The IC-9700 is a new VHF/UHF radio that is based upon the Software Defined Radio (SDR) platform that Icom uses in the IC-7300 and IC-7610.
It looks like this is going to be an excellent radio for Satellite, EME, and other weak-signal work on the 2 m, 70 cm, and 23 cm bands. The IC-9700 features a pan adapter display which will be very useful for working contacts through linear satellites.
Based upon previous new Transceivers release by Icom, I would guess we are at least 8 months to a year away from the time when this radio will be offered for sale in the USA.
Here’s some video of the forthcoming IC-9700 as well as other gear from Icom. The video also features other new products and updated Firmware capabilities from Icom. Enjoy!
The installation of the latest version of WSJT-X software to add current JT9, JT65, FT8, MSK144, and WSPR digital modes to our Remote Operating Setup
These steps are now complete, and we have some good results to share.
SmartSDR V2 Remote Connection
The first part of the upgrade was to update to SmartSDR V2. This upgrade enables much improved SmartSDR operation over the Internet. Our previous approach, which used a tunneled VPN connection combined with the previous versions of SmartSDR, did not always perform well when used with low-bandwidth or high-latency Internet connections. SmartSDR does much better in this area.
SmartSDR CAT Remote
Both the SmartSDR CAT and the SmartSDR DAX application have been updated to allow software on a PC being used to operate the FlexRadio SDRs over the Internet to gain access to CAT and sound interfaces associated with the radio.
FlexRadio Maestro Console
We also added a Maestro Console to enhance the usability of the SDR radio portion of our Remote Operating Gateway. The Maestro is very easy to use and extends the available controls and display space which was limited when using just a laptop PC. The Maestro supports direct microphone connections for phone operation and also works with connected CW paddles for operation in CW mode. I have been using a single-level paddle along with our Maestro at speeds of 22 WPM with full QSK. Sending CW at these speeds with the Maestro works well.
The Maestro has built-in WiFi and Ethernet connections and full support for SmartSDR V2’s connections over the Internet. The Maestro can operate from AC power or from an internal battery pack. I have a couple of spare rechargeable batteries for our Maestro to support longer operating sessions on the battery.
Using TeamViewer’s built-in VPN capability, a much simpler VPN solution can be realized. You simply install TeamViewer on a PC in your shack that can access your station accessories and on your remote-operating laptop or PC. You then enable TeamViewer’s VPN option, and the configuration is complete.
With the addition of the SmartSDR and the updated TeamViewer/VPN setup, we can operate our station remotely over the Internet. We have tested our setup using a Wireless Hotspot modem and Verizon’s LTE service. The combination of our PC running the DXLab Logging Suite and the Maestro work great in this configuration.
We have found the need to initialize the networking configuration in a specific order to get everything running correctly. The steps that we use are as follows:
Connect the laptop PC to the Internet
Bring up the TeamViewer VPN connection
Run SmartSDR on the laptop PC and log in to SmartSDR Remote
Bring up the DXLab’s Suite, including Commander (currently, DXLab’s Commander has some issues connecting when the FlexRadio protocol is used. We have found that the KENWOOD protocol works fine.)
Bring up the remote control application for the Elecraft amplifier and access our RigRunner power controller and microBit Webswitch units to turn on accessories as needed.
Initiate a second TeamViewer Remote Control connection and use it to run the microHAM remote antenna controller in a single window
Shut down SmartSDR on the laptop PC and bring up the connection to the radio via the Maestro.
There is obviously still some room for simplification in this initialization procedure. I expect some simplification as all the software involved becomes more mature and is further adapted for remote operation.
Once initialized properly, it’s simple to use the PC and Maestro combination to work SSB Phone or CW contacts. The DXLab Logging Suite will follow the radio and track modes, handle split operation, and allow control of our antenna rotators via DXView. We can click on spots in DXLab’s SpotCollector to automatically set the FlexRadio SDR’s mode, frequency, and split configuration. The Maestro and DXLab will stay in sync during tuning, mode changes, and other radio operations.
Remote Operation with WSJT-X
Remote Digital Operation using WSJT-X and FT8
The final part of this project was to add the latest version of the WSJT-X software to our Remote Operating client laptop PC to enable FT8 operation on the HF bands and MSK144 for Meteor Scatter work on 6m.
These enhancements to our Remote Operating Gateway have helped Anita and me operate more. I have our Maestro in my home office or on a table in our kitchen, where we can listen to the bands and work DX when the opportunities come up. Remote Operating, even if it’s just from another room at your QTH, is great fun!
