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Yaesu 2 meter radios
 

Which radio is best for powered paragliding?

Lite Touch Films does not sell radios, but below are some conclusions we have come to about which work best for paramotoring. This article applies to the United States. Seek additional advice if you fly in other countries.

Bands, frequencies, and all that jazz.

Choosing the frequency band is the first and most import step in buying a radio. In general, there are 3 types of radios for PPG in the US.

 
Band   Pros Cons
FRS, GMRS FM UHF 450-470 MHz cheap, no license crowded
2-meter Amateur FM VHF 144-148 MHz not crowded requires HAM license
Airband (Aviation) AM VHF 108-137 MHz talk to Air Traffic Control (ATC) requires Radio license, expensive, limited use
 
garmin rino
Garmin Rino 655t
 
Yaesu VX-270 and VX-250
Yaesu FT-270 and FT-250
 
Baofeng UV-82 and UV-5R
 
Yaesu Aviation Radios
Yaesu VXA-220 VXA-300 VXA-710
 

FRS and GMRS Radios
Popular but crowded

Previously, the powered paragliding community mostly used FRS and GMRS radios which operate on the UHF band. However, 2 Meter HAM Radios are becoming the standard. Most FRS and GMRS radios are inexpensive. However, because they require no licensing, they can be crowded near populated areas or parks. Sub frequencies may have less traffic.

Purchasing a cheap FRS radio could mean throwing money away. Some are effected by ignition noise making them unusable. Amoung the better radios are the Garmin Rhino series and the higher end Midland radios, our current favorites in this category.

2 Meter HAM Radios
No crowds, but requires a ham license

Paramotor pilots are switching away from FRS and GMRS to the 2 meter VHF Amateur Band Ham radios. Most free flight pilots already use the 2 meter band. And because these radios require a ham license in the United States, the frequencies have far less traffic. 2 meter radios also seem to be less effected by ignition noise, but stay away from digital radios. The expensive complicated digital radios tend to be more effected by ignition noise. The down side of 2 meter is greater cost and inability to communicate with paramotor pilots using FRS and GMRS. However, that problem goes away with multi band radios that have both 2 meter and FRS and GMRS frequencies.

The Yaesu FT-270 and FT-250 have been the work horses of the paragliding and powered paragliding. These are single band radios with Nickle Metal Hydrid batteries. The FT-270 is waterproof and one of the most rugged radios in its class. The Yaesu VX-6R is a multiband radio with a lithium ion battery, but a much bigger price tag.

Baofeng is the new kid on the block and their radios have taken the market by storm, offering excellent features at a fraction of the price of Yaesu. For these reasons, the Baofeng UV-82 HP is now our current favoriate 2 meter radio. The Baofeng UV-5R, an earlier version, is still popular but from what we can tell, the newer UV-82 HP is better.

  Baofeng UV-82 HP Radio   https://baofengtech.com/uv-82hp
  Baofeng Comparison Chart   https://baofengtech.com/comparechart

Multi-band radios offer both UHF and VHF bands. Before purchasing, check the specifications. Some radios may appear to be multi-band but do not transmit on all frequencies.

The Yaesu VX-6R was the top multi-band but now Baofeng offers the same features at a much lower price. The Yaesu VX-8R is a digital radio, not a good choice for paramotoring. The tiny Yaesu VX-3R works well even though it has less power. The Yaesu FT-60 multi-band has not proven to be as reliable.

The connector for the Yaesu FT-250, FT-60 and VX3R is a 1 pin push in type, no threads like the FT-270 and VX6R connector. This no thread connector tends to disconnect and for that reason, we do not recommend the Yaesu FT-250, FT-60 and VX3R.

Aviation Radios
Expensive, and limited use, requires Deluxe Com System

Some new pilots believe they need an aviation radio. While some countries require them, in the United States, aviation radios are rarely used by powered paraglider or paraglider pilots because ultralights generally do not fly in controlled airspace associated with airports: Class B, Class C, and Class D. Check out the Airspace DVD for more info. If you are outside these areas, air traffic control (ATC) would prefer not to hear from you. If you do want to fly in these areas, you will need prior permission from ATC and usually an aviation radio. Because aviation radios are AM instead of FM, they require a microphone amp. The Deluxe Com PPG Helmets has this mic amp feature. The Standard Coms do not and will not work with aviation radios.

In the comparison chart below, we did not rate aviation radios. However Icom and Yaesu are the leading brands.

     
rating radio UHF VHF Connector Battery Notes
recommended Garmin Rhino yes   1 pin Garmin/Cobra NiMH or Lithium-Ion good features
recommended Midland yes   2 pin standard NiMH or Lithium-Ion get a high end model
  Yaesu FT-250   yes 1 pin push in NiMH connector unstable
recommendedrecommended Yaesu FT-270   yes 1 pin threaded NiMH waterproof
  Yaesu FT-60 yes yes 1 pin push in NiMH connector unstable
  Yaesu VX3R yes yes 1 pin push in Lithium-Ion connector unstable
recommendedrecommended Yaesu VX6R yes yes 1 pin threaded Lithium-Ion waterproof, expensive
  Yaesu VX8R yes yes 1 pin threaded Lithium-Ion digital
recommendedrecommendedrecommended Baofeng UV-5R yes yes 2 pin Kenwood Lithium-Ion excellent value
recommendedrecommendedrecommendedrecommended Baofeng UV-82 yes yes 2 pin Kenwood Lithium-Ion excellent value, latest version
  Icom IC-V80   yes 2 pin standard NiMH reliability issues
  Icom IC-T70A yes yes 2 pin standard NiMH reliability issues
   

 

Range is not the issue

Don't get sucked in by claims of amazing range capability. Range requirements are usually minimal for paramotor pilots. They mostly fly within a mile of each other, and often within one wing span. Carry a cell phone in case you land out and need a retreive. However, if you are being chased by a retreive vehicle, range can be critical.

Quality is the issue

A poor quality radio might receive well yet trasmit so poorly that others can't understand you. Even if other pilots sound good to you, ask your flying buddies how you sound to them before judging the quality of your radio. The major cause of poor trasmission is ignition noise, usually the cheap FRS radios, especially on sub frequencies. However, some of the expensive digial multi-band radios can also pick up ignition noise.

 

VHF versus UHF Performance

Comparing performance of VHF and UHF is tricky. UHF has a better line of sight range but VHF works better with mountains or buildings in the way. A short antenna is convenient. UHF performs well will a short antenna, but not VHF. However, if you could have a long antenna running up the one of the glider lines, VHF would be probably be far superior.

Connectors

Radios use various connector styles. Make sure your helmet is compatible. Yaesu uses a proprietary single pin connector. Icom uses a more common 2 pin connector that works with some FRS radios like the midland. There is also an adaptor that converts from the Yaesu radios to a two pin connector, CT-44 for the VX-3R and CT-91 for the VX-VX-270. The our helmets are compatible with the Yaesu's, Icom's and most other radios. Check out connector types at the bottom of the Helmet page.

     
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