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Hello UAV CCF.  A UAV pilot from South Africa here! I was wondering if anyone could provide any recommendations on hand-held radios for use with drone operations?  We wish to use radios on the ground to communicate with air traffic to ensure safe operations.

I have been searching various pilot shops for radios but the range is huge and so is the price!  Obviously I would like to make sure we get the best option for our operations.  

Any guidance on the best option/best value for money would be a great help. Thanks.

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A small handheld with a magnetic antenna on top of my SUV  is what I use. Yaesu FTA550 (~$200 USD) , VHF, which is the common band used by US control towers and CTAFs in the US. The small antennas that comes with the radio are pretty useless. A mag mount antenna on top of a metal car roof gives you a nice plane for propagation.

Edited by Uaviator53
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@Uaviator53 makes good sense on this (as he always does).  I have the exact same radio and paid about that same amount minus a $15 rebate that I forgot to send in - don't tell my wife.  But here in the States, using that VHF AM aircraft radio to talk to ATC has 2 problems.  First, from ground level you need to be very close to an ATC facility to be able to have a useful conversation with them.  Secondly, the way Part 107 is structured here there is no requirement or practical use for an aircraft handheld radio.  In my opinion, here in the states, an am band aircraft scanner on the proper frequency is far more practical and it has more usefulness as well.  In addition, while I am quite familiar with radio laws in the US, I do not have any familiarity with similar laws in South Africa.  Is a radio license required?  Does ATNS even want to speak with UAV operators on a live frequency?

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 Good points, Ed. I have a scanner in my Jeep which I use to monitor local AirEvac and county police chopper.  I never have had a need to call ATC and I doubt they could hear me anyway; I only use my HT to make a blind call when I am near any airport, controlled or not and ready to launch, I am sure the tower will not copy me but  aircraft overhead and nearby should. Between my NOTAM and that, I have done my best to avoid a conflict.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 3/20/2017 at 0:49 PM, Uaviator53 said:

Yaesu FT-550 pretty cheap.

Good to see another FT-550 in here! I keep mine on my belt pretty much anytime I'm in controlled airspace, or less than 3NM from a non-towered field or heliport with established CTAF.

I remember on my 1st flight deep in the Class B back in the 333 and Standard COA days they had me "establish and maintain" over the handheld. That was wild, At that point I'd been a pilot for over a year and never been cleared into the Class B flying an airplane. After a few "with request" calls the tower called back "Unmanned Rotorcraft Niner Kilo Quebec, Cleared into the Class B Airspace"  Pretty cool to be legally mixing it up with the Heavy's!

 

Those where the days... maybe less than a year ago, but days nonetheless :D

Edited by BrendanS_AVI
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