Additional Planned Enhancements
In the near future, we should be able to begin the next step in our station upgrade plans – the addition of an Elecraft KPA1500 shared amplifier. The new amplifier will enable our Remote Operating Gateway to operate at 1500w on the HF bands and 6m.
This project has turned out to be somewhat involved, so we will be providing a series of articles to explain what we did:
We have been quite impressed with the performance of our Icom IC-7300’s radio receiver. As a result, we have decided to upgrade the second radio in Anita’s operating position to an Icom IC-7610. We expect the IC-7610’s receiver performance to be as good as or better than the IC-7300.
Icom IC-7610 External Display
The Icom IC-7610 also provides a very nice external display capability, allowing us to take the best advantage of the radio’s pan adapter. We believe that the IC-7610 will integrate easily into our microHAM system. It should be a “drop-in” replacement for our current IC-7600. We hope to see the IC-7610 shipping before the end of this year.
Elecraft KPA1500 Legal Limit Solid State Amplifier
Our microHAM Station Automation System can accommodate shared amplifiers. We will utilize this capability when integrating the Elecraft KPA1500 into our station. The shared amplifier setup will also allow us to eliminate one of our bandpass filters. The KPA1500 amplifier integrates autotuner and wattmeter functions into the amplifier and provides a direct Ethernet interface for remote control and management. These enhancements should eliminate the need for several of the remote control server software applications that we are currently running on a PC in our shack. Also, we can manage all of these functions from a single client application on a remote client PC. These simplifications will make our remote operating gateway setup more reliable and easier to use.
FlexRadio Maestro Control Console
We plan to share more on these projects in future posts here on our Blog. The FlexRadio Maestro and all the other components we need for Remote Operating Gateway enhancements have arrived. We will complete this part of our project in the very near future and post more here.
Also, the local control interface to the new Elecraft KPA1500 amplifier appears nearly identical to that used by our current Elecraft KPA500 Amplifier. This means that we can begin our shared amplifier upgrades using the KPA500. We do not have a firm date for the IC-7610 to ship and that portion of our upgrade plans is likely to be our last step in the project.
Special thanks to Dave, K1DLM, who has helped us with ideas for several aspects of this project.
Today proved some simple, tried, and true advice for me – it pays to take some time and tune through the bands. I just got a Maestro Remote Control Device for our FlexRadio SDR, and I took a break around lunchtime to tune through the higher HF bands to see what I could hear. We use a Flex SDR as a Remote Operating Gateway into our station, and the Maestro allows me to run our station over our home network without going down to the shack.
I am not sure why but I decided to give the 12m Band a look today. When I did, I was stunned! It is noon, and the 12m Band is wide open between Africa and the US!
I worked two DX stations on 12m SSB. The first was XT2AW, Harald, in Burkina Faso. Harald was working split and was not really loud, but I had no trouble completing the contact with him. Excited, I tuned across 12m some more and found an old friend – Theo, ZS6TVB, in South Africa. I had a very nice QSO with him. We both marveled over the propagation of the 12m Band we were experiencing. He was 57-58 here in New Hampshire!
12m DX – ZS6TVB South Africa
The sunspot conditions are pretty weak (SFI 85, SN 26), so such a good opening on 12m was unexpected. I believe that we may be experiencing Transequatorial Propagation (TEP), which can provide a significant propagation enhancement on paths that traverse the equator. Anita and I experienced similar TEP propagation on 10m when we were on Bora Bora Island early in 2012 with similar solar conditions.
It shows that it pays to tune the upper HF bands. Especially on days when “they are not open.” Also, 10m appears to be open to Africa right now – I hear a station in Mauritania…
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 –
An on-site WiFi Network to enable using the N1MM+ Logger in network mode for sharing of 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 which is situated several hundred feet away from our main operating area. All of 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 and 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 (which has been 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 and allowed us to set up and test N1MM+ on the fly audio macro recording and playback. All three of our SSB stations will have on-the-flyrecording 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 to use.
Digital Station Second Display – SmartSDR & More 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, which is part of our Satellite Station. A Windows 10 Surface Pro computer is included, which runs N1MM+ and provides logging and other network functionality for our Satellite Station.
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 located 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 a tour for you and your family and a chance to Get On The Air. Hope to see you at Field Day!
