Introduction: Arduino Controlled Hidden Transmitter

EDIT12/7/13: I have changed the code quite a bit. The new code includes a lookup table of morse code so that you can insert the text straight into the program and have it converted to morse for you. My motivation for this was the Hackaday Fubarino contest at http://hackaday.com/2013/12/03/new-contest-win-one-of-20-microchip-fubarino-boards/. This easter egg should not be transmitted over ham radio due to it sounding like an advertisement.


A hidden transmitter, or fox as it is sometimes called, is used by amateur radio operators for sport. Somebody hides a fox, and participants use different methods to find it. This is for practice for when there is an illegal transmitter nearby. Then the "hams" know what they are doing when tracking it down.

The transmitter usually transmits a long tone followed by a fcc granted call sign in morse code. The club I am a member of needed one of these, so I sat down and started designing it. I based it around an arduino, though this could be ported to many different microcontrollers.


Step 1: How the Code Works

Writing this code was the first time I used custom functions, as well as an array. First I define values at the top for easy customization. Then i set up the morse code array. After declaring a few more things, I go on to the loop. First it calls my first fuction called playtone(). In the parenthathese you input how long you want it to transmit in milliseconds (1 second == 1000 milliseconds; this adds precision). This is for the hams to track the signal. After this it waits 1 second then calls my second function. called playcode(), which plays a call sign in morse code. This function uses a for loop to read through the array one character at a time. It uses a series of if statements to set the duration. After that playtone(Duration) is called. This plays the sound at the length of the character then the for loop reads the next character of the array. After it has gone through all characters the program delays for a set time, determined by preference. I have it set for 1 minute. Read the comments in the code for more detailed information.

EDIT 12/7/13: In the original code, you must insert the morse for the call sign to be transmitted manually. In the updated (albeit messy, apologies) code, you just need to input the call and any other text in the string Text. For the program to transmit the easterEgg string instead, you must hold pin 10 high at reset. This is what qualifies the project for Hackaday's contest.

Step 2: The Hardware

On the hardware side of things, I have a wire going from the radio's ground (connected behind a screw) and the Arduino ground pin. Then there is the tone output and the tx pin going to a jack on the radio. The connection to the radio varies by manufacturer.  This can usually be found in the radio's manual. I built this with my Arduino Mega 2560, with plans to build a arduino clone such as a Boarduino for the final design.

Please note the picture is inacurate on wiring the ptt. The ptt pin needs to be pulled to ground. Therefore a relay or MOSFET is necessary.Putting 5v into the radio has the potential of damaging it.

Step 3: Hunting Down the Fox

As mentioned in the intro, there are a few methods to fox hunting.

The easiest is called body fade, where you simply hold your radio to your chest to block most of the signal coming from behind you. Wherever the signal is strongest, thats the direction the fox is in.

Another way that works a little better is a directional antenna, such as this one: https://www.instructables.com/id/Radio-Direction-Finding-Antenna-for-VHF/
That is what I use.

There are other systems that can be used such as a doppler system, which uses four antennas to determine the direction. These are complex and expensive systems, so few people own them.

You don't have to have your license to find a fox. In fact if you find a club nearby that is planning a fox hunt, they would be glad to have you join them. You will need a radio to do this, but most programmable scanners can receive on ham frequencies such as the 2 meter band, which is was many t hunts are on.

Good luck and 73s!
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