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Sunday, 11 June 2017

Up Close Radio Scanning

Over the past few years, a number of the more active two way radio users in the Launceston area have gone off the air, in most cases they have either moved to MDT type devices, mobile phones or no longer use radio communications at all. These include some taxi companies, RACT roadside vans and some delivery companies. While these might not have been everybody’s preferred monitoring targets, they were active a lot of the time and had wide coverage areas from their hill top high power repeaters, making hearing them very easy. 

In the past couple of years a number of businesses have started using ear piece communication devices in the UHF band, these are very interesting to listen to but due to the low power they use you need to be very close to be able to hear them, this calls for some up close radio scanning. Below are some examples of the methods I have used to be able to monitor these signals in a “low profile” way. In all these cases I have based this around using my UBCD436PT which is a larger size handheld, if you have a smaller handheld radio then this is even easier. Back when mobiles phones were much larger (bricks) it was easier to pass off a radio scanner as something else, these days that just would not work. 

My daily carry radio kit (UBCD436PT, aerials, cables and so on) is based on a $1 Kmart lunch box, which I have published the details of it here on my blog.  I choose this so as not to draw any unwanted attention to myself or the contents of the lunchbox. It does not scream “expensive stuff inside” and blends in. I take the view that it is better to be discrete with my scanner listening hobby, especially within the view of the public. It does nobody no harm but it is best to draw attention to our innocent activities, which can be easily misunderstood. For this reason I prefer a set and forget type of setup, this means I can’t listen at the time but with using the UBCD436PT’s recorder feature I can later review what it finds. This also helps with blending in. 

Please note: None of this is written to encourage you to attempt to take a banned item in to anywhere, simply as a way to enjoy the radio scanning hobby in a low profile way.

Radio in my vest:


This works best in winter (wearing a heavy vest like this is summer makes you stand out, exactly the opposite of what we want to do). Before you reach your intended monitoring target, turn the volume all the way down and slip your radio in close call mode / with the recorder feature enabled in to a secure pocket, walk around the target area as normal, knowing your radio is logging all the traffic it hears for later review. I have used this method a few times in the CBD area with good results. If possible, enabled the keypad lock so that you don’t accidently press a key and end up with nothing logged.

In my backpack:


As the next step up from having the radio in your vest pocket, in this case before you reach your intended monitoring target, turn the volume all the way down and place your radio in close call mode / with the recorder feature enabled back in to a non-descript / low profile case and then place this in your backpack. This works well in the warmer months when wearing a vest would not be practical or if you are going to be walking around for a longer period of time. If you are careful you can also use the cover of your backpack to check any loggings by keeping the radio hidden in the case. A disadvantage of this method is that some shops do check bags and it can also increase the chances of somebody trying to steal your bag. 

Under the pram:




Really trying to blend in? In this case before you reach your intended monitoring target, turn the volume all the way down and place your radio in close call mode / with the recorder feature enabled back in to a non-descript / low profile case (such as my lunch box case) and then place this under a pram. Trying to do this with an empty pram is not a good idea and I don’t recommend stealing children for this purpose, I am lucky I have my own. Add a nappy bag or a lunch box with food (just don’t get mixed up and give a toddler the one with your expensive radio in) and you can walk around, knowing all radio traffic is being logged and recorded for later review. Very few places check prams and even if they do, they won’t normally check inside a lunch box. 

A mix of all of the above methods has allowed me to confirm a number of UHF headset frequencies and also log various other low power / limited coverage radio systems for later review.


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