Portable Rotation 12PR1A Ultra

Portable Rotation 12PR1A Ultra
Portable Rotation 12PR1A
Ultra-Portable DC Antenna Rotator
Reviewed by Sean Kutzko, KX9X
ARRL Media and
Public Relations ­Manager
One of the greatest joys of Amateur Radio
is being able to operate outdoors. Whether
it’s on a mountaintop, on the beach, or on
the top level of a high-rise parking garage,
getting away from the shack allows us to
find new ways to enjoy our hobby. For
some of us, operating portable is the only
way we can get on the air because of our
housing arrangements.
When I operate portable, I’ve found myself
in several situations where I could have
brought a directional antenna with me,
such as a small Yagi for HF or VHF. If it’s
light enough, rotating a Yagi can be done
with the Armstrong method, but it is often
very inconvenient to do so. Perhaps you
don’t want to leave the rig behind while
you go outside to adjust the antenna toward
that weak station, or perhaps you’re in a
tent and it’s dark out there.
A Battery Powered Rotator
Portable Rotation has developed a solution to these problems. The 12PR1A is
Figure 6 — The
rotator motor
unit has a 6-inch
stub mast for
attaching the
an antenna rotator (Figure 6) that functions on 9 to 14 V dc. At 12 V, the unit
is specified to draw 40 mA idle current
and 200 mA or less while the antenna is
turning. It can be powered from the battery used to run a typical portable station.
While the control head (Figure 7) will
function with as little as 6 V, a minimum
of 9 V is required to activate the rotator
motor. The rotator is designed for 12 V
and will turn only very small antennas with
a 9 V power source.
The manual indicates that the rotator can
handle antennas that weigh up to 8 pounds
(the Portable Rotation website says 10
pounds), which covers portable antennas
such as the Buddipole or Super Antennas
portable dipoles, or most small VHF/UHF
Yagis. The website also says the rotator
will handle a Super Antennas YP3 portable Yagi, which is specified to weigh 12
The package includes the rotator with a
built-in 6-inch mast for attaching antennas, 50 feet of control cable, and a small
controller. It has a USB interface (so it can
be controlled with your PC) and the entire package weighs just under 4 pounds.
Options include an adapter for Buddipole
antennas, a carrying bag, and a 50-foot
control cable extension.
rotator attachment point.
Setting Up in the Field
I took the 12PR1A rotator out to one of my
favorite portable operating sites, a field behind a grade school about a half mile from
my West Hartford, Connecticut apartment,
and used it in one of my standard portable
operating configurations: an all-mode QRP
transceiver with a 7 Ah (amp-hour) sealed
lead-acid battery, a 20-foot telescoping
aluminum mast with tripod, and a foldable
two-element 6 meter Yagi. Figure 8 shows
my gear. With the exception of the mast,
everything fit easily into my 3-day backpack, with room to spare. I didn’t notice the
extra weight of the rotator.
Setting up this configuration usually takes
me about 20 minutes; the inclusion of
the rotator added fewer than 5 additional
minutes of setup time. It was incredibly
straightforward and easy right out of the
box. The rotator-to-mast brackets can ac-
Figure 7 — The control
box has buttons for clockwise and counterclockwise
rotation and displays
beam heading on an LCD.
You can program your call
sign in the top line.
The 12PR1A does have some limitations.
It’s not designed for permanent installations in harsh or extremely wet conditions.
Although the 12PR1A is weather resistant,
the manufacturer recommends not turning
the antenna if it is raining because water
might pass by the seals and get into the
rotator. The manual informs us that the
built-in 6-inch antenna mast is not to be extended, or it could damage the rotator bearings. The manual also advises us to make
sure the antennas are well balanced at the
Bottom Line
The Portable Rotation 12PR1A
offers a convenient way to rotate
small antennas in the field without
draining a portable battery supply.
