder bag and little yellow Pelican 1050 case.

The little case contains the D710A console, Greenlight Labs GPS-710 and Zip-Linq CAT6 retractable network cable.

I prefer this setup over my other radio pack that included the console, etc. because it's easier to separate and secure the key parts. Without the console, the radio is useless -- and vice versa. Also, it's a lot smaller and lighter without the internal battery...

The yellow disc hanging off the bag is a very bright, functional and nearly indestructible LED PowerFlare used by military, police, aviation and public safety groups. It can even flash "SOS" in Morse code. :)

In the zippered pockets (not shown) is the 5ft cigarette lighter adapter, fuses, spare serial cable, bluetooth adapter / software, DC noise filter, compact repeater directory, etc..

Also stuffed in the bag are small, laminated versions of the Lane County ARES / RACES frequency chart, packet frequencies, and a Nifty! D710A guide.


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