Field Day 2020

Field Day 2020

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Day is the most popular on-the-air event held each year, on the fourth weekend in June, in The United States and Canada. More than 40000 radio amateurs gather to operate from remote locations. It is a time where many aspects of amateur radio come together to highlight its many roles. It is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate its emergency capabilities to organizations and the general public. Despite the development of modern communications systems, they can fail. When they do, amateur radio can provide communications support during emergencies and post-disaster situations.

This year was different due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Instead of gathering and setting up at public locations, amateur radio operators (hams) were encouraged to operate from home. In addition, one rule was waived to allow those operating on commercial power to contact other stations that were also operating on commercial power. All other rules applied. Some hams operated on power provided by batteries, generators, solar panels, or other means not using commercial power.

Hams across North America communicated using voice, morse code (carrier wave or CW), and many digital modes. They operated to make as many contacts as possible from 2 PM EDT on Saturday until 2 PM EDT on Sunday. According to the rules, those that waited until 2 PM Saturday to set up their stations were permitted to operate until 8 PM on Sunday.

As for myself, I made 28 contacts on the 20 and 40-meter bands using the digital phase shift keying 31 baud mode (PSK31). Each contact sent digitally is worth 2 points each. Since I used only 50 watts of power, I qualified for a multiplier of 2, so my score was 112 points. I also sent 10 formal radiograms (100 points), including one to the ARRL Western Pennsylvania Section Manager (another 100 points). Finally, I submitted my Field Day entry electronically (another 50 points). My preliminary total was 462 points. I made contacts in Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Ontario.

Digital Amateur Radio

There is more to amateur radio than exchanging callsigns, signal reports, and the weather. One popular segment of amateur radio is the digital modes.

Besides the high frequency (HF) radio, and a PC with a soundcard (most have them), the main piece of hardware is a sound card interface. I currently use The Rigblaster Blue (shown at the top right in the image below).


It uses Bluetooth rather than audio cables to connect to the sound card on a PC. The Rigblaster Blue has a through microphone cable so the regular microphone may be used when not using the digital modes. An audio cable is then connected between the line out of the radio to the line in on the Rigblaster Blue. The final connection is made by pairing Bluetooth on the PC to The Rigblaster Blue. Then changing the sound card settings to the Rigblaster for input and output audio. There are other sound card interfaces available such as the Signalink.

I first started with PSK31, which is a highly-efficient data mode that lets you work long distances, even when you can barely hear the signal. PSK31 stands for Phase Shift Keying 31 baud (or 31 bits per second/bps). The characters are formed by changing the phase of the sound wave, not by using different tones. Once I got my hardware setup, as well as configured one of the available software programs (I use DigiPan), I was making regular contacts with Asia and Australia.

I recently set up my station to us WinLink 2000 with the RMS Express software. As many of my friends know, I can send and receive e-mails and National Traffic System (NTS) radiogram messages over the air, rather than use The Internet.


During disasters or other emergencies, radiograms are used to communicate information critical to saving lives or property or to inquire about the health or welfare of a disaster victim. Routine messages are regularly sent to test the system and for operator practice.