Radios for Powered
by Jeff Goin and others, Updated 07-10-2007
See also Helmets
Aviation Handheld Radios
Besides being a PPG instructor, Robin Rumbolt is an electronics guru who
does helmet repairs and has worked with several different radios. He has
offered a few tips while acknowledging there are other good systems out
there that he simply hasn't had experience with.
These are probably the most reliable since they are built for
aircraft but are also the most expensive. They work using old AM
technology so they have no better quality than
the Ham radios mentioned next. Their biggest advantage is allowing communications
with airplanes, control towers and airports (unicom). Few paramotor
helmets work with aviation radios but
all aviation radios work with all aviation headsets.
Although the inputs
vary from brand to brand, they all come with, or have available, adapters (frequently called
pigtails) that accept a standard aviation plug pair. On one end, the
pigtail plugs into the proprietary radio receptacles, the other end
accepts standard aviation plugs: a 1/4" plug for the headset and a
skinnier one for the microphone.
Electronics: Aviation radios are made
to work with certain established standards and have two plugs, one
smaller one for the microphone and a 1/4 inch plug for the earphones.
Helicopters use a wider, single plug with more rings.
Robin likes the Icom IC-A6—it is nice in that it works with standard electret
microphones, but it does have a weird two prong (Ed: Robin can make
adapters for it).
See reviews of
A designated frequency in the 2-meter ham hand-helds has been used
by free flight pilots for many years. Legally, you must either have a ham
licensee or join USHPA and pass a simple test to use their channel. Although many pilots use
them illegally, the FCC has, when spurred by upset legal users, come
down on the lawbreakers.
The mainstay of paramotor communications is FRS/GMRS (Family Radio
Service/General Mobile Radio Service). Cheap and common, most paramotor
helmets sold in the U.S. are made to work with these radios that are
available at Best Buy, Radio Shack, Walmart and similiar stores all over
FRS means Family Radio Service and GMRS is General Mobile
Radio Service. Use of GMRS frequencies, usually the top 7 channels, is
more powerful but requires a $75 FCC License.
The most common plug is
now the same diameter as those used for cell phone headsets (before
Bluetooth gained popularity). Be careful about length, though. Motorola,
for example, requires a slightly longer plug than other manufacturers
and so, even though the plugs look identical, if you're plugging into a
Motorola radio, it may work intermittently.
Some FRS radios (in the past, these were more common) use a two-prong setup where the
earpiece uses an 1/8" plug and the microphone uses a smaller