HamShield Puts Your Arduino On The Radio

Anybody can grab a USB TV tuner card and start monitoring the airwaves, but to get into the real meat of radio you’ll need your amateur radio license. Once you have that, the bandwidth really opens up… if you can afford the equipment. However, [spaceneedle] and friends have dramatically lowered the costs while increasing the possibilities of owning a radio by creating this ham radio shield for the Arduino.

The HamShield, is a versatile shield for any standard Arduino that allows it to function like an off-the-shelf radio would, but with a virtually unlimited number of functions. Anything that could be imagined can be programmed into the Arduino for use over the air, including voice and packet applications. The project’s sandbox already includes things like setting up mesh networks, communicating over APRS, setting up repeaters or beacons, monitoring weather stations, and a whole host of other ham radio applications.

HamShield operates on a wide range of frequencies and only uses a 250 mW amplifier. The power draw is small enough that the HamShield team operated it from a small solar panel, making it ideal for people in remote areas. The project is currently gathering funding and has surpassed their goal on Kickstarter, branding itself appropriately as the swiss army of amateur radio. The transceiver seems to be very robust, meaning that the only thing standing in the way of using this tool is simply writing the Arduino code for whatever project you want to do, whether that’s as a police scanner or even just a frequency counter. And if you want to follow along on hackaday.io, the project can be found here.

43 thoughts on “HamShield Puts Your Arduino On The Radio

        1. Remember: HamShield now comes with a $25 tri-band antenna, which is manufactured in the USA. Also, HamShield is an open hardware and open source software, under Creative Commons and AGPLv3. You get our schematics, source code, KiCad files, and gerbers. The keys to the castle. The HamShield library has some impressive support even with our beta testers.

  1. If you operate that device within the frequency range of Citizens Band (CB) Radio — you will not need a radio license, since the FCC has not required it since the 1980’s.
    However, if you operate outside of those frequencies (you will, definitely, need a license).

    1. This device won’t operate in the CB bands (down in 29MHz or so) or on AM. It operates up above 136MHz (136-170MHz, 200-260MHz, 400-520MHz) and transmits FM. There are some ISM bands up in the 430-450MHz range, depending on country, that could likely be used without a license. FRS and GMRS frequencies are in there, but at least in Canada, you can’t use a device with a detachable antenna to transmit on those frequencies.

    2. Technically, the only part of the spectrum you can operate a non-certified radio in (according to US law) is in the amateur radio bands, and only if you hold a valid amateur radio license. CB requires type acceptance to use legally (not that anyone there operates legally).
      Also, this is a VHF/UHF radio, so it will not work on the 26-27 MHz Citizens’ Band.

      I don’t know why anyone interested in radio refuses to get an amateur radio license. They only cost $15, and require very little studying (though it’s far better to actually learn the material). In contrast, the fines for operating illegally can be many thousands of dollars, and even jail time in some circumstances. Again, this is all according to US laws. I imagine that many other countries have similar laws.

      1. The FCC also offers a special temporary experimental license tier which allows you to operate on nearly any frequency — including frequencies licensed to another primary user. The gear needs to follow emission requirements, but does not have to be type accepted. Obviously, there is some paperwork and logistics with whatever exists on that band, but it comes down to a small filing fee and a couple week wait. This is how ShadyTel operated a 100% legal GSM network in Neah Bay, Washington during Toorcamp. This license would be perfect for someone who wanted to field test a new technology that operated on MURS, FRS and GMRS bands.

      2. I do, The lazy ones refuse it as it takes learning and the test. I have a friend that swore he knew more than the ARRL and FCC about radio and refused to get a license. Needless to say most of his projects never worked.

