Tim Bruno of RAD Electronics has designed a "black box" intercom system that is said to reduce background noise and combine a lot of options for ultralight pilots.
Flying open-air ultralights often presents a problem in communication because of the high noise environment. Over the years many headsets and intercom designs have helped pilots overcome much of the noise. A new company called RAD Electronics has come up with an affordable "black box" intercom system that is claimed to reduce background noise and combine a lot of options for the pilot.
"I ended up going with a type of noise reduction which has never been done in an ultralight intercom," claims RAD owner Tim Bruno. "My wife Shari and I wanted to get something on the market that was [affordable], really versatile and does everything in one box."
Called the TAC 100, the intercom features a unique electronic noise-limiting design, allowing for comfortable intercom volume while it reduces unwanted ambient noise. Powered by a 9-volt alkaline battery or 12-volt DC power, the intercom comes with a music jack for CD, tape or radio; two transceiver ports for air-to-air or air-to-ground communication; dual volume and threshold controls; user-adjustable output gain controls for push-to-talk arrangements; and durable anodized finish.
Measuring 1.5 by 4 by 4 inches, the intercom can be panel mounted or placed in a portable "RAD Pak."
"Electronic noise and ambient noise are two different things," Bruno explains. "Electronic noise is caused by the engine, lighting coils, tachometer, magneto switches and strobe lights. That's all usually taken care of by putting a circuit board in the intercom box. The protection is the circuit board and the aluminum box.
"Ambient noise is just what comes into your microphones and ends up going through your speakers. Therefore we have adjustable noise-attenuation so you can actually limit your background noise. And it's not a squelch like in general aviation. It's never been done in this market before. It's a compressor-limited circuit that actually compresses the waveform when there's low voltage coming through the microphone such as ambient noise. But when you speak into the microphone, it agitates the microphone diaphragm, creating more voltage break but you don't hear it working as fast. Again, it's not a squelch. You won't cut off first and last words, you don't have to yell to break it. You can talk pretty naturally even at full-power takeoff. You don't have to throttle back, because the intercom works well enough even to fly as a single-place and plug into the intercom just as you listen to music or whatever you want to do while you're flying.
"We've also gone to a 4-layer circuit board in our intercom box, which is heavily shielded. The box is usually what does a lot of the noise suppression."
What if a pilot already has a helmet and headset system and he just wants the intercom box? Is that retrofittable?
"If it's a single-plug system, yes," says Bruno. "So you don't have to replace your whole system, just your intercom if you want better noise attenuation. They're all surface mount, all the jacks are surface mount, eliminating the wires in the box."
RAD Electronics also manufactures communication helmets and headsets. "We have 8 different color earcups, four different color helmet combinations, and interface cables for all the popular radios," says Bruno.Info: RAD Electronics, Inc., W9509 County Road JJ, Dept. UF, Wautoma, WI 54982.
Phone: (920) 787-3572.
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