Parks On The Air®

Parks on the Air® (POTA) is an international radiosport award program that encourages licensed amateur radio operators to visit, enjoy and operate portable equipment in a variety of parks and public lands, always respecting other park users and local regulations. POTA issues awards to participants based on a wide range of criteria including the total number of radio contacts made, number made on each amateur radio band, and for different modes of communication including voice, Morse code or FT8.

Amateur radio operators who set up a temporary station at a park are known as activators, while others who ‘spot’ and complete contacts with them are called hunters. Activations can take place on the initiative of an individual operator, or as part of organized group events such as Field Days. Equipment used is typically small, battery operated, and may have been constructed by the operator themselves. The radio may be hand-held, carried in a backpack or a ‘go box’, or it could be mounted in a vehicle, as permitted by the park operator. Antennas may be small enough to form part of a hand-held unit for VHF and UHF operations, or be ground-spike or tripod-mounted temporary whips or loops for longer high frequency (HF) radio wavelengths. Where permitted by local regulations, kites, trees or lightweight masts and fishing poles are sometimes used to suspend wire antennas as high as possible to optimize performance. In this way, with patience, skill, and good luck with propagation conditions, contacts can sometimes be made worldwide using radios a little larger than a pack of playing cards, although some activators prefer to use higher power, more sophisticated and larger equipment.

Activators can signal their intent to be on the air in advance using the POTA website, so that hunters are ready for them. Activators log all the contacts they make and upload them to the POTA website, which then allocates the rewards and shows league tables for everyone involved. A successful activation requires a minimum of 10 contacts (QSOs) from a park in the designated list within a single UTC day (Zulu day).