    1. Yes! 10 of those instead of one stupid kickstarter that _might_ ship in a year maybe
      btw your link is bad, should be http://www.dx.com/p/dra818v-vhf-band-wireless-voice-transceiver-module-blue-silver-yellow-362272
      Arduino tutorial : http://www.kh-gps.de/dra.htm

      more about those at PD0AC blog:
      https://hamgear.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/make-your-own-transceiver-with-a-dorji-dra818u-or-dra818v/

      of course you can just but $15 Baofeng radio and rip it apart https://github.com/lelazary/UV3RMod

      1. Those Dorji modules look interesting…wonder how much that 1 watt PA ends up on the fundamental.

        This is the choice that a lot of makers have to make. Do you buy an LGA part, build a filter, and roll your own PCBs in a learning process with an obscure Chinese product -or- buy a shield in a known good state with proper filtering? Yes, I have done both. But some people just want to write a sketch for something that works out of the box. Shields give people that choice. From a business aspect, I personally reference designs where we can because I cannot afford the learning process. I think this is why companies like SparkFun exist.

        Also, I really hope you are wrong about “might ship in a year”. We have finished gerbers ready to shoot off to our CM as soon as we have money in the checking account to pay the bill. This also includes purchasing some USA components from some amateur radio small businesses. We are very experienced in hardware and fulfillment. This Kickstarter will be fulfilled in October.

      1. Ah, terribly sorry. It looks like a ‘2’ was chopped from the end. Well, since we’re here, would you like some tea?

        Thanks for fixing it. Anyone know the price of the hamshield?

    2. If you only need one band and aren’t a complete idiot these will get the job done just fine. They use the same SOC as this kickstarter.

      One thing that you need to be aware of with these modules is that they have a nasty second harmonic spike and you really shouldn’t transmit with these without using a low-pass filter. Fortunately you can build one of those for about 25 cents.

      Also worth noting that there is no output filtering on this kickstarter board either.

  2. I glad to see they made their goal and plus some. However I’m disappointed in that they didn’t keep FSK in mind, to help get amateur radio out of the 1200 baud rut. I believe the TAPR TNCs are open source, so anyone can borrow circuity design from the if need be Perhaps the shield can be modified to work with radios that come out of the box with easy to access lines to the discriminator and modulator or radio that are modified with lines to those. Finally I lad to something other than HF QRP rigs getting the headlines, not I have anything against QRP. Would have been nice if where simple to get this as SSB, because I feel ham radio need an inexpressive entry point for QRP on the VHF and UHF bands.

    1. FSK might work. We technically have discriminator level access to the chip. But until we have a working 9600 FSK sketch, I am not going to advertise such a feature. We do have a KISS TNC sketch. If you flash an Arduino with it, computers actually think it is a TNC.

  3. Wow, what a horrible price point. why not just crack open a baofeng UV-3R and tap into the serial bus and control it instead of a very very expensive shield? you can even get alternative firmwares for the UV-3R now.

    1. It is hard for an open hardware startup with no volume to compete against a high volume manufacturer in China. We are building the HamShield in the United States (down the street from us in fact) and using this KS to reduce pricing as much as we can. We have also dumped quite a bit of cash into R&D, which cannot be overlooked. You could crack open a UV-3R and try to solder some wires in to control the QFN32, but a lot of people do not have that amount of time or skills. This is why I think the shield form lowers the bars for makers.

      The great thing is, you could probably use the developer ecosystem behind the HamShield library to control your UV-3R mod.

  4. if you operate it on. would you need a license there?

    1. 49.860 mhz used by radio controlled toys (sure the toys will not work properly) and today’s toys are probably digital though there may be some analog toys out there.

    2. 300 and 400 range used by Amplitude-shift keying systems like the key fobs used by cars and garage door and the air click for the ipod .

    1. I suspect you would not need a license to operate on those frequencies because the transmitter will be very low power (probably <1 watt) and possibly only transmit for very short durations.

    2. You need a license—but that is very easy these days. There are some great mobile phone apps that let you test against the question pool. No morse code needed anymore. Pass the test, follow the rules, and the FCC gives you a ton of frequencies to legally experiment with.

