Since I got started in all of this, WAY back when (over a decade ago), a perennial need I looked for was electronic encrypted units for a small team- not unlike what we had in the MBITR at the time- and the search by and large turned up either way more expensive than it was worth or worse than desirable. The old Trisquare units were just ‘ok’, Motorola DTRs had limited range, limited utility, and re-manufactured batteries in most cases that had marginal battery life at best.
Over the years I’ve researched other options and the current best one for inter-team communications is Baofeng’s DM-1701 DMR radio. Its a true DMR and is fully compatible with any DMR system, which is attractive to many Hams getting into the DMR side of the hobby but as I teach in class, its also a very attractive option for small teams operating in the field. From its SMS messaging feature to the digital encoding and option for encryption, it takes capability to a new level while adding a serious layer of protection against electronic warfare and exploitation. Going back a few years, the accounts on this blog form Ukrainian Civil War is a very telling tale of the utility of DMR when implemented properly.
But with that said, many of you have asked for a ‘quick start’ to programing the DM-1701 by hand. Its a confusing rig at first. Right out of the box it’s stuck in the default memory mode, so any chance of programing that well-planned SOI is a daunting task. Well, let’s talk about how to overcome that.
Before you plug anything in, before you boot up any software, follow these instructions. Let’s get something out of the way up front: this is *not* for Ham radio use. You ain’t bullshitting with Tommy and Jeff on the local repeater with this. Now that we’re over that hurdle, let’s talk about how to set up our radio right out of the box.
- Switch it on. Wait for it to boot up. You’ll start on the top frequency when it boots up.
- Hold down the RED button on the front panel until the radio beeps. This is taking it out of memory mode and into VFO (direct frequency input) mode.
- Hit the DOWN button to go to the bottom frequency.
- Repeat Step 2.
- Enter the Operating Frequencies. These are now the frequencies you’ll be operating on.
- You’ll notice the bottom frequency is now Analog. It’ll allow you to communicate with anyone who’s got an analog radio, ie a Baofeng UV-5R.
- The top frequency is Digital (DMR). This allows the use of SMS messaging and is encoding your signal in DMR.
- Hit the Up and Down arrows to switch between the two. The radio is by default a dual watch, meaning it monitors both frequencies at once.
- Make sure all of the Timeslots and Color Codes match on your radios. This controls the modulation of the signal and how it received on the other end- more often than not, the radios won’t talk to one another because one of these is ‘off’ just a bit. Have a pen and paper handy and write down what setting your using and make sure all of them match.
And with that, you should be good to go for in-the-field programming. See, wasn’t so hard now, right? If you get hung up, that’s ok, bring it to class. I’ll get you squared away and show everyone else what we’re doing while we do it. It’s a frustrating task if you’ve never done it and I enjoy helping folks.
If you need programming help with the software, Captain Attila wrote an awesome guide here.
Happy Hunting and I’ll see you in class.