The HF Voyager Project
Jupiter Research Foundation Amateur Radio Club (JRFARC) has integrated an HF transceiver with an autonomous ocean-going drone. Our mission is to deploy a ham radio station that roams the world’s oceans while providing an opportunity for amateur radio operators everywhere to make contacts with rare locations.
Our sponsor, Jupiter Research Foundation (JRF), has loaned JRFARC a Wave Glider and donated some radio equipment for this effort. Our club members have assembled a specialized waterproof ham radio payload and antenna system for the Wave Glider. We’ve used a combination of off-the-shelf and custom software and hardware to allow the system to operate autonomously for months at a time.
We originally launched the system from the Island of Hawaii in January of 2016 onboard a Wave Glider SV-2. After a nearshore ‘shakedown cruise’ of about one month, we brought the system in for some tweaks. We've had it in the nearshore waters for a few more test cruises throughout the summer of 2016 and 2017. In the late summer of 2017 we built a second version of the HF Voyager to be deployed on an SV-3 model Wave Glider. It sailed in the near-shore waters for a few months of testing in late 2017.
We sent this new Voyager out to the open ocean on its way towards Baja California on January 15th, 2018 as a passenger on the JRF HUMPACS mission. As the mission searched for 'missing' humpback whales, JRF's pilots guided HF Voyager to sections of the Equatorial North Pacific that were not normally available to ham operators. The station used FT8 on the 20 meter band as its primary operating mode. You may have heard it on PSK-31 or WSPR. The Voyager returned to Hawaii on April 25th, 2018.
The club plans to give a QSL card to operators worldwide that have a confirmed contact with the HF Voyager during the HUMPBACS mission.
In the future we hope to collaborate with Amateur Radio organizations and publishers to sponsor operating events and contests for HF Voyager contact milestones. Grid square collectors, maritime operating fans, Islands on the Air participants, and all other hams interested in this unique opportunity to make a contact with an autonomous roving maritime station should find this to be an exciting new aspect of their favorite hobby.
Be sure to check out our HF Voyager Blog for updates and schedules.