Every so often, I drive Fred’s truck to work and people ask me what that big antenna on the back of the truck is for. I explain to them that it is for Ham Radio. But the reply is usually, why ham radio – isn’t that outdated technology? We have cell phones and IM, etc…what do we need Ham Radio for? So I thought I would put down my thoughts as a relatively new Ham about why I enjoy spending so much of my time with Ham Radio.
Amateur Radio for Public Service
The number one reason we still need Ham Radio along with all the other technology we now have is for public service. When there is a disaster and cell phones, television, etc are all not working, Ham Radio operators provide the critical communication.
Ham Radio operators help locally to keep hospitals and first responders in contact with each other to help those affected by the disaster.
Hams also use our ability to communicate around the world on HF bands to help family members around the world to get in touch with loved ones affected by a disaster.
Ham Radio operators have been on the scene helping in every disaster from the earthquakes in Nepal to the recent flooding in California.
Amateur Radio Cube Satellites
Technology and the Maker Movement
I only became a Ham 5 years ago but many of my fellow Ham Radio operators got their license when they were in their early teens and used what they learned to launch their careers. Many have had very successful careers in STEM fields, all launched by their interest in Ham Radio at a young age. As technology advances, so does the technology used in our hobby. We even have a nobel laureate, Joe Taylor K1JT who is a ham. Joe has developed weak signal digital communication modes that let us communicate by bouncing signals off the moon!
As technology has advanced, so has the use of it in Ham Radio. Most Ham Radio operators have one or more computers in their shack. Many also have a software designed radio (SDR), where much of the radio functionality is implemented using Software, we use sound cards to run digital modes, which are a lot like texting over the radio, and we use the internet extensively as part of operating. We can also make contacts through satellites orbiting the earth and even the International Space Station.
Most hams love do-it-yourself technical projects, including building a station, home brewing an antenna, building a radio or other station component. In my day job, I am a program manager for software development projects, but its been a while since I have built anything. As a Ham I taught myself how to code in Python and about the Raspberry Pi and I built the DX Alarm Clock.
QSL Card from VK6LC in Western Australia
One of the coolest things about being an amateur radio operator is that you can communicate with other hams all over the world. Ham Radio is an international community where we all have something in common to talk about – our stations and why we enjoy ham radio. The QSL card above is from a memorable QSO with Mal, VK6LC, from Western Australia, who was the last contact that I needed for a Worked All Zones award. I must have talked to him for 1/2 hour about his town in Australia and his pet kangaroos!
Amateur Radio Map of the World
I have learned much about geography from being on the air and trying to contact as many countries as I can. There are 339 DX Entities, which are countries or other geographical entities and I have learned where each one is in order to understand where propagation will allow me make a contact. I have learned a great deal about world geography. Through exchanging QSL cards often get to see photos from so many areas of the world.
DXCC Challenge Award Plaque
Achievement – DXing and Contesting
DXing and Contesting provide a sense of achievement and exciting opportunity for competition. Many Hams work toward operating awards. You can get an operating award for contacting all 50 states, contacting 100 or more countries, contacting Islands, cities in Japan, countries in Asia, or anything else you can imagine. Each of these operating awards provides a sense of accomplishment and helps to build skills. Contesting builds skills through competition among Hams to see who can make the most contacts with the most places in 24 or 48 hours. Contesting also improves our operating skills and teaches us to copy callsigns and additional data accurately.
Teaching a License Class
Teaching Licensing Classes – Passing it On
Recently I have joined a team of club members who teach license classes to others who want to get licensed or upgrade their existing Amateur Radio licenses. Teaching provides a way to improve my presentation skills and also helps me to really understand the material that we teach about Amateur Radio. It is always a thrill at the end of the class to see so many people earn their licenses or upgrades.
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:
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.
Working The VK9WA DXpedition – Left Monitor
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.
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.
Laptop Remote Operating Client
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.
Window Arrangement For remote Operating From Laptop
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.
The next step in our Software Defined Radio/Remote Operating Project was to build a Remote Operating Gateway System in our shack and set up Client PCs to operate our station remotely. In a previous article, we explained how we integrated a FlexRadio 6700 Software Defined Radio (SDR) into our station to create a platform to build our remote operating project around. This project has turned out to be somewhat involved, so we will be providing a series of articles to explain what we did:
In this article, we will explain the additional hardware and software we used to enable remote operating and some other equipment we added to our Client PCs that we use to run our station remotely. The reader may want to refer to the picture above as you browse this article to better understand how the parts in our remote operating setup fit together. You can click on any of the pictures on our blog to see a larger, easier-to-read version.
