Radio Direction Finding

Sooooo… may ask what this may have to do with prepping?

There is a wide diversity of activities found within amateur radio.  The average person is likely not aware that such versatility even exists.  Slow-scan television (SSTV) is such an activity, and storing and retrieving messages from satellites may be another.  To be honest, the topic of ham radio is so broad that most hams have only experienced only a fraction of what amateur radio has to offer.

One of these activities is known as Radio Direction Finding.

Radio Direction Finding (RDF) is also known as transmitter hunting or “fox” hunting. What exactly is Radio Direction Finding?  It is the use of radio equipment to seek and find the source of a given transmission.  The transmitter that is being sought is often referred to as the “fox,” and participants must use their radio equipment and their skills to try to pinpoint its location.  Sometimes the “hunt” is within a small area such as a park where the seekers search for it on foot.  Other times, the pursuit may be in a region as large as a city where the participants must drive around and use their equipment to track down the point of transmission. Think of it as electronic “hide and go seek.”  It is enjoyed by many hams as a hobby, and it is seen by some as a viable sport. I have found this to be a very rewarding activity where I have not only learned about this aspect of ham radio, but I have used this as an opportunity to increase my emergency communications skills overall.

So…again, how might this relate to anything to do with prepping…or emergency communications for that matter?

Radio Direction Finding is used in a variety of activities such as search and rescue, tracking downed aircraft, or uncovering jamming signals.  It is also used by individuals, businesses, and governments to locate rouge transmissions, to recover stolen property, or to track the routes of vehicles.  In fact, RDF is a very widely used technology, even if the general public doesn’t quite understand how it all works.  Many are not even aware that it exists! In any case, it is a vital skill in gathering information about the locations of the radio sources you may be hearing, and having an understanding about how RDF works can help prevent you from giving away your own location if you are wishing to not be found so easily.

Truth be told, if you use a two-way radio…ANY KIND OF TWO-WAY RADIO…you can be tracked and found.  This knowledge alone could be very important for your survival.

Now…I’m not saying to avoid using radios for emergency communications.  On the contrary, not having the capability to communicate and gather critical information could also get one’s self killed.  It’s just that you must understand a balance needs to be maintained when using communications…and having a working knowledge of Radio Direction Finding could greatly aid in that goal.  In fact, to learn about and participate in RDF, one does not need to be a licensed ham at all (assuming that this person is only receiving signals.)  So, any prepper could acquire and practice these skills if desired.

So how does Radio Direction Finding work?

Antennas made from measuring tapes (like the one shown here) are very effective as directional antennas.

RDF uses radio equipment and directional antennas to locate the sources of radio signals.  With directional antennas, hunters listen with their radios to take transmission readings at an initial site.  As they do this, they try to detect the direction of the source of a given signal by aiming their antennas about to pick up the direction where they receive the signal the strongest.  They, then, take similar readings at another location.  This is done repeatedly until the seekers triangulate the exact position of the hunted transmission.  As one becomes more proficient at tracing and tracking signals, one’s speed in hunting increases as well.  As I said, some do this for sport, and there are many individuals who are very good at it.  Some could track you down very, very quickly.

Loop antennas are another good option for Radio Direction Finding.

Even if you have no desire to learn how to hunt for transmissions as a sport, Radio Direction Finding is a very useful communications skill to learn. It is a vital skill in gathering information about the locations of radio sources you may be hearing, and it could also prove very useful in trying to find someone you may be looking for.  At the very least, just having an understanding about how RDF

works could help prevent you from inadvertently giving away your own position if you are using any radio transmitting device, and depending upon the situation, that could become deadly.  So, it should be obvious that every prepper should at least be aware of how RDF works…even if they have no intention of ever using it.

Did I perk your interest?

Would you like to find out more?

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