Active attenuator
 
   

FOXHUNTING or 2 METRE DIRECTION FINDING

 Many radio Clubs have within them groups who on a regular basis play Radio Hide and Seek. Basic ingredients for this are a radio (handset is most convenient), a directional beam (3 or 4 element yagi), map, compass and someone who will go and hide with a transmitter. In essence the “hounds” take bearings on the fox to locate its position and the first to find the fox is the winner.

There are variations on this theme where more than one transmitter is hidden but most Clubs have one fox, teams start in a car and invariably end up on foot in some woods for the final phase to find  the fox hidden behind a bush. After this  the “teams” retire to the Pub to compare bearings and provide excuses for poor performance.

            The major hurdle new hunters find is that when they are within half a mile of the transmitter,

that the signals are so strong that the handset “S” meter is at maximum scale – even with the antenna

un-plugged.  Screening (aluminium foil) helps to reduce this effect. Passive attenuators can be used to

 good advantage and you may be able to get within 500 yards of the transmitter  if the transmitter is

 low power.

            The “Active Attenuator” described here is a simple way to let you walk right up to the fox

without screening your radio  or requiring any other special bits of kit.

ACTIVE ATTENUATORS - (TO GET CLOSE TO THE FOX.)

There is nothing novel about the circuit design, it follows the same technique as used many times previously.  However, previously published designs have used simple transistor oscillators and a construction technique to enable “junk box” components to be used. They all required “tuning” and all  had the tendency to  drift off frequency, especially when the battery was less than brand new. Lastly, previously published designs required the Active Attenuator to be connected in series, between the antenna and the handset when the signals became too strong to resolve direction without them.

This circuit  overcomes both of these problems:-

1)                  It uses an "off the shelf"  Commercial 1 Mhz Xtal oscillator block.

2)                  It includes change-over switching so that it may be left  connected permanently in line between the rig and the antenna.

A Printed Circuit Board  has been designed on which ALL the components  mount  - apart from the battery.  The completed board assy and small PP3 battery fit snugly inside a small  RS (Electromail) die cast aluminium box. This ensures a reliable repeatable design.

 

Circuit design

 

 

 

 

 

            A 4 pole change over push ON / Push OFF  PCB mounted switch is employed.  Two poles direct the RF between the two board mounted BNC connectors when the switch is in the out / off position.

When pressed IN, the switch routes the RF through the active attenuator circuit.

The second & third banks of this switch are connected in parallel and  are used to connect the battery when the attenuator is switched ON.    A LED illuminates at the same time.

            The PP3  9 volts supply is regulated to 5 volts using a small voltage

regulator (REG1). The  1 Mhz Oscillator (X1) is free running and produces a

roughly square wave output of about 5 volts. The 3K9 resistor R2 feeds this supply

to the 1K Cermet potentiometer applying about 1 volt across the potentiometer.

Capacitor C2 slows the rise and fall times significantly.

The output of the potentiometer RV1 is routed to a diode switch comprising a

1N4148 diode (D1) that is forward biased when there is more than about 0.6 volt

applied to its anode. The DC current path being provided by choke L1. 

RF in is routed from the switch by  capacitor C1.  As the waveform is very roughly

 tri-angular the percentage of time that this diode is forward biased can be varied

from zero (no volts) to  about 50% (full volts). Therefore, when the attentator is first

switched ON with the gain pot set at maximum there will instantly be a halving of the signal level applied to the radio as the diode is forward biased only half of the time.

                                                                                     As one closes into the fox the "gain" is wound anticlockwise to reduce the amount of

                                                                                     time   the diode is forward biased.

                                                                                       Eventually, the signal is so strong that this is not enough attenuation. Now, wind the gain

                                                                                       up to maximum and tune your radio up (or down) 1 Mhz,. The unit now operates as a

                                                                                       diode mixer resulting in additional (and much smaller) RF signals that will the incoming

                                                                                        RF signal PLUS the 1Mhz oscillator and also the incoming RF signal MINUS the 1

                                                                                         Mhz oscillator. You will now be able to walk very close to the fox with your S meter

                                                                                         still working.

