MAIPN operates a communications van to support our mission. The van was originally used for research by a DC-area company, and generously donated to MAIPN when no longer needed. It is equipped with a 48-foot pneumatic mast and a 7 kW generator, among other amenities. It took MAIPN volunteers a year to retrofit the van to meet our needs.

Our design intent for the van is as follows:

  • To be used as a mobile test facility to scout out paths for links in our growing microwave network by quickly getting a dish in the air to test signal quality along the path of a planned link.
  • To provide a capability to project broadband connectivity from our network to an arbitrary field location, such as a disaster scene, shelter, or staging area.
  • To be used as an emergency communications facility when needed to supplement response and recovery operations following a large-scale emergency or disaster. The van is equipped with a complement of HF, VHF, and UHF Amateur Radio gear for this purpose.

While a project like this is never truly finished, the van is now operational and has been tested in a number of deployments. The lead photo shows the van inuse during a drill at a Red Cross facility. Below, van is seen at the 2018 Takoma Park (MD) 4th of July Parade.

The following photo shows the van in use during a hospital emergency exercise (about which more can be found here).

And here is a view of the operating positions.

Photo: W3SCI

On the left is the network control center. From top to bottom are the network router, the controller for an az-el rotator used to point the dish, and a VoIP telephone. The PC workstation on the left is used to manage the network interface, and also supports Winlink operation on VHF and UHF. An IP camera on the mast lets the operator see exactly what the dish is looking at.

The next rack currently houses an antenna patch panel, a weather radio from our friends at Thunder Eagle, the DC circuit breaker panel, and single-band radios for 2m, 220, and 440.

The right-most rack currently houses the IC-718 HF/6m rig and its dedicated PC for digital modes.

Isaac, AC3CJ, trying out the HF rig.

Below, a view of the back side of the rack.

AC and DC power is available in each rack. The onboard auxiliary battery has approximately 200 Ah of capacity, backed by a 40A battery charger. A 1 kW sine wave inverter is also installed.