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Created on Tuesday, 20 March 2012 Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 November 2013 Written by Scott Myers

The DARA Communication Van

 A little history - Our first Comm Vehicle

As the Dayton Amateur Radio Association began to flourish in the seventies, several of its members enjoyed public service events, so they got together and were able to find an Argosy Motorhome.  After several months of hard work, design and implementation, they finally came up a communications van they could use.  Several years went by and the amount of members that volunteered to be on the van committee continued to grow. By the end of the eighties, we had 7 van crews of 10 or more for each crew.  We also had the retirement crew , which were not really retired, but they were the most senior members that enjoyed getting together and take the DARA Van out to schools for "Show and Tell" 

By this time it was apparent that the old van needed an overhaul and a good paint job. We commissioned to have the white van painted to a deep blue color.  At the same time, we wanted to give it more character. After several discussions and meetings it was decided to put a picture of a "blue Smurf" toward the back of the vehicle. Children at this time enjoyed the smurfs and it was a hit at all the show and tells.  Of course the members had fun name the newly repainted DARA Van, the "Smurf Mobile"

We kept this van for another 10 years until we hit some hard times.  The van started to show its age and was going to end up costing several thousand dollars to keep it going, so the board decided to get rid of the old Smurf Mobile.

More Recent History - Our 2nd Communications Van

Several year passed since our van was gone and the club was back in good financial standing and the members wanted a communications van. When some of the members came to the board and expressed their interest in getting a van, they looked around and found used EMT Van.  After reviewing the condition of the van  and what it would take to retrofit it, the cost and all information it was decided to go ahead and the club went ahead and purchased it.  Several more months went by and after a paint job, an overhaul of the insides and equipping the van with the newest radios and antennas, we had a communications van for our events.

But as time passed, this van also became worn and was need of replacement.

Our Current Communications Van (Well, more of a truck really)

By late 2009, the 2nd DARA communications van was becoming so tired that it was beyond the economy of reasonable repair.  It was also too small for the size of our club and was severely under-equipped for the number of events we wanted to work.  So in early 2010, discussion began as to the direction we wanted to take.  After considering and investigating many different types of vehicles/trailers, we found a local company that specialized in “Truck Upfitting” that made Mac Tool trucks, Police Command Units, and other similar vehicles.  Upon visiting them, we found that they had a good used Freightliner 29’ truck that would work perfectly for our needs.  And so began the design phase.

In March of 2012, the construction began.  The truck was initially gutted of its old interior and a double layer of insulation was added.  Over the next 10 months, thousands of feet of power and network wiring were installed, along with walls, doors, roof, cabinetry and LED lighting.  A large exterior compartment was added for the generator as well as three additional compartments for storage.  Finally in January of 2013 the trucks exterior and interior were completed.  Three additional months were spent running thousands of feet of antenna cabling and installation of radios and other equipment.   Proudly, in May of 2013, the truck debuted at the Dayton Hamvention.

The interior is designed with 4 primary and 2 secondary operator positions, a multi-purpose rear room prewired for additional operating positions, 4 equipment racks, a pneumatic 40’ mast, many UHF/VHF radios, 2 HF radios, 2 rack-mount PC’s and a laptop, cell phone repeater system, internet broadband link, a 12 KVA diesel generator and more technology than any other mobile communications truck that we know of.  It even has a 65’ outdoor TV monitor facing outward and a full sound reinforcement system with matrix mixing.

Here is a partial list of the equipment in the 2013 DARA Communications truck.

·         FLEX 6500 Software Defined Radio
·         ICOM 7000 HF/2m/440 Radio
·         ICOM 2820 2m/440 Radio w/DSTAR
·         (3) ICOM 2720 2m/440 Radios
·         (2) Kenwood D710 2m/440 radios w/APRS connectivity
·         (4) Byonics All-In-One APRS Trackers
·         ICOM ID-1   1200MHZ Radio
·         Yaesu 736R – 2m/440 Radio
·         (4) Arlan Communications “RadioSport” Headsets
·         Wilbert 40 Foot Pneumatic Mast
·         Green Heron Rotor Controller
·         Ham IV Rotator
·         STEPPIR 3-element HF Beam
·         Butternut HF6V Vertical HF antenna
·         Tarheel Screwdriver Antenna
·         Cradlepoint Wireless Verizon Internet
·         Cellular Repeater
·         Suntronics  65” LCD Monitor
·         (2) Rack Mount PC’s
·         Allen & Heath audio matrix mixer with 16 input channels
·         (2) Allen & Heath Rotary encoder control panels
·         Pioneer Blu-Ray/DVD Player
·         QSC Powered Loudspeakers & Subwoofer
·         Audio-Technica 4000 series Wireless Microphone system
·         Shure Wired Microphone
·         Garmin 3590LMT GPS
·         Microwave
·         12V/120V Refrigerator

·         12KW NexGen Generator w/Kubota Engine



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