VHF UHF Radio Go Box Part I

By Jose B Rivera - N2LRB

April 26, 2013 - After putting an HF Radio Go Box utilizing a Pelican 1440NF case, I decided to create a VHF/UHF version.(see HF Radio Go Box Part I) I figured that this new VHF/UHF version would be easier to build and a lot easier to use. But the go box was slightly harder to create and using it had its own set of problems.

Putting It Together
I started building the box by using the same dimension of plywood.  I placed the Yaesu FTM-350/AR body and remote head on the board along with the SWR/Power meter to see how they looked before attaching them to the plywood. Two 12V 12ah batteries sit below the plywood and also had to be checked out for proper positioning. I used the bottom ‘legs’ to put the two batteries in a way that kept them in place and not free to move around.

I then added the FTM-350/AR mounting bracket and used a strip of aluminum (with holes already punched in) to secure the remote head on to the plywood. The bottom part was trickier. I purchased a speaker from Radio Shack but it took up too little space up front leaving a huge gap. It worked but was not ascetically pleasing. So I took a piece of 2X4 and used Velcro with which to attach the speaker and SWR/Power Meter. The two batteries sat in place behind the speaker and swr/power meter.

Next I mounted the radio body to it’s mobile bracket, connected the dc power to one of the batteries and used connected the radio body to the swr/power meter. I then used a small length of coax with a double female connector on it to stick out of the case (when opened) and accept the male connector from my MFJ mag mount antenna. A quick press of the remote head’s power ensured that the power connection to the battery were working. Another check with the mag mount connected to the meter ensured that the radio, meter and antenna were connected properly. It was time to take it out on a test drive.

Test Drive
Initially I thought this VHF/UHF Go Box would be lighter as the radio and two batteries were lighter than the ones used for my HF Go Box. The HF Go Box uses two 12v 22ah 14lbs batteries who combined weight is 28lbs. The 12v 12ah batteries each weighed 8lbs for a combined weight of just 16lbs. I used 12v 12ah because the FTM-350/AR used 12 amps at it highest power setting, and these batteries allow me to use full power (50 watts) when needed. It’s is always good to have enough power to go full power when needed. Back to the Go Box, I found it felt almost as heavy as my HF Go Box. I weighed the case with all the equipment inside and it weighed 45lbs! Still I wanted to test out this particular configuration.

I actually conducted two test. On Saturday I took the Go Box downstairs to the step of my apartment building. The radio worked great. I made contact with two hams on a local repeater. After talking a few minutes packed it up and too the Go Box back to my apartment. The next day I took the Go Box to my father’s apartment building (to show my brother KB2JYN). My father lives about 7 city blocks away. I used the Pelican’s case wheels and handle to walk the Go Box those 7 blocks. On the way there I noticed how many cracks city sidewalks have. Each crack between cement segments made the Go Box have an bump hard onto the next segment. I began to worry about the equipment inside. The Pelican case can more than take the punishment, but wondered about the delicate radio circuit board, the meter and the batteries taking a pounding. I began to think of I might need to better insulate the equipment.

When I got to my father’s apartment I opened the case and found that the radio remote head had unscrewed from the aluminum strip. It was not damaged, but it was not a good thing. I took the remote head in hand, put on the radio and started to talk to KC2MHK - Kevin, on a local repeater. The radio worked well, considering I had the mag mount in the middle of my father’s living room about 8 feet from the nearest window. After talking a little bit longer I packed it all up (putting the radio remote head in my jacket pocket).

Second Thoughts
I did not feel good about the way the test turned out. For one, the Go Box was way too heavy for me to consider taking on the train to any ARECS (Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Service) events. And most importantly, I did not trust my equipment to last too long from the vibrations and bumps caused by New York City streets. I began to realize that many of the Go Boxes seen on the internet had owners who would transport their boxes in cars and thereby minimizing street travel. I travel exclusively on via subway trains (weight up and down subway stairs) and city streets (vibrations and bumps).  There has to be a better, lighter and safer way to transport radio equipment to and fro. See Part II for my smaller, lighter VHF/UHF Go Box.


Photos
- Initial Placement
- The Batteries in the back
- Completed Go Box
- Initial Outdoor Test
- Me Working local hams

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