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What is QRP?

What is QRP?

“QRP” is a term often used to refer to low power amateur radio operation, typically using transmit power of 5W or less. The reasons for operating a low power transmitter may be born out of space constraints at home or perhaps a need to lighten the load carried for portable operation in the great outdoors. Low power operation presents many challenges to amateur radio operators but the rewards are great – imagine the thrill of making intercontinental contacts with less power than an energy-saving light bulb!

As well as the challenges of operating at low power, there are a number of more earthly benefits to QRP operations.

Elegant Simplicity

Amateur radio doesn't have to be an expensive hobby. Low power equipment tends to be small and can present a low cost entry point into the hobby although it's wise to understand the 'challenge' aspect of operating at low power. There is also a wide range of electronics kits available for amateurs to build their own equipment and, for the more adventurous or experienced, home-brew is also an option.

Simple Antennas

QRP is often an approach used by radio amateurs with space constraints at home or perhaps those who don't wish to advertise to the neighbours, so-called 'stealth amateur radio'. Low power transmitters are much less likely to cause interference to other electrical devices and this allows placement of antennas in attic spaces.

It also eases the requirements on antenna construction allowing use of thinner wire and unobtrusive installations around the modern home. Keeping transmit power low allows use of unobtrusive, easily constructed antennas.

Lightweight Portable Equipment

Another advantage of low power equipment is the ease with which it can be taken out into the great outdoors. Having lighter, more portable equipment allows the radio amateur to reach the best locations, further away from the car. What can outdoor locations offer? Away from the electrical noise of modern civilisation receivers will offer better performance and the performance of our low power transmitters can be enhanced by factors like height, proximity to water and reflections off surrounding terrain.

Station Optimisation

One of the challenges in low power operation is learning efficient ways of using the transmitter to make every Watt count. QRP operators typically employ narrow bandwidth transmission modes like CW (using Morse code) and modern data modes such as PSK31 that concentrate the transmitter's power and improve the distance over which contacts can be made.

There are, of course, many ways of making performance improvements in a radio station and QRP operation encourages radio amateurs to learn more about every aspect of the hobby.

QRP operation allows lightweight equipment that can be easily set up outdoors.

What can be done?

Low power amateur radio operation involves an investment of time and patience. Good results will depend on both care in the selection of equipment and some luck with propagation conditions. Worldwide contacts can be achieved with QRP and represent a real achievement to the radio amateur who chooses to explore this avenue of the hobby.

The map on the right shows an example of QRP results – contacts made using 5W transmit power and simple wire antennas located in an attic.

Page content by Andy G7UHN gratefully acknowledged.

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