USB-C Power For Ham Radio

Even though manufacturers of handheld ham radios have been busy adding all sorts of bells and whistles into their portable offerings, for some reason, many of them lack a modern USB-C port. In the same vein, while some have USB for programming or otherwise communicating between the radio and a computer, very few can use USB for power. Instead , they rely on barrel jacks or antiquated charging cradles. If you’d like to modernize your handheld radio’s power source, take a look at what [jephthai] did to his Yaesu.

In the past, USB ports could be simply soldered onto a wire and used to power basically anything that took 5 VDC. But the radio in question needs 12 volts, so the key was to find a USB-C cable with the built-in electronics to negotiate the right amount of power from USB-PD devices. For this one, [jephthai] cut the barrel connector off his radio’s power supply and spliced in some Anderson power pole connectors so he could use either the standard radio charger or one spliced onto this special cable.

With this fairly simple modification out of the way, it’s possible to power the handheld radio for long outings with the proper USB battery bank on hand. For plenty of situations this is much preferable to toting around a 12 V battery, which was the method of choice for powering things like QRP rigs when operating off-grid.

28 thoughts on “USB-C Power For Ham Radio

  1. There are number of fixed output modules floating around too. They take USB-C and you can solder whatever connector you want onto them. The gotcha is the USB-PD source needs to support the specific voltage otherwise it’ll downgrade and output a lower voltage.

  2. I’m sure the “some reason” Yaesu (icom has it now, Kenwood is adding it and it’s been table steaks for the Chinese models released over the past couple of years) hasn’t bothered to add USB charging is that it would cut in to the pure profit they make selling charging docks for stupid amounts of money. They are a must if you want your battery charging rate to be faster than the discharge rate and “inexplicably” achieve this faster charging with the same power supply that shipped with the radio. Weird.

    1. Sure, but the Chinese radios’ implementation of USB-C to date has been for the most part *embarrassing*, as they commonly only charge via USB-A -> USB-C cables due to not including the USB-C CC1/CC2 Sink terminations (2x 5.1kOhm resistors) in the radio.

    2. That and the major traditional players that make Ham radios are stuck in the stone age in terms of UI, features, etc because they haven’t needed to innovate. And don’t get me started on proprietary digital modes…

  3. But too bad about the RFI from most of these fscking supplies.
    The way I got it to work was to use USB-C PD to charge the rig battery, and then filter that battery output, and then drop the remaining noise with a low-dropout regulator.

    With HT rigs like these at VHF/UHF you are above most of the switching harmonics, so might not notice it, but it’s there, and at HF it’s a headache.

    1. It’s a rather niche function, but I wish there were a way to signal the supply to adjust its converter frequency, so that a rig could request the supply to tune the DCDC harmonics to straddle the tuned frequency.

  4. An article like this really begs for a reader note that 12V VBUS profiles for USB-C/PD chargers is plainly NON-STANDARD. You should not expect a solution like this to work for the vast majority of USB-C/PD chargers, and reader must individually inspect the profiles which are supported by the USB-C/PD charger device to ensure it even includes 12V as an option. You will have a more broadly reliable solution here (as in, broad interoperability) if you use a 15V Sink trigger device and buck it down to 12V with a switching regulator for your barrel plug.

    Also, it is a coincidence that 12V tends to fall within the range of “Programmable Power Supply” (PPS) profiles that many PPS chargers support (e.g. the 3V-21V range). HOWEVER you can easily fooled by your use of those simple PD trigger devices, because they tend NOT to support requesting 12V via the Programmable Power Supply profile/source capability in addition to the requesting 12V Fixed Supply profile/source capability.

      1. That’s great to hear Ryan. The only issue I’m indicating is that a 12V profile is optional to implement (the “standard” voltages are 5V, 9V, 15V and 20V) and it is 100% the user’s responsibility to verify the charger they want to use in the way the article describes, actually includes a 12V profile/source capability. It is not typically included as it is not a standard/required voltage.

        1. Sorry, didn’t pay close enough attention. Yeah, 15v and a buck converter for 12v. I just realized that the triggers boards I buy support QC2 or 3, which most QC chargers provide, and I happen to use those most of the time anyway. Thanks for pointing this out.

    1. Yep. The presence of the non-standard 12V output also seems to correlate well with poor quality devices (noisy, bad thermal management, cheap cabling, flaky connectors).

      15V followed by a LDO is a pretty decent, low-noise solution for 12V or 13.8V output. Filtering still is required.

    1. As a new ham, I’m overwhelmed with bells and whistles, but having 12V(13.8V) charging support in a PORTABLE handheld radio seems like an obvious primary feature, not a rare extra. I’m still exploring the potential and limitations of my UV-5R and the Tech privileges, before I get into the data modes that I’m really interested in. That means bringing my power inverter that plugs into the 12V power port in my car and my charging cradle to charge my spare battery.

  5. Only issue is that USB-anything other than A and Host are significantly less physically robust than a barrel jack. This generally isn’t an issue with cell phones as most people only keep the same phone for a couple of years or use wireless charging. But a Ham radio may be around for 20 years or more. Don’t count on USB-C going the distance.

  6. You can buy barrel connectors in different diameters with on the other side a USB-C receptacle and a given voltage of 6, 9, 12, 15 or even 20V I believe. So no soldering needed, just the right connector. They cost a few bucks and are reliable. I use it for my Icom IC-705 to power it from a USB-C powerbank. Works flawless.

  7. ” 12v trigger USB PD cable ” is the amazon keyword to return cables that trigger PD delivery of 12v to a variety of DC connectors, this item has a USB-C PD to DC barrel that fits Baofeng and Kenwood without modification and shows output voltage when in use.

    FARSENSE USB C to DC Adapter,
    Barrel PD Trigger Cable(5ft) w/ Display Voltage

  8. I’ve been using PD power banks to operate QRP HF for several years, now. I started with a trigger board about an inch square off Tindie, back before the COVID lockdowns. I had one (only one) PD battery pack that didn’t support 12v. I simply started checking that they had 12v PD before purchasing it. (And no, it wasn’t applied via QC, that’s on USB-A, not C.)

    I have had zero harmonic problems running HF on a dozen different QRP rigs. Others tested my results and verified them. I had an article in QRP Quarterly detailing my results, and I’ve done presentations for my local club and supplied another club with my datal.

    I’ve had this information posted online, with my choice of gear to use with it, at for several years.

  9. I sent a note to Yaesu a few days ago asking them if they’re ever going to add new USB charging batteries for current radios like the FT-4X and the FT-70D, to modernise them, instead of those wretched charging cradles.
    Icom has added USB Charging to its newest VERY expensive handheld, the D5 I think it is.
    Come on Yaesu!!

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