Reprinted with permission from January 2015 QST
ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio®
www.arrl.org Figure 8 — The author’s portable station fits in a backpack.
commodate a mast up to 1.5 inches, and the
mast clamps have wing nuts to secure the
rotator. No tools are needed. The bottom of
the rotator falls flush on the top of the mast
and locks down smoothly. The four-conductor control cable can be attached to the
bottom of the rotator easily, and it attaches
to the control box in a similar fashion.
I unfolded my two-element 6 meter Yagi,
attached it to the built-in rotator mast, and
raised the mast up section by section. I was
on the air in less than half an hour. Figure 9
shows the antenna, mast, and rotator.
Using the Rotator
One of the nice features of the 12PR1A is
“Any-Direction Calibration.” You can erect
your beam without trying to get it oriented
to true north immediately. After the antenna is in the air, you can tell the 12PR1A
what direction the antenna is pointing and
calibrate the controller from there, which
saves a lot of time.
The 12PR1A is designed to rotate through
north (0 degrees), meaning that it will stop
when oriented to 180 degrees (due south).
If you are pointed west at 270 degrees and
want to change the antenna to beam southeast, say 130 degrees, the antenna will
rotate clockwise, passing through north.
If you keep turning the antenna clockwise
past 130 degrees, when you reach 180 degrees the control head will display a MAX
TURN message. An arrow will appear on
the display, indicating counterclockwise as
the only direction in which you may turn
the antenna.
As with many other antenna rotators, the
12PR1A allows you to rotate the antenna
manually by holding down the CW (clockwise) or CCW (counterclockwise) buttons.
You can also use AUTO TURN MODE to
enter a numeric beam heading and having the rotator automatically adjust to the
desired direction. You enter the heading
by repeated pressings of the CW, CCW,
and MODE buttons to scroll to the desired
setting. When you are done turning the
antenna, you can turn off the controller to
save battery power.
In either manual or automatic mode, after
you stop turning the antenna, there is a
pause of 3 seconds before you can start
turning again. This allows the antenna to
come to a full stop.
Once I had the antenna and rotator in the
air, I called Matt Wilhelm, W1MSW, to
work him on 6 meter CW over a path of
about 40 miles straight north. Once we
established communication, I rotated the
beam manually to the west and listened
as Matt’s signal dropped as I turned away
from him. I then entered the heading “000”
into the control box and the rotator swung
the beam back north with no difficulty.
Two rotation speeds are available — normal speed and half speed (for antennas that
require more precise adjustment, such as a
high-gain UHF Yagi). The manual says the
rotator will make one 360 degree rotation
in about 1 minute, and in the field, I found
this to be about right at normal speed. Of
course, lower voltages from your battery
will affect rotation time.
The 12PR1A comes with a built-in sensor
that will disable the rotator if rotation is
blocked for more than 1 second, such as if
an antenna element hits a tree branch. The
message ANT JAM! will appear on the control head’s display. Once the obstruction
has been dealt with, you can either rotate
Reprinted with permission from January 2015 QST
Figure 9 — The 12PR1A rotator installed on a
temporary mast with a two-element 6 meter Yagi.
the antenna in the opposite direction or
power-cycle the control head to clear the
ANT JAM! message.
I didn’t try this feature, but the manual includes a section on remotely controlling the
12PR1A using software that supports the
Yaesu GS232A/B Rotator Control Protocol. The controller connects to a computer
via a USB jack on the front panel.
Final Thoughts
I found the Portable Rotation 12PR1A to
be a welcome addition to my portable field
operation. If you’re looking to turn your
club’s six-element tribander during Field
Day, this rotator isn’t for you. However,
this rotator packs a lot of operating convenience into a small package. It’s ideal
for weekend trips to a rare grid square for
VHF/UHF operating, a short-term public
service event, or any other portable operation where having a light-duty rotator in
the middle of nowhere saves effort and
maximizes operating ease.
Manufacturer: Portable Rotation, 4010
Foothills Blvd, Ste 103 #118, Roseville,
CA 95747, tel 800-366-9216; www.
portablerotation.com. Price: $329.95;
Buddi­pole Adapter Kit, $29.95; carry bag,
ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio®
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