In the previous articles in this series, we explained how we integrated a FlexRadio-6700 Software Defined Radio (SDR) into our station and how we used it as a platform to build the Remote Operating Gateway for our station. The project has turned out to be somewhat involved so we will be providing a series of articles to explain what we did:
- Part 1 – System Design and Hardware Installation
- Part 2 – Client/Server Setup and Software (Shack Equipment, Computers, and Software Enabling Remote Operation)
- Part 3 – On The Air Remote! (this post)
- Part 4 – Remote Operating Enhancements
- Satellite Station 4.0 Part 7 – Flex SDR Satellite Transceiver to Enable Remote Satellite Operation
- PTT Switch for Remote Operation
- Operating FT8 Remote on the 6m band
With all of the hardware and software installed and the integration steps complete, we will show some examples of using our remote operating setup on the air in this article. The first set of operating examples was made using the Remote Operating Client PC in our Home Office. This system is shown in the picture above.
We were able to make several contacts with the VK9WA DXpedition to Willis Island using our remote operating setup. The picture above provides a closer look at how we set up our Remote Client PC to work VK9WA (you can click on the pictures here to see a larger view). We just completed a CW contact with the VK9WA DXpedition on 40m and you can see that we have the QSO logged in DXLab’s DXKeeper. We used CW Skimmer to help determine where the operator was listening (more on this in a bit). We also used our Elecraft KPA500 Amplifier to make it a little easier to break through the pileup.
The picture above shows a better view of the second monitor on our Remote Client PC. SmartSDR is running to control our FlexRadio-6700 SDR and it is set up for split operation in CW mode on the 40m band. We also have DXLab’s DXView running and we used it to point our antennas to the short path heading for the VK9WA DXpedition. Finally, we used DXLab’s WinWarbler to remotely key the Winkeyer connected to our SDR in the shack to make the actual contact.
VK9WA DXpedition 30m Pileup Viewed From CW Skimmer
The video above shows the VK9WA DXpedition operating split in CW mode on the 30m band. Note how CW Skimmer allows us to see exactly where the operator is listening (the VK9WA operator’s signal is the green bar at the bottom and the stations being worked can be seen sending a “599” near the top). You can see many of the folks trying to work the VK9WA DXpedition move near the last station that is worked in the pileup video.
VK9WA DXpedition 30m Pileup Viewed From SmartSDR
The next video shows the VK9WA pileup in the SmartSDR application which controls the radio. This video provides a closer look at how SmartSDR is set up for split operation. Can you find the station that the VK9WA operator worked? It is not quite in Slice Receiver B’s passband.
We also configured our Laptop PC to be a Remote Operating Client for our station. Our Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Headset is used as both a wireless microphone and headphones with this system. Our Laptop Client PC can be used from any location on our property via the WiFi Wireless extension of our Home Network.
Since our Laptop PC has limited screen space, we created a configuration of overlapping windows to provide access to SmartSDR, key elements of the DXLab Suite, and the applications which control/monitor our KPA500 Amplifier and Antennas. Each window is arranged so that a portion of it is always visible so that we can click on any required window to bring it forward when we need to use it.
Operating From Our Remote Laptop Client – A 20m SSB QSO
The video above shows a QSO that we made with AD0PY, David, and his friend Daniel in Missouri, USA. We used the FlexRadio-6700 SDR/SmartSDR combination in VOX mode to make transmit keying simpler. At the beginning of the QSO, we turned our antennas to point to AD0PY. Also, note the operation of the KPA500 Amplifier when we transmit in the video. The QSO is logged in DXLab’s DXKeeper at the end of the contact in the usual way. It’s fun to make casual contacts this way!
As you can see from this post, there is very little difference when we operate our station remotely or from our shack. This was an important goal that shaped the design of our Remote Operating Gateway and Client PC setup. Future posts will provide some details on how we set up the CW Skimmer and Digital Mode (RTTY, PSK, and JT65/JT9) software to work on our Remote PC Clients.
– Fred, AB1OC
When operating remote from your laptop you do not go in the details of setting up DXKeeper for maintaining your log. Did you establish a new DB on the laptop and plan to merge it to DXKeeper later or are you using some cloud solution. Interested in the details.
I do setup a different workspace to DXKeeper on my laptop but I user the same log DB from all of my PCs. Our log DB’s are stored in a dropbox which keeps them in sync across all of our PCs including the laptop. The separate workspace for the laptop handles things like differences in window positions and change to COM ports for devices when they are remote.
– Fred (AB1OC)
Fred, these posts are very interesting and informative. There is a wealth of information here that I am still digesting. I am very interested in the Flex SDR technology. Thank you for sharing!