[OT?] Off-the-shelf radio beacon?

This is probably off-topic because it's for an sf story rather than something I'm actually trying to do, but I need a real-world answer. I will appreciate your sharing your expertise, knowledge, and experience.

Is there some sort of reliable beacon that is available off-the-shelf, is easy to use, and does not require government permits to purchase or use?

It has to be quickly set up and easily guide someone to it from distances up to 100+ miles away.

'Easy to set up' can include parking a trailer on the top of a hill, anchoring it, cranking up an antenna, folding out the solar panels, and driving in a ground rod.

It cannot include anything requiring on-site electronics/rf knowledge. It also cannot take more than about an hour to deploy.

'Easy to use' would be best as a handheld unit with an LED that lights when pointed at the unit, but it can also include holding up a transistor radio and sweeping it back and forth to get the general direction.

It cannot require rotating an antenna (ala the classic radio direction finder) because it is possible that the user will have to abandon their vehicle. Things like distance readouts or similar would be nice, but is nowhere near being required.

Although it needs to be off-the-shelf for a variety of reasons, slight modifications to it are expected, most notably the addition of solar panels because it will have to operate unattended for a month or more. Any other modifications must fall within the talent/skill of a typical electronics amateur and cannot be something that could compromise the reliability of the unit.

The 'no government permits' requirement is because the user will want to practice with it extensively before putting it to actual use, and they cannot afford having their name on file anywhere. (The wattage will have to be greatly reduced for such practice runs -- the idea is just to work out any bugs in setting it up and learning the quirks of the receiver.)

Obviously, GPS would be ideal, but this is for use where there are no satellites.

I thought there must be some military surplus radios, pre-packaged units for HAM field days, or other such things, but I cannot find anything that is close to the requirements of utter reliability, ease of use, and not needing extensive modifications.

Does anyone know of something applicable?

Any help appreciated.


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Not to sound suspicious or anything, but it appears that you're trying to set up some drop or target points? What kind of business are you trying to get into where you can't have any one know about it and thus make it so the post can be abandon.

Should we really take you seriously or what?

I can tell you what I think it is but I won't.

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He is only trying to write some science fiction but wants to make it half plausible.

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Roger Dewhurst

As I said, this is for a science fiction story.

The basic premise is that a person is able to travel to parallel universes. In those universes which are so closely parallel that an 'Earth' exists, a high percentage of the planets will be uninhabited. The protag wants to explore these as much as possible, but needs a reliable way to find their way back to the entry point so they can come home.

Compasses can be unreliable (iron deposits can throw them off), inertial navigation is out of the question (the units are too big to carry by hand), and celestial navigation requires expertise.

Except for its limited range, a radio system seems ideal.

There are two main reasons for wanting to avoid anything in writing -- first, for someone not especially interested in being a HAM, it would be long and difficult to learn enough to get the license required for most permits.

second, there are five major fields which a person has to dip into in order to explore such a world and/or exploit anything they find. For two of those fields, it is impossible to not leave traces behind of your activity (unless you want to do things illegally). By keeping your name out of the other three fields, you won't be found by a cross-referencing search of all applicable databases, so overzealous government regulators, hijackers, blackmailers, etc. etc. etc. won't suspect what you're doing.

IF I was interested in setting up drop points, GPS is easy, cheap, reliable, and perfectly stealthy.

IF I was interested in setting up target points, instead of placing a trailer-mounted unit or other large package on the site, I'd just lay out the explosives when I'm there.


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On Thu, 25 Oct 2007 21:29:18 -0500 in sci.electronics.basics, Wildepad wrote,

In the USA there are no permits required to purchase amateur radio equipment; only to operate it. And the basic technician license is pretty easy anyway.

Reply to
David Harmon

Maybe it's easy for you. It sure ain't for some of us. :)

I've been messing around with electronics for about 50 years. (When I started, it was all vacuum tubes and selenium rectifiers, with some rumors about doped crystals.)

I've designed and built many small circuits (power supplies, 'gameshow' buttons, interface to drive a stepper from a Centronics port, etc.). Nothing major, and no rf, but I sort of know my way around.

When they dropped the Morse requirement for a license, I decided to look into it and got a sample test. I didn't understand what half the questions meant, and in those portions that I sort-of knew what they were talking about, I had no idea how to figure out the answer.

I think it has to be one of those things you're interested in learning before you have a hope of getting the hang of it enough to pass the test.


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