SmartSDR Software Operating With A FlexRadio 6700 SDR
FlexRadio’s SmartSDR Software handles operating the SDR remotely. At the present state of maturity, SmartSDR can operate over a wired or wireless Ethernet LAN connection. SmartSDR and the FlexRadio-6xxx hardware must function properly on the same sub-network. FlexRadio has indicated they plan to enable SmartSDR operation over wide-area broadband internet connections. The design we chose for our Remote Operating Gateway and Client PCs will allow the operation of our entire station over the internet when SmartSDR can fully support this. SmartSDR handles remoting of audio (microphone and speakers/headphones), CW keying over our Home Network (more on this later), and control of the radio. With these essential functions taken care of, we also need to remotely control the following functions of our station to fully support remote operation:
Remote control of equipment power is particularly important to provide a means to reset/restart equipment remotely and shut down the Transmitter remotely.
Remote Gateway Control Stack – Antenna, Power, and Monitoring
Remote control of power for the components in our Remote Operating Setup is handled by a RIGRunner 4005i power control device. This unit provides remote power control over a network for up to 5 separate groups of devices. It also provides voltage/current monitoring and solid-state over-current protection.
RIGRunner Remote Power Control Setup
The figure above shows how we set up our RIGRunner 4005i. The device is controlled over our Home Network via a standard Web Browser. As you can see from the picture above, this device lets us remotely control power to all of the devices in our Remote Operating Setup.
It is also important to have full remote control of our Antennas and Rotators to effectively use our station outside our shack. Control of our Rotators is accomplished by software that remotes serial COM ports over our Home Network.
The PC in our home office will be our station’s primary remote operating location. Audio quality is important to us, and we wanted to ensure that our audio quality was just as good operating remotely as it is when we operate from our Shack. To accomplish this, we installed a Heil PR781 Microphone, PL2T Boom, and USBQ Adapter/Pre-Amp on our home office PC. The Heil USBQ is a USB sound card and microphone pre-amplifier which connects directly to the PR781 microphone to create a high-quality phone audio source that can be used with the FlexRadio-6700 SDR when operating remotely.
Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Headset
The speakers on my home office PC are quite good, but sometimes a set of headphones is needed to hear weak signals. We choose a quality Bluetooth Headset from Bose for this purpose. The Bose SoundLink Headset is lightweight, wireless, has excellent fidelity, and includes a very good microphone which can be used as an alternative to the Heil PR781. This headset is also very useful when operating from our Laptop Client PC from noisy locations outside our home (more on this in a future article).
The SmartSDR CAT application provides CAT interfaces on both our Client and Server PCs for applications that need to control or monitor what the FlexRadio-6700 SDR is doing. Many loggers and other applications are beginning to implement direct IP interfaces to the CAT channel of the FlexRadio 6xxx Series SDRs. This approach simplifies interworking between the software and the radio and appears to be more reliable than virtual COM-based CAT interfaces.
Client PC Running SmartSDR And The DXLab Suite (Home Office)
Client PC Running SmartSDR And The DXLab Suite – Right Monitor
The picture above shows a closer view of my Home Office PC’s Right monitor (click on the picture to enlarge it). SmartSDR is running the upper left corner, and I am listening to folks operate in the 2015 CQ WW DX CW Contest. The SDR is set on the 20m band, and I have the CW Keyer built into SmartSDR running. The DAX Control Panel is running on the lower right corner of the screen, and it’s set up for use with the CW Skimmer decoder. DXLab’s WinWarbler is running (top-center), enabling me to use the WinKeyer in the shack to send CW via the remote COM port associated with the WinKeyer. Below WinWarbler is the microHAMDeveloper Only application (accessed remotely via a TeamViewer connection to the Shack Server PC) which shows that I have both of our SteppIR DB36 Yagis selected as a stack and pointed towards Europe. DXLab’s DXView Rotator Control application is running in the center bottom of the screen so that we can turn our Yagis towards other parts of the world (rotators are controlled via another remote COM port). Finally, the client KPA500 Amplifier control application is running in the lower left corner to control the amplifier and to monitor the power out and SWR seen by the amplifier being used to operate remotely.
Client PC Running SmartSDR And The DXLab Suite – Left Monitor
As you can see, CW Skimmer decodes a wide range of frequencies in the 20m CW sub-band. It receives its audio in IQ format via the SmartSDR DAX application. It is great fun to operate CW this way, and I am finding myself making a lot more CW contacts now that I have the remote operating setup in my office.
