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VK7HH/P remote station upgrade

Nov 052018

It's been a while between posts, so it's time to share an update on the remote station progress. Last year during the summer season I purchased the RemoteRig RRC-1258MkIIs and a FT-857 to control a remote station on a mountaintop just outside of Hobart. The idea behind this was due to my poor location at home, I could run WSPR on the 2m band, with yagis pointing North and West, switchable remotely from a high site, away from noise and with a relatively good outlook. This worked very well and I was able to make several SSB contacts, and get decoded on WSPR regularly. 

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With the success of the "trial" last summer, I was keen to upgrade the station to include 70cm and 23cm. This would enable me to work across all three bands when tropo conditions are favourable, particularly to VK5 where I had several very strong contacts on 2m, and wished that I had the higher bands available to try.

The first major hurdle was antennas. I needed to install a rotator at the site and have it controllable remotely. This would cut down at least one of the 2m yagis too. The beamwidth on 70cm and 23cm would be too narrow to just pick one location and hope that it covers the areas I'd like to work - for example I wanted to work ZL on 2m last year, but neither one of the yagis pointed that direction.

I decided to sacrifice my rotator at home. It had been a reliable proven performer over the years and I was already able to remotely control it. Along with the rotator, a modified section of tower was also re-purposed from home. This was installed on site (after much difficultly hoisting up the mast). The rotator is a Yaesu G-1000DXA, heavy duty, which will be suitable as the site is rather exposed to harsh winds. Below is a photo with the AIS (currently running) and 2m yagi (temporarily disconnected).

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We also installed AIS monitoring. This will enable us to pickup any "early warning" Sporadic E openings from ships, or tropo paths across water. General data can be viewed here - https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/stations/4274 although we've noticed this does not always report DX ships if there is only a couple of AIS messages received. It's hoped to pipe the data to DXMaps which will allow us to report it publicly.

The next job is to install 70cm and 23cm antennas at the site and get all antennas aligned. With any luck the gear for inside will be ready too. Now onto that...

The 857 will still be the radio used for 2m and 70cm. I ran a Tokyo Hi-Power Amp which enabled me to run the radio at a lower power, whilst getting 160W out of the amplifier on 2m SSB. The WSPR software throttles my output back to a normal 50W when running that mode.

VK4ALF has been kind enough to provide a complimentary to the 2m amp in one for 70cm. This will allow 80W of output rather than the 20W that the radio is capable of by itself.  

23cm requires the use of a transverter. As of the start of November, I am still waiting on hearing from SG-Labs who have a 144 to 1296 transverter and 25W amp. Currently they are out of stock.

Antennas for 70cm and 23cm were purchased from a store in Serbia. They are yet to arrive.

Of course, with remote stations, you need to think ahead and plan for everything. You can't just go and do a power cycle of gear for example if something gets stuck or goes wrong. Seeing as though this site is a 180km round trip, I also don't want to have to waste 3 hours just to flick a switch. Even more frustrating if it's the middle of summer when the openings are happening.

After a fair bit of researching, I came across a post in a forum by the FlexRadio guys on a web relay board which is controlled over IP. This is a KMTronic 8 channel relay board which gives switching up to 15A at 12/24V and the current status of the output.

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I purchased one off eBay from Bulgaria at a reasonable price. I was more interested in the current status of the outputs in case I walked away and forgot about it. A bonus was this relay board allows you to rename the outputs in the web interface.

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All other wiring is being completed and it's hoped the remote station will be on air before the main summer DX period begins. This station will provide many benefits to DX stations looking to work it, and using the WSPR beacon as a propagation tool. A GoFundMe page has been setup to aid in the funding of the upgrade and continued maintenance/power etc of the station. https://www.gofundme.com/vk7hh-remote-station

I'd like to thank VK2KRR, VK2IJM, VK2DVM, VK3PP, VK3DXE, VK4ALF and VK7MRS for their hard work and generosity in getting this on air.

Next update will be shortly.

  

 

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