Friday, September 9, 2011

Tale of Two Transmitters

Unfortunately, as posted in the last post, Daniel's Hybrid got hit by a car after a fly-off.  Very unfortunate; that bird was coming along nicely.  What Dan didn't write about was the search leading up to our calamitous find.

About 9:00am I got a call from Dan that his bird had flown off from the kite, he had a good signal but the bird had gone pretty far and he "wouldn't mind" a little help.  So I grabbed my receiver and jumped in the truck.  I headed down the highway until I saw Dan on the side of the road with Yagi in hand.  We both had a strong signal coming from his Marshall Powermax transmitter, on the far setting, but it was a strong signal.  Just as we were about to get into the truck and continue the chase, the signal disappeared.  Very strange.....  In my experience this can often mean the bird went to the ground behind a large hill or in a valley.  To play it safe though, Daniel took off in the direction we last had signal and I started circling the section roads to see if one of us could regain audio connection to the bird.  After about 1 hour of searching, Dan had made it pretty far away and I had checked about every square inch of the nearby hills and valleys finding nothing.  I had to head back up to work and get a few things done so I had to check out, leaving Dan to continue the search on his own for a while.  

It still was bugging me that we had such a good signal and then it was gone in an instant.  Sure maybe the battery died, but it was a new battery, or maybe the antenna fell off, but it was glued on.  My suggestion to Dan was to go back to where we had our last signal, walk out to the biggest hill and try his backup transmitter, a Merlin Systems Mini-FMV, that was tail-mounted on the bird.

About an hour later I get a call back from Dan, that he did indeed get a signal from the tallest hill in the area, but it was faint on the furthest setting on his receiver.  So I headed back his way and the chase was back on.

We found the going down the hill only half way caused the signal to disappear.  So the bird was nearby and behind the terrain or he was still quite far away.  After exhausting our ground search in the proximity we decided to get back in a vehicle and head toward the signal again.

For several miles we got nothing.  As we were driving down the road I saw a tall feed hopper with a ladder down the side.  Last year when my friend Jay lost his bird, the only place we could get a signal initially was on top of a feed hopper such as this.  Couldn't hurt to try it again.  So I hauled my receiver to the top and tried my luck again.  Sure enough, there was the signal, but still weak.  Again we tried to get a better reception on foot but the bird was still pretty far away.

About this time our friend Scott also met up with us to help with the chase.  Encouraged that we still had a signal we kept moving in the direction that we had a beep.  More miles ticked off the odometer before we finally got a faint signal from the side of the road, a big improvement from the weak signals from high places.  As we followed the beep it was getting stronger and stronger until, BOOM.  Our hopes of finding the bird alive were squelched.  There in the road was the bird, a faint trail of feathers blowing across the road....

Upon closer inspection the Marshall Powermax transmitter was still functioning, but the antenna was broken inside the sheath.  We figure that we lost our initial strong signal when the bird was struck by the vehicle, breaking the antenna.  Luckily (term used strangely here) the Merlin Systems Mini-FMV was still intact and it lead us on a path that was well over 5 miles, with far less than ideal conditions for tracking.  I was thoroughly impressed that we could track a signal that far on a Mini-FMV, especially considering it was laying in the road, many miles and many hills away from where we started.

This is not an advertisement for either of these companies since it was a bit of an extreme set of circumstances.  I will continue to use a Powermax on my big longwings, but I definitely have a new found respect for the little guy.

: Miniature Falconry Transmitter

Mini-FMV: Miniature Falconry Transmitter
4.0 grams with batteries
1" (26mm) X 0.30" (8mm)
Battery Size
Two #377 silver oxide
Operating Life
7 days
Field tested at 15 miles direct-line-of-sight under ideal conditions

PowerMax Transmitter

The PowerMax has about double the range and distance of the RT+. Like any transmitter, the range 
varies with terrain, but tests have given distances of 10 to 80 miles in the open deserts of the 
western United States.
This makes it the right choice for your primary transmitter used to track down a bird in adverse 
Our engineers also implemented a unique design into the circuit that maintains high power
 levels even
 as the battery drains, or as the temperature drops and the battery current follows suit. 
You can count on the PowerMax signal all the way through the life of the battery.
Signal range will depend on the height of the transmitter, the height of the receiver as 
well as the type of terrain and obstructions.