The next post will provide some samples of remote operation in the form of videos. I will also share some information on setting up a Remote Operating Client on a laptop where screen space is more limited. We plan to take a trip outside our house to operate our station over the Internet and share information on how that is done. We will also provide future articles on how to set up CW Skimmer and Digital Modes (RTTY, PSK, and JT65/JT9) on the HF Bands and use them remotely.
For now, we are really enjoying the freedom to operate our station remotely!
We both really like the performance on Anita’s (AB1QB) Yaesu FTdx5000 Transceiver. It has an excellent receiver and it integrated nicely with our recently completed microHAM system. One area where the FTdx5000 Transceiver leaves a bit to be desired is its Pan Adapter or Spectrum Scope capabilities. We have both the DMU-2000 and the SM-5000 Station Monitor options for this transceiver but they do not provide the sort of high-resolution Pan Adapter features that we are looking for. When we purchased this radio, we also purchased an RFSpace SDR-IQ Software Defined Receiver device to use with it. I recently set the SDR-IQ up to operate with Anita’s FTdx5000 to get the best of both worlds – the high-performance receiver capabilities of the FTdx5000 and the high-resolution Pan Adapter and Tuning features of a Software Define Radio (SDR).
We are using Simon Brown’s (HB9DRV) SDR-Radio Console Application to control the setup. The picture above shows this software, the RFSpace SDR-IQ and the FTdx5000 in operation together in the phone section of the 20m band. As you can see, the software provides an SDR-like waterfall interface to the radio. The SDR-Radio Console software has the option to control the FTdx5000 via its CAT Interface and we have enabled this in our configuration. All one needs to do is to click on one of the signals on the waterfall or drag tune the setup with a mouse and the FTdx5000 is automatically tuned to operate on the correct frequency to receive the desired signal. The current version of the software only controls one of the FTdx5000’s two VFOs but Simon has indicated that he plans to add support for controlling a connected transceiver’s second VFO in the future. This combination results in a considerable improvement in the FTdx5000’s operating interface. In addition to the waterfall display, the SDR-Radio Console software also provides audio scope and other spectrum scope functions as part of its displays.
The RFSpace SDR-IQ Software Defined Receiver is a small unit which connects to our FTdx5000 via the IF output connection on the transceiver. This device creates a digitized IQ interface using the FTdx5000’s wide-band IF signals. Our readers should note that only a few radios have an IF output built-in – fortunately for us, the FTdx5000 does have such an output. See RFSpace’s website for some options for radios that do not have a built-in IF output. The SDR-IQ can “see” up to 190 kHz of bandwidth on the transceiver’s IF which is more than enough to cover an entire sub-band’s spectrum on most of the HF bands. The SDR-IQ unit connects to the PC which runs the SDR-Radio Console software via a USB interface (a USB 3.0 connection is recommended). With some simple configuration and adjustments to the RF levels in SDR Console, the unit was ready to go (we used the software supplied with the SDR-IQ to bring its firmware up to the latest version before setting up SDR-Radio Console). There is a Yahoo! support group for the SDR-Radio Console software and the folks there were very helpful in answering our questions as we worked through installing the setup and getting it configured.
I believe that an SDR interfaces added to an existing “knobs and buttons” transceiver can provide a transceiver system which is much easier to operate. Thanks to folks like Simon Brown, HB9DRV and his work on SDR-Radio Console software, we have yet another way to explore the world of Software Defined Radio.
Anita and I were quite active on the bands in 2013. Together we made 20,650+ contacts from a combination of our home and mobile stations and we worked a combined 259 DXCC Entities.
Combined 2013 QSOs By Band
We were active on all of the Amateur Bands available in the USA from 160m through 70cm except for the 60m and 1.25m bands. The picture above shows the distribution of our QSOs across the bands in 2013. Both of us participated in quite a few contests in 2013 and this resulted in the 5 major contest bands dominating our operating activity. I did quite a lot of work on the 160m band this year and I participated in several 160m contests to gain experience and to begin working towards a DXCC on this band. We worked a total of 50 DXCC Entities on 160m in 2013. Our 6m, 2m, and 440 MHz (70cm) contacts were made mostly during VHF/UHF contests that I participated in.
