19 Sept 2019 – The visit to Baldock Radio Station

Members were given a warm welcome and we had a warm drink and were shown some photographs of the installation before we got going.

The site has had some alterations this year and this was an opportunity to see how things have change since our last visit.

Our starting point was the technical area where equipment can be checked out and worked on. This was followed by a visit to the anechoic chamber, designed for testing equipment. Built to prevent both sound and RF from interfering with test items.

The next part of the station was the measuring and testing laboratories, where various specialised equipment are used, such as Vector Signal Generators and Spectrum Analysers. These are used to put radio equipment under test to make sure they meet the required specification. Here we also found portable monitoring equipment used to check mobile phone equipment. The equipment can test radio equipment from DC to 57 GHz, for 5G communications.

There was a visit to the Drone laboratory where we saw a large drone, which can be equipped a spectrum analyser to help locate interference. The drone is equipped with GPS locators to help with DF functions. Users of this equipment have to pass a CAA test before they can fly the drone.

Our next stop was in the Control Centre, a suite of radio equipment designed to monitor the airwaves from DC upwards. The centre is divided into two parts one to monitor safety and life support communications and the other for commercial and amateur communications.

We were given a real life experience when the unit was contacted because there was interference on a safety circuit. We watched them start a trace using SDR equipment, which can find direction of signal, its angle of reception and the bandwidth. We could actually hear the interference on top of the original signal..

The station also looks for Band 2 pirate stations as well as distress signals. Satellite systems can also be monitored. All the signal come into a labyrinth of aerials which are spread over the site as well as some which are in remote locations. The antenna systems include a circular array of 16 aerials, similar to the old Chicksands antenna system. This gives a very good DF location for signal from DC to 3 GHz.

Our very interesting evening came to a close about 21.00 hours, where the usual thank you was made by club members and a couple of other visitors.

All in all a very interesting evening.

                      Report by David, G8UOD