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I'm trying to determine the best way to operate a model rocket tracking beacon. There's various vague details on modes of operating in part 97, and equally vague descriptions in the 70cm band plan, and I was hoping someone could bring some clarity to the topic.

For now, I'm looking at using just a basic transmitter that can send a tone at regular intervals; since both weight and space are at a premium in a rocket, the simpler, the better. 97.215 covering telecommand of a model craft seems close other than this transmission will be generated by the craft and not used to control it. Some of the telemetry regulations seem close except at this point with just a basic transmitter, it's more of a beacon, there's no actual telemetry data. It's a bit like a fox hunt, but the transmitter isn't capable of identification (making the rules under 97.215 attractive). It's definitely somewhat beacon-like, but it's not a propagation beacon. What rules cover this type of operation? The transmitter has a max of 100mW power, and the antenna is just a short piece of wire.

The second part of this question is about frequency choice. The arrl band plan (which Arizona uses with some small exceptions that don't seem to apply to this) has some vague categories, none of which seem to fit exactly. Given the power level, weak signal work would seem to be the closest. Although in general, if I pick a frequency that's not in use in the area combined with the 100mW transmit power, there should be few issues here as long as I stay inside the 70cm ham band I believe.

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  • $\begingroup$ I've edited the tags of your question, since you appear to be asking about FCC regulations. When asking questions about regulations, please be sure to include the jurisdiction in tags. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Reid AG6YO Nov 3 '15 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ Why not just transmit your call in morse code, instead of a tone? Now you can identify. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Nov 6 '15 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ If the locator I was looking at were capable of sending morse that would be ideal, but unfortunately, it isn't. I may end up switching to a locator that can do that, but it's twice the weight and 3 times the cost. $\endgroup$ – Gravatite Nov 6 '15 at 12:51
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If you don't have identification, then it's probably not a ham band item. The only exception to that rule is model aircraft controllers, and that is only for 6m, specific frequencies, and still doesn't apply.

You probably want a Part 15 device. See the FCC rules, but basically you can make up to 5 without FCC approval (Conditions apply) for non-commercial use.

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  • $\begingroup$ The lack of ID makes it tricky. I see in 97.215 where the model craft exception is, but where is that limited to the 6m band? I'll likely have to go with a slightly heavier locator that can ID. Since the non-ID locator is only $18, it's worth seeing if it can be made legal. The non-ID locator transmits FM tones and is configurable for any frequency from 400-470MHz and was intended for the European PMR446 service, but since it covers the ham band it's worth looking into. I believe FRS rules prohibit non-human xmit so that's out unless that rule has changed since I last read about it. $\endgroup$ – Gravatite Nov 5 '15 at 22:57

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