FRS RADIO TINKERING
FRS Radios, those little walkie talkies you see at the grocery store. When these things first hit the market, quality seemed poor. Range was terrible. You had to spend over fifty dollars to get a decent radio. Those that bought the cheap ones tossed them in a drawer. The FRS band was dead for years.
Now that it is years later, they have the bugs worked out of the FRS radios. The cheap radios have better performance and reliability. Range has improved drastically by circuit quality, without increasing power. They actually work fairly well, as I will demonstrate.
A few weeks ago I pulled an old FRS radio out of the drawer. I powered it up and immediately heard people talking. Interesting. I changed channels and heard other people talking. More interesting. This gives me an idea for a project. I pulled an old 512mhz limit police scanner out of the closet and hooked it to a line of low loss coax to the roof. Now all I need is an antenna. A quick calculation told me I need an antenna around six inches long, to be tuned to the center of FRS frequencies. I cut a six inch antenna and radials. I soldered the antenna and ground radials directly to an SO-238 connector. I then made one ground radial vertical, allowing me to zip tie the antenna to a three foot wooden dowel rod. Sturdy enough.
I went up on the roof, clamped the wooden rod to a fixture and plugged in the coax to the antenna. Antennas is around 40ft. from the ground, on a house on a hill that is 60ft. taller than surrounding areas. It's up there. I can see for miles from the perspective of all livecbradio.com antennas.
I programmed the 14 frequencies in the first bank of the scanner, so the FRS channel numbers correspond with the scanner's channel numbers. I started scanning. Immediately I am hearing radio traffic. The scanner has a signal strength meter. The people talking are full scale on this meter. Where are they? After a half hour of listening, I figured out they were nurses talking on FRS radios from the care facility, half a mile away from the antenna. Full scale reception at half a mile of distance, their radios inside a metal / brick building.
After about an hour I heard two people talking mobile to mobile. The one told the other to pull in to a certain convenience store. I measured the distance from that school to my house via google maps. 1.2 Miles.
That FRS scanner has been going for a few weeks now. I have heard some strange things. The usual "can anyone hear me?" I hear people using as household intercoms. The nurses are on there 24 hours a day. "Karen, we need some more cinnamon rolls down here in the break room". I have also hear the voice of middle aged housewives, saying "Is anyone out there?", in a tone like they are looking to tease men. I'm sitting there thinking, I can not believe I am hearing this.
There is also some kid on there that tries to talk to the nurses. A slight bother to them, as their first mistake was answering him to be polite. He starts flooding them with questions while they go quiet. So yes it is quite an interesting atmosphere, because the hobby FRS radio has the right to try to contact people using the same FRS only channels for business. Of course the rules state you are supposed to find a clean channel and remain polite, but, this does not forbid calling "can you hear me?".
Ironic this new FRS Radio explosion in my area. Five years ago there were people talking on cb radio 24/7, while FRS was a blank. Now local cb radio activity is a near blank, while FRS is more active. This has me tempted to make a "Live FRS Radio" page with it's own live audio.