If radio communications interest you, try Citizen’s Band radio. While the range of these radios with the proper antenna is generally on the order of a few miles, in the right conditions you can reach other stations that are hundreds -- if not thousands -- of miles away.
The range of your CB radio depends on a variety of factors but is typically between two and five miles. Power is one of these factors: the maximum allowable power is 4 watts in AM mode and up 12 watts in SSB mode. Next is the antenna, which must be properly tuned to the frequencies in which CB radios operate. Environmental and geographic conditions also determine the range of your transmissions.
Your CB radio antenna must be tuned properly in order to efficiently transmit your signal. A perfect Standing Wave Ratio tuning is 1:1, which means none of the power transmitted by the CB radio is reflected back and results in maximum power. As your SWR increases, more and more power is reflected back and the effective transmitting power drops. Levels above 3:1 can be dangerous, as the heat from the reflected power could damage your radio’s components.
On occasion the CB bands can “open up” and allow communication over long distances during the peak of the sunspot cycle. The increase is due to the signals from the radio bouncing off a layer in the atmosphere known as the ionosphere. When “shooting skip” in this way, contacts hundreds if not thousands of miles away can be made for brief periods of time. Conversely, at the lowest point of the cycle skip propagation may be almost nonexistent.
It is illegal, per FCC rules, to modify your CB radio in any way to broadcast at a higher power the radios are designed for. For a time the FCC was not been taking much action against those operating CB radios illegally, but the situation has changed. CB operators are being cited for modifying their radio for more output or to operate “out of band,” and for running amplifiers in an effort to boost power. Getting caught might mean not only a citation, but also a hefty monetary fine.
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