More VTX power, legally

OFCOM have recently released a document detailing proposed changes to the amateur radio licence. One of these changes is to allow the installation of transmitters on/in airborne platforms with a power limit of 500mW.

I know it’s not groundbreaking, most of us are already using VTX’s at this power level and greater, but if you want to be somewhere in the legal ballpark you could sit the foundation license exam (very basic multiple guess exam). You may also be able to run your ELRS systems at higher power legally as 2.4GHz also has an amateur radio allocation.


Hi Nidge
Where would I find information on this exam?

how does this align with FCC power levels?

… I guess I answered my own question but maybe useful for someone else maybe…

would we really need a license as we have no control over what is transmitted or how it is transmitted in that frequency band?

(I guess to put it another way I agree with a license if I was dabbling with radio frequency transmissions and I had the ability to change the power and frequency of what was being transmitted… but … although the power levels are adjustable (in some cases easily and in some cases by patch)… one does not really have the control of exactly what frequency transmissions go out on and ensuring they don’t interfere with other nearby transmissions) … like buying a high powered router to US power spec and using it in the UK???

Hi Steve

All amateur radio exams are now conducted by local clubs. I used to be the instructor for my local club here in Otley up until around ten years ago. There are three tiers of exam, the foundation, the intermediate, and the full. As you progress through the levels you are afforded more privileges. E.g. when the proposed changes come into effect a foundation license holder will be permitted to use up to 20Watts on the primary bands (currently its 10Watts), and a full license holder will be allowed up to 1 KiloWatt (currently 400Watts).

With your background, Steve, you would walk through the Foundation exam, the only things you’ll need to familiarise yourself with will be the rules and regulations, the technical stuff is very basic. There was a famous incident whereby a five year old girl obtained her foundation license. Even my son, who was six at the time, obtained a pass with no knowledge just through the laws of chance with it being multiple choice. I didn’t validate it though and he had no interest as there was nothing about Pokémon in it. The intermediate and advanced exams go more in-depth on the technical theory. They are all multiple choice, though there is a practical assessment as part of the intermediate exam.

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The US hams have long had the privilege of operating from airborne platform. Many FPV’ers took the US Tech amateur radio exam so they could legally use in excess of 1Watt on 5.8GHz, including Josh Bardwell.

With todays tech problems of causing interference via dirty transmitters are very rare. We did at one time have to demonstrate that our equipment was clean when the Post Office, later British Telecom, would come knocking on the door to do random inspections. You could even have your license revoked if your logbook was not up to date and correctly filled in. Thankfully those days are long gone, there isn’t even a requirement to keep a logbook.

As for determining if your transmission is on the correct frequency… once you fly more than 20 feet from yourself and your goggles go black you can take it you weren’t on the correct frequency. :wink:

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does it really matter holding a licence?

I guess the catch with ham radio is you are traceable (call sign, generally static location, plus I guess at one point broadcasting was rather less common ) where as today there is a load of stuff transmitting all sorts of stuff on 2.4ghz and 5ghz plus the lora bands from iot to any old thing that someone cobbles together…

is moving the transmitter power band up just a way of accepting that those that police the airwaves (whoever they are) are struggling to police because so much is transmitting at power levels that once were not common and we’re easier to police, and now it’s a bit boarder line

I mean drones are a relatively short transmission time (till the batteries go flat and you move on to your next location following a charge ) so policing is quite hard I would have thought (set remote id aside, sure it may become mandatory… but like everything… it’s only mandatory if you choose to toe the line and change your hardware … otherwise it’s just whack-a-mole)

Hi Nidge, thanks for that info, I’ll look up where my local club is. Coventry I think
I’ve been considering this for some time, maybe I I’ll get off my arse this year as I’ll have more time after retiring from the day job :blush:
Take care

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Does anyone actually police the airwaves, beyond as a paper exercise? Normally to police something you need to pay personnel and given the general lack of spare money in this country would anyone even come looking for drone users running say a 1-2W VTX?

If it was a static broadcast signal, like pirate radio (back in the day), then they have some chance of maybe grabbing the person(s). But as you say, we are highly mobile, tend to fly and move to another location, or dare I say, fly in places where some level of shielding/dampening will occur anyway (concrete structures, steel/metal structures, trees).

I remember many moons ago having a big 18m steel CB antenna strapped to the side of the house, used to key up on the CB and knock out TV signals for about 100m in every direction. The CB box was completely legal spec, no mods, just standard 40 channels and no sidebands. But it used to knock out TV signals every which way on that antenna. Eventually i swapped to something smaller and that issue disappeared. But in all the time I had it and used it, no one ever came knocking on the door, back in the early 90’s, when pirate radio was a thing and they had a serious hard on for catching them. Nowadays I think they spend even less time trying to catch people. i don’t think they have the money to do it, nor the personnel.

@Steviegeek You can actually do the studying (such as it is) at home and even sit the exam at home with a remote invigilator, exam costs £32.50 from memory, peanuts compared to what drone fliers spend on gear.

Essex Ham have a tonne of info including a full online course:

The RSGB booking page is at RSGB examination booking - Radio Society of Great Britain - Main Site : Radio Society of Great Britain – Main Site

Stefan (MI0PYN Full License Holder)


That’s great Stefan
Thank you for the info :clap:

PS just ordered the manual :smiley:

It’s been like this for quite a while, I’d say since the coalition government was formed and osterity became a thing, along with the catchphrase “We’re all in this together”.

About 20yrs ago I submitted a claim of interference to OFCOM regarding the use of some HomePlug devices supplied by BT that were wiping out reception on the HF allocations. They assigned an investigator to the case who spent two days tracking down the source, and had them removed.

In contrast I recently submitted an interference complaint regarding exceptionally strong VDSL2 interference. I’d already done all the donkey work of tracing the source, I even mapped the system showing the upstream and downstream allocations, the number of users, and produced accurate measurements demonstrating that the field strength levels far exceeded those as mandated by the ITU for suburban environments. OFCOM closed the case with a single email, stating that because the source of interference was from a cabled system, and not considered as being harmful (meaning as I wasn’t a fee paying stakeholder) they were not obligated to carry out any enforcement action.

So if your TinyWhoop with its 200milliwatt VTX is not interfering with emergency service communication or BBC broadcasts they won’t even consider it worth getting out of bed for.

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Does not surprise me… hence the quick fix is just to move the permitted power upwards to a manageable level (one they will get out of bed to investigate)… but it’s always thin end of the wedge with these things.

hence FCC patch (or hacks) won’t be monitored or enforced as there are just too many broadcasting devices… wasting time and money to get a license unless you are a ham radio user and wish to have a call sign is a bit pointless in my opinion… but each to their own. (dog licenses for anyone? Dog licence - Wikipedia )

tv licenses will be going at some point (i did not realise that if you no longer watch live TV no need for a license… I cannot remember when i watched live TV last! … must admit that I’ve had friends who’ve not had a TV or license and they just used to get harassed for a license but genuinely did not have one,-Sign%20out&text=You%20need%20to%20be%20covered,more%20about%20watching%20live%20TV.&text=Or%20let%20us%20know%20you%20don’t%20need%20a%20TV%20Licence.

Unless it’s BBC iPlayer, then even watching on catch-up requires a licence.
Also recording live TV e.g. with a VCR or newer technology.

I am never the less looking at that RSGB exam with great interest. I have always wanted to do the exam but not necessarily buy a radio. Although i guess I could have some fun traipsing up a mountain with a radio, battery and antenna and seeing who I can talk to. :wink: The fact some people use them to transmit data packets also interests me a lot as it kind of extends what I did during my CWNA at Uni.

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