In the world of ham, or amateur, radio QRP operation is a term used to designate radio operators that are operating and transmitting at minimal power levels. This is most often done while attempting to maximize the range of the radio for the amount of power that is used. While no set level of power for QRP operation has been establish most operators try to keep it fewer than 5 or 10 watts. Within the QRP world operators take pride in using the least amount of power possible to accomplish their task. Due to the reduced power levels of a QRP radio, effectively transmitting with a QRP radio requires much more complicated antennas, not to mention the fact that the operator has to be extremely skilled at QRP operation. In most instances QRP radio operators choose to reduce their power to QRP levels simply because it makes operation much more difficult. Almost anyone can use a radio that is using 100,000 watts of power but it takes someone especially skilled and knowledgeable to operate a radio on less than 5 watts. While it is possible to use many of the newer and more expensive radios for QRP operation most true QRP operators insist on building their own QRP transceivers, which they affectionately call homebrew systems. These custom made rigs, while not as fancy as some of the mass market radios out there, are generally much more effective at using reduced power because they have been specifically built with that purpose in mind.
While operating a QRP radio one of the most common problems that an operator will face is loss of signal due to reduced power. This can make it increasingly difficult to transmit the long distances that a radio is capable of under normal power. In order to overcome signal loss most QRP operators make use of ingeniously constructed antennas that help to maximize the radio signal. Because QRP operators can take pride in operating their radio with minimal power more often than not it is even possible for these radios to be ran off of a single battery, making them both portable and highly efficient. Because weak radio signals can often be lost or congested in areas where other radio signals are common place it isn’t unheard of for a QRP operator to take their portable battery powered QRP transceiver out into more open and unoccupied space. For areas with significant population density QRP is often preferable over other types of ham radio because QRP sets cause much less interference with other electronics, such as TVs. Needless to say, working hours on end so that you can transmit to Europe or Asia with a fraction of the power used by the bigger rigs can be rather exciting. For most QRP operators the thrill comes from knowing that they can do something that most others can’t hope to accomplish. As with any other hobby, QRP operation takes time to master and the more experience you get the better you will be.
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