You can probe propagation conditions quickly and accurately with PSK Reporter. It’s all open source and highly collaborative.
Digital modes provide a great way to probe propagation conditions quickly. And you can see the results in a Google Map. Using this technique, I was able to spot signals from 34 countries in ten minutes. Received signals show up as colored balloons. Clicking on a balloon shows the name of the transmitting station and the signal-to-noise ratio. The pink blob highlights the best current conditions.
Here is how this works.
PSK Automatic Propagation Reporter is a web site dedicated to tracking ham radio signals using digital modes. Originally designed with PSK in mind, it now tracks many different digital modes. All you have to do is set your WSJT-X or other digital mode software to report what it hears to this web site. Typically, thousands of ham stations are continuously monitoring all frequency bands. Signals heard are uploaded and displayed on the PSK Reporter map. Frequency bands are color coded.
To display all of the signals you are monitoring, you just search for the data associated with your call sign. So, in fifteen minutes of monitoring, I discovered decent but not great propagation to most of Europe on 20 meters. The “decent but not great” conclusion was based on evaluating the strength of the signals received. I used the same propagation probe technique on other bands to find similar conditions on 17 meters, less on 15 and nothing on 12 and 10 meters. Not surprising at this point in the solar cycle.
Although not shown here, PSK Reporter will include your transmitted signals. This means that thousands of hams around the world will report your signal strength, even if they do not contact you. Neat stuff.
Probe Propagation – A Variety of Techniques
Traditionally, most of us probe propagation conditions by just listening to the radio. On legacy gear, we just turn the dial. On newer SDR receivers, we watch the panoramic display. Either way, though, we have to tune and listen to each station to hear its point of origin. Digital mode monitoring automates and speeds up this process greatly.
Another technique that I use is to quickly check the signals from selected shortwave broadcasters on adjacent bands. For example, monitoring All India Radio gives me a pretty good idea of propagation conditions over the polar regions.
With PSK Reporter, you can see how conditions change over time. And, perhaps most important, you get an indication of new openings to other countries and regions.