 Text Box: Parts List.
Component
Comp Ref.
R.S.
Connector BNC  90 deg shielded
PLL 1
447-392
Connector BNC  90 deg shielded
PLL 2
447-392
Potentiometer 1Ko Cermet 90 deg
VR1
410-176
Switch 4PCO  latching 90 deg
SW1
333-748
Button round black
BUT1
333-631
Knob
KN2
498-659
Oscillator  IQD  QXO-22-C / CMAC
X1
316-6686
Inductor   4.7 mH
L1
191-0784
Capacitor  0.1
C3
264-4876
Capacitor  0.1
C4
264-4876
Capacitor  120pF  1 off
C1
167-0868
Capacitor  150pf  1 off
C2
167-0874
Resistor 3K9   1/4 watt
R2
131-328
Resistor 4k7 1.4 watt
R3
131-334
LED
LED1
223-1492
Diode 1N4148
D1
436-7341
Voltage regulator 78L05
REG1
177-5317
Box
BOX1
225-170
Battery connector - PP3
Bat 1
489-021
PCB
PCB
G4ODM
 
As the waveform applied to the potentiometer is far from sinusoidal the

 waveform will be rich in harmonics. This can be used to further advantage by

the foxhunter. If the fox is running a LOT of power then tune your rig several

Mhz up (or down) for even more attenuation where the signal passed into the

 handset will be  the incoming RF plus or minus a harmonic of the 1Mhz

oscillator .

 IMPORTANT NOTE – DO NOT PUSH THE PTT OF YOUR HANDSET

 WITH THE ATTENUATOR TURNED ON.

This may cost you a new diode and RF choke!.

Component  used are obtained  from Electromail (RS Components to the trade).

© G4ODM July 2002

ACTIVE ATTENUATOR ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS

 

 

 

 

 

 

1)                 
Drill the holes in the die cast box. (Use picture as a template)


 


2)         Drill the PCB.                    


Assemble components onto PCB. Normal Anti-static precautions should

 be taken.

Fit the LED onto the PCB leaving it standing off the PCB by  about 12mm. 

The longest LED lead connects to the pad marked “+”

When fitting components, bend component leads flat against the solder

side of the PCB and cut off level with the side of the relevant solder pad

before soldering in position.  Any component leads that extend excessively

beyond the back of the PCB may touch the aluminium box when assembled

so care is necessary. The leads of the switch  will need a “haircut” after

 soldering.  Press the small button onto the switch. 

Solder the red and black battery connector leads to the PCB as shown.

 3)                 
Double check that all components are in the correct locations and that the Xtal oscillator, voltage regulator, LED and diode are correctly orientated. Fit the completed board assembly into the drilled box securing it in position with the nuts for the 2 X BNC connectors and the gain potentiometer. Do not over-tighten these nuts.

4)                  Locate the LED into small hole in box. 

5)         Fit the knob to the potentiometer shaft.

 

COMISSIONING

6)         Ensure that the ON/OFF button is in the OUT (off) position, connect a PP3 battery (not supplied). Press the  button IN and confirm that the LED illuminates.

7)         Fit a small strip of adhesive backed foam inside the box lid such that it clamps the battery in position.  Fit the box lid with the 4 fixing screws.

8)        Stick the label onto box with adhesive and protect with clear adhesive film.

Position the label such that the word GAIN is in line with the potentiometer shaft.

 9)       Connect a small antenna (rubber duck for example) to the BNC connector

marked ANTENNA.

Use a small BNC – Rig patch lead (not supplied) to connect the connector marked RADIO to the antenna connector of a 2 metre handset.

 10)       Using another nearby 2 metre radio and antenna, select a free frequency and transmit.

 11)       Tune the handset to this same frequency.

Confirm that with the button in the OUT/OFF position that the received signal is at maximum on the S meter.

 12)       Tune the handset  1 Mhz away from the TX frequency.

Confirm that the received signal disappears and that there is no reading on the handset S meter.

 

13)              Press IN the button on the attenuator, confirm that  the GAIN potentiometer can be used to adjust the handset S meter reading  between zero signal and maximum signal.

This completes the commissioning of the circuit,  but read  the instructions below to enable your attenuator to be more tolerant to mechanical knocks:-
 IMPROVED MECHANICAL STRENGTH FOR THE SWITCH.

 14)              Drill two 1 mm diameter holes each side of the switch

in line with the row of pads nearest the operating end of the switch

 as picture below. Make a loop of copper wire and pass it through

both holes from the component side of the board clamping the

switch to the board.Solder one end of the wire to the nearest

switch pad by the edge of the PCB.

Using pliers, pull the other wire end tight taking care that the

wire loop is NOT in the small aperture in the switch associated

with its latching mechanism but tight against the shoulder on the

switch body.Fold this second end towards the other switch

solder pad near the edge of the board and solder in position.

Cut off surplus wire.

This modification will give the switch improved tolerance to sideways knocks.

 (C) G4ODM July 2002

 

 

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