Combined 2013 QSOs By Mode
We like to operate using many different modes. Anita (AB1QB) does quite a bit of RTTY contesting and she accounted for the bulk of the activity in the digital modes from our station in 2013. I made it a point to become active using the CW mode this year and I made 1,550+ contacts using CW in 2013 including participation in several CW contests. Operations in SSB Phone mode dominated our activity this year mostly due to our operations in SSB Phone contests and as one of the New Hampshire Stations in the 2013 Colonies Special Event this year where we made a combined total of 6,200+ contacts.
QSL Cards Ready To Mail
We really enjoy sending and receiving QSL cards. We sent 5,800+ QSL cards this year, averaging approximately 110 cards sent each week. We also QSL’ed via eQSL and Logbook Of The World. I am often asked what percentage of our QSL requests are confirmed. For 2013, we received confirmations for 67% of our direct/bureau cards, 31% of the QSOs uploaded to eQSL, and 37% of the QSOs upload to LoTW. These numbers will undoubtedly rise a time goes by.
Anita has held a DXCC for some time and has been focusing on a number of JARL Awards. She completed her Japan Century Cities Award for confirming contacts with 100 cities in Japan in 2013.
AB1QB Operating In The BARTG RTTY Contest
Contesting was a big part of the operations from our station this year. I was active in several major SSB and CW contests this year and Anita was active in quite a few major RTTY and phone contests as well. We are both licensed for less that 3 years and have been competing in the Rookie or Novice categories in most contests and we have been doing quite well. Anita took 5th place in the world in the 2013 BARTG RTTY Contest and she has placed 1st in our call area in several of the 2013 ARRL Rookie Roundups in both SSB Phone and RTTY.
2013 CQ Worldwide WPX SSB Certificate
I placed 1st in North America/2nd in the World in the 2013 CQ WPX SSB Contest (Rookie High Power) and 1st in North America/2nd in the World in the 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest (Rookie High Power). Contests have provided us a great deal of operating experience and have contributed greatly to our completion of several operating awards.
Mobile Installation In Ford F-150
Station Building was a big part of our Amateur Radio experience again in 2013. We installed a mobile HF setup in our truck and did quite a bit of mobile HF operating. We made 165 contacts from our mobile station in 2013 and worked 41 DXCC entities.
WSJT EME QSO – Waterfall
I also made my first Earth-Moon-Earth Contacts on 2m in 2013. I made 30 contacts on 2m using the moon as a reflector, working a total of 16 DXCC Entities this way.
AB1QB Operating The Flex-3000 Software Defined Radio
We added a Flex-3000 Software Defined Radio (SDR) to our station in 2013 and have been using it to learn about this new technology. The performance and operating capabilities of SDR are making SDR a big part of the future of Amateur Radio in our opinion.
8-Circle Receive Array System Diagram
Antenna projects were also a part of our station building work in 2013. We installed an 8-Circle Receive Array System for 160m – 40m and this new antenna system helped us a great deal with DX’ing and contesting on 160m and 80m. We also began the reinstallation of our BigIR Vertical Antenna but the onset of winter here in New Hampshire caused us to delay the completion of this project until spring. Finally, we made the switch to the excellent DXLab logging and DX’ing software suite. DXLab helped us a great deal with QSL’ing and tracking our progress toward operating awards.
2013 Field Day CW Station Operations
We were part of the 2013 Field Day team at our local radio Club (PART in Westford, MA). We provided and managed the digital station as well as the setup of a portion of the antenna systems for our club’s field day operations.
ARRL At Dayton 2013
Anita and I attended the Dayton Hamvention again in 2013. The Dayton event is always a great opportunity to see the latest in Amateur Radio equipment. We attended the 2013 Contest University which was held as part of the Dayton Event and used the information that we learned there to continue to improve our contesting skills.
Fred Lloyd AA7BQ, Founder Of QRZ.com
The internet was a big part of our Amateur Radio experience again in 2013. We met Fred Lloyd, AA7BQ who visited us to do an article on QRZ.com on our station. We learned a great deal from Fred during the time that we spent with him as part of this project. We published 47 new articles here on our blog in 2013 and have received over 45,000 views from our readers in 152 countries around the world. We really appreciate the interest from the HAM community and we will continue to publish new articles here in 2014.
As you can tell from this article, 2013 has been a very active year for Anita and I. I’ve created the video above to give you some idea of the contacts that we have been fortunate enough to make around the world in 2013. We hope you enjoy it and we want to thank everyone who has taken the time to work us, to end us a QSL card or to read the articles that we have written here.