ARRL Field Day is the Nashua Area Radio Society’s largest and most popular annual activity. You can see more about our recent Field Day activities on our Field Day page and our Blog. We recently got together for a Field Day Station Test.
Dave Merchant K1DLM, our Field Day chairman, is bringing 21st-century radio and computer technology to our Field Day setup this year. There are several aspects to this new component of our Field Day plans, including –
- Two Flex-6700 Software Define Radios running over a network for our new Digital and enhanced GOTA Stations
- An on-site WiFi Network to enable using the N1MM+ Logger in network mode for sharing log information, station activity, real-time scores, and messages
- A central Score Board and Field Day Information Computer in our public information tent
2017 Field Day Site – Upper Field Layout
We will again be holding our 2017 Field Day operation at the Hollis-Brookline High School in Hollis, NH. We plan to use the upper baseball field area as our main operating location. We have decided to add a third tower this year and locate it on a soccer practice field several hundred feet from our main operating area. Our antennas and equipment will lie within the required 1000′ circle, but the third tower would situate those operating at that location away from the rest of our group. Dave’s solution to this problem was to set up a network and operate two Software Defined Radios (SDRs) at the lower site remotely from our location on the upper field.
Dave has enlisted Piece Fortin, K1FOP, as our IT Chairman for Field Day this year. Pierce has been instrumental, along with Dave, in the planning and testing of this new technology. Pierce and Dave have a great deal of networking, IT experience, and knowledge, and we could not have put together what is described here without them.
Dave K1DLM, Piece, Hamilton K1HMS, Mike Ryan K1WVO, Anita AB1QB, and I have gotten together multiple times to set up and test this new technology. I wanted to share more about the equipment and the associated testing (staged in the kitchen at our QTH – thank you, Anita!).
We began the testing process by setting up our 20m CW station.
20m CW Station Test
This station uses an Elecraft K3S Transceiver, a K1EL WinKeyer, and the N1MM+ Logger on a Windows 10 Laptop PC. We used this station to get our basic N1MM+ setup, including our Field Day CW keying macros working.
40m SSB Station Test
Next came our 40m SSB station. This setup uses an Icom IC-7300 Transceiver, allowing us to set up and test N1MM+ on the fly audio macro recording and playback. All three SSB stations will have on-the-fly recording and playback capability, allowing each SSB operator to record and use a custom set of audio macros.
Digital Station Test
Next came our Digital Station. This station uses one of the two remote Flex-6700 SDRs.
Remote Flex-6700 SDRs and Antenna Switch
Dave, K1DLM put together a really nice package for the two Flex-6700 SDRs and associated equipment, which will be located on the lower field. He used a rack system to mount the two SDRs, power supplies, a three-band Tri-plexor, a set of bandpass filters for 80m, 40m, 20m, 15m, and 10m, and a 403A 8×2 networked antenna switch. This setup allows either of the two SDRs to share the tri-band yagi or the 40m and 80m Inverted-V antennas on the tower on the lower field and operate on any of the 5 available HF bands. Antenna and filter switching automatically track the frequencies of the two SDRs making the setup simple.
Digital Station Second Display – SmartSDR and N1MM+
The Digital Station’s remote SDR will be operated using a SmartSDR client running on the Digital Station laptop PC. This station will have a second monitor to better accommodate all of the windows associated with it.
Digital Station Main Display – N1MM+
The main display associated with the Digital Station will run decoders for all PSK and RTTY modes. The ability to decode multiple PSK signals simultaneously and multiple RTTY decodes are available. The Digital station also acts as the N1MM+ master station in our Field Day setup for all other stations that use N1MM+.
Satellite Station Test
Our Satellite Station 2.0 was also added to the test setup. It uses a MacBook Air laptop running MacDoppler to control the antenna rotators and the Icom IC-9100 Transceiver, part of our Satellite Station. A Windows 10 Surface Pro computer, which runs N1MM+ and provides logging and other network functionality for our Satellite Station, is included.
GOTA Station Test
We also tested our GOTA station, which uses the second Flex-6700 SDR and a FlexRadio Maestro to provide a more conventional “buttons and knobs” interface for our GOTA operators. This station will also have a laptop PC running N1MM+ for logging.
We also built and tested a Scoreboard PC. This computer will be in the Public Information tent at Field Day and connected to a large display. It will show our real-time score, QSOs being logged as they are made, and other useful information about our Field Day operations. This computer will also continuously play videos from our Video Collection and provide access to IP video cameras monitoring the tower and equipment on the lower field.
Pierce, K1FOP and Hamilton, K1HMS Testing CW Stations
Our networked N1MM+ testbed contained at least one station of each type (CW, SSB, Digital, Satellite, and GOTA) that will be part of our Field Day setup this year. The Station Masters for the additional CW and SSB stations came by to test their setups using the test bed.
Field Day Networking System
The networking system Dave and Pierce built is central to all the technology described here. All of the gear is mounted in a single rack which will be located on the upper field during Field Day. The setup includes a Firewall/DHCP server, a commercial-grade outdoor WiFi access point, a 4G LTE modem for Internet access, an Ethernet Switch, and a UPS power supply.
MoCA Data Link Cable
The upper and lower fields at our Field Day site are separated by several hundred feet. A thick line of trees between the two locations raised concerns about connecting the upper and lower sites using WiFi. Pierce came up with a great solution to this problem – we will be using MoCA Data Modems and RG6 Quad Shield 75 ohm Coax Cable to provide a 10 Mbps data link between the two sites. We tested the MoCA link using a much longer coax cable run than we needed at Field Day and confirmed the full 10 Mbps throughput.
N1MM+ Talk Window
Our networked N1MM+ setup will allow any station in our setup to send messages to everyone who is operating at Field Day. We can use this capability for important communications like “Lunch is ready!” or “I need help from Pierce (our IT chairman) on the 40m SSB station,” or “The 6m band is wide open!”.
Our GOTA and Digital stations will be together in the same tent and will provide our Field Day 2017 visitors to see and use 21st-century Amateur Radio technology to make contacts. We are expecting young people who participated in our High-Altitude Balloon project and from other local schools where we have done Amateur Radio activities to attend. In addition to being a learning opportunity for all of us in the Nashua Area Radio Society, we hope that the state-of-the-art technology that we are using will generate interest among our visitors. If you are local to the Nashua, NH, USA area, come pay us a visit during 2017 Field Day. We’d enjoy providing you and your family a tour and a chance to Get On The Air. Hope to see you at Field Day!