Ham with a mission

Hyderabadi High Court lawyer Ramesh Kuthumbaka turned his terrace into a wireless station

By Author  |  Published: 25th Mar 2018  12:35 amUpdated: 24th Mar 2018  5:34 pm
Ramesh Kuthumbaka
Ramesh Kuthumbaka with his ham set

A High Court lawyer, holder of six post-graduate degrees, and currently pursuing a PhD in Law. But, what satisfied him the most is amateur radio, also known as Ham. Ramesh Kuthumbaka turned his terrace into a wireless station with over a dozen antennas, all made by himself. Now, he has made a name for himself in satellite contacts through his ham set and shooting off messages to ham operators abroad using satellites (AO 91 & AO 92) as FM repeaters (a device which receives signal and transmits it).

Ham radio involves use of radio frequencies for non-commercial and emergency communication purposes. One has to procure a licence to operate the amateur radio after clearing an exam held by Wireless Planning and Coordination wing of the Union Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.

On January 26, 2018, Ramesh (VU3FTP) became the first person to contact a ham station in Tamil Nadu through A0-92 satellite, which is one of the 104 satellites launched at one go by ISRO. He also made a call to an Indonesian ham (YD0NXX), whose station is 4,100 km away from his station in Hyderabad, becoming the second person in the world to cover such a long distance through Satellite AO92 on March9.

His love for making antennas started when he was trying to contact hams in Vijayawada from Khammam through VU2KDD repeater in Vijayawada, but he could not do it. He, then, tried to purchase a commercial Yagi antenna from a Mumbai ham, who said he needs a few weeks to do so. This was the time when he had started doing a research on antennas and prepared one for himself. Now, he has homebrewed five Bands High Frequency (HF) Yagi with full-length which covers 20M (14Mhz), 15M (21Mhz), 10M (28Mhz), 17M (18Mhz), and  12M (24Mhz) and he is able contact faraway ham stations in Europe, Africa and Australia apart from Asia.He claims he is the first person in India to make full-length five Bands HF Yagi antenna.

For satellite communication  in FM mode for VHF (Very High Frequency) and UHF (Ultra High Frequency), Ramesh homebrewed 14-element VHF Yagi (first person to make in India), exclusively for satellite communication. He also has various antennas — IOio, Egg Beater (Square), Egg Beater (Round), TPM-II, Moxon Turn style and Phase 3D (P3D) — under his belt. The Phase 3D antenna can cover 36,000 km.

All these antennas cost a bomb in the market and are not available in India, but Ramesh Kuthumbaka homebrews those on his own, certainly saving lakhs of rupees. He also prepared antennas for others who are interested in the ham radio. He has successfully tested GOGO antenna, which was invented by him recently with help of his friend Paddy (VU3PEP), who is also an advocate from Hyderabad. “Whenever I am free, I go to scrap shops and pick up aluminium wires and other stuff required for antennas. Believe me, this is the best place to get your material which you may not find in the market,” he said.

Ramesh Kuthumbaka
The homebrewed 14-element VHF Yagi made by Ramesh

He also volunteers for disaster management and played a crucial role in communicating emergency messages during Hudhud cyclone in Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam being on ground zero. Internationally, he served during Nepal earthquake rescue and relief operations, and he was the first volunteer to land in Nepal along with the Indian AIR Force. He was also called up by the Police Department for the second line of communication (in the case of telephone lines failing to respond either by nature or anti-social elements) during then President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Visakhapatnam for International Fleet Review. Besides this, he was also called up for Krishnapuskharams by the Andhra Pradesh Police Department.

Asked if they get paid for their service during emergencies, he said: “Forget about money. We sometimes do not even get money for fuel. When we (hams) were in Srikakulam during Hudhud, the then District Revenue Officer there refused to pay fuel expenses. A similar situation happened in Nepal when we were sent there by the Government of India for rescue operations; AIR India airline had collected Rs 70,000 for Ham equipment luggage from Hyderabad-Delhi-Hyderabad. The Nepalese officials fleeced us to pay Rs 10,000 for ham licence there to join rescue operations. Accordingly, we paid Rs 20,000.” During the Nepal earthquake rescue operation, Ramesh noticed that Red Cross and other NGOs are collaborating with hams to serve the needy, which is not happening in India.

Ramesh also stressed the need to have a dedicated disaster relief satellite for India on the lines of Indonesian Lapan Satellite. He is also trying to send a dedicated disaster relief satellite worth Rs 50 lakh with help of CUB Sat Organisation, USA, JNTU and engineering colleges.

He appeals to the police and revenue authorities of both the Telugu States that the hams in Hyderabad have two VHF repeaters, which may be used during Ganesh Nimajjan, Sammmaka Sarakka Jatara, TTD Brahmotsavam at Tirupati and international games, as second line of communication. He further requested both the Central and State governments to include Ham radio course under NCC, NSS, Scouts programmes.