      1. Have a look at these rules from the FCC:
        FCC Part-15 Rules: Unlicensed RF Devices (Overview / Periodic Radiators)
        http://www.arrl.org/part-15-radio-frequency-devices

        Part 15 of Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations is important to amateurs because it regulates low power, unlicensed devices that could cause interference to the Amateur Radio Service and vice versa. Part 15 covers an assortment of electronic equipment that generates RF energy whether it’s intentional, unintentional or incidental.

        Under the section: Periodic Radiators
        In addition, devices operated under the provisions of this paragraph shall be provided with a means for automatically limiting operation so that the duration of each transmission shall not be greater than one second and the silent period between transmissions shall be at least 30 times the duration of the transmission but in no case less than 10 seconds.

        So if you the device adheres to those rules….one does not need a license.
        These rules, for unlicensed devices, cover such frequencies between 40.66 through 470+.

        However, as far a ham radio goes — Part-15 for unlicensed devices would not be practical, but it would allow someone who was just curious to not have to obtain a license if they were willing to following the Part-15 rules.

        Ok…..I’ve given my 2 cents…

        1. One more thing that I forgot …. back in the day when Radio Shack was in its heyday.
          My grandfather had bought one of those electronic experiment kits that over 100 circuits that you could build.

          One was an FM transmitter — very low power (could only transmit maybe a foot, no more) — I could transmit whatever I wanted using that circuit, provided that I limited my transmission to around 1 second.

          For my purpose I just wanted to see if I could build the FM transmitter and have it work (by picking up the transmission on a nearby FM radio) — I did not need a license do that.

          Bottom line the only reason you need a license:
          1) You want to communicate with other radio operators
          2) You want to transmit for more than a few seconds at a time
          3) You want to transmit over long distances (more than a few feet)
          4) Any other reason (although I believe I have mentioned the main reasons)

          PS: I know people who just want to build circuits and see if they work, without having to take a test, or pay for a license (whether one time or annually).

          1. There is no annual test for holding a Ham license. You take the test once and it’s valid for 10 years. Once those ten years are up, you don’t even have to take the test again, you just notify the FCC that you’re still active and they renew it for you.

            “2.) You only need a license if you want to transmit for more than a few seconds at a time.” – Here’s the thing, if you transmit for 5 seconds at a time, and during those 5 seconds you inadvertently interrupt emergency communications (because you don’t have your license, and therefore don’t know what you’re doing), not only are you likely to face fines, but you could put someone else’s life in danger. 5 seconds in an emergency situation is quite a bit of time.

            Just suck it up, study for a week, and get your license.

    1. I think they referring to the fact that the could run the unit from a solar panel which could supply enough power to run it. The went on to say that it is useful for people in remote areas — who do not have access to electricity.

      However, the 250mW power amplifier is only good for “line of sight communications” … this begs the quest of whether or not this would really be useful for ham radio operators or not — As most ham radio operators are not within line of sight of other operators.

      1. The Power Amplifier

        The HamShield amplifier is a custom designed 250 milliwatt amplifier. This provides plenty of power for line of sight communications, as well as a high quality output for a variety of linear amplifiers. We felt this was the perfect match for power consumption on a small Arduino shield.

      2. I think this is a great effort. It’s true, 250mW is not much power. On the other hand, the VHF/UHF bands that it covers (2m, 1.25m, and 70cm amateur bands) are line-of-sight communications frequencies anyway, except under rare conditions (inversions, E-skip). I’m with Casey: let’s see what hams can do with this. I bet you’ll see some interesting mods and add-ons: amplification, modes, alternative antennas, etc. Casey: make sure that you send one to amateurlogic.tv and QST — lots of already-licensed hams would love to get their hands on this thing and start playing. You’ll need a Yahoo users listserv, as well, like other open source Arduino-driven transceivers (e.g., TenTec Rebel).

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