Working radio at remote location!
By Ulf Larsson SM0LCB/SM7LCB
It’s a fine feeling to get home from work, settle down in that comfortable chair and then check out the bands. I put out a CQ call with the keyer and get a reply from a station in England. Sure it’s fine but a little strange since I have no antenna or radio in my shack here in Solna (close to Stockholm) where I live. My antenna and radio are in our summer cottage down on the island of Öland off the south east coast of Sweden. Working a station in England isn’t especially unique – but it is when you work it on 10 GHz.
How is this done then? Let me try to explain in this article! I will let others explain how long range QSO’s can be made on microwave.
Ulf SM0LCB at home in Solna active as SM7LCB on Öland.
I first started to plan remote operation at the beginning of the 1990’s but at that time couldn’t find suitable cheap technical methods to implement remote control within a reasonable frame.
Towards the end of the century when the Internet became more widespread and with it broad-band, I bought an Icom IC-706 transceiver. The best thing about this station is that it has a removable front control panel which is absolutely necessary for remote operation since the control panel remains at home and the radio is at the remote location. In year 2000 I had the radio remotely controlled between two computers at home in the shack. Then began a few years development to find out how the rest of a functioning remote system would work out. In my case a remote system would cover the following items –
- Remote control of the IC-706 transceiver.
- Remote control of the antenna rotor.
- Remote control of the transverter, firstly for 1.3 GHz and higher bands.
- Sound transfer to and from the transceiver.
- The Transfer of CW – manipulator keyer or hand key signals to and from the transceiver.
All these items excepting the last one were soon operational and worked locally in my shack. I worked many Nordic Activity Contests on 1.3 Hz with this setup. I tested the remote control of the rotor system during my many visits to the island. In the spring of 2004 broadband was introduced on the island and it was time to seriously launch remote control between Solna and Öland. The summer of 2004 became intensive, installing the antennas, building the radio hut by the antennas, hanging up the coax between the antenna hut and the cottage and finally installing the computers broadband and the software. When I left the island in August 2004 everything was fixed and working.
I was full of excitement when I got home to Solna and connected to the Internet, powered up the radio on the island and began to work radio through the remote system. Everything worked just as planned and I was a very happy radio amateur when I first heard the noise from the radio on the island in the loudspeakers at home. The real test came during the NAC contest on 1,3 GHz in august and I am still active in this contest. I have also managed to work many fine rain scatters and tropo-openings which are good fun, amongst others I have worked F1ANH (SSB 1558 km) on 1,3 GHz as well as GM4LBV (CW 1169 km) on 10GHz. More about this is on my home-page where log sheets, maps with squares worked and recordings of the many QSO’s worked on microwaves can be found. The answer to the question, ”Why work radio on microwaves”? can also be found there.
How have I managed all this you might wonder? Well, you buy a radio and hack a bit of code any radio ham worth his salt should be able to do it don’t you think? Lets not joke about it, there has been an awful lot of hacking code and that has taken a long time. Most of the methods used to work out the remote commands are described on my home page, but here’s a short list of methods.
- Remote control of the IC-706.
- Remote rotor control.
- Remote control of the transverter mainly for 1.3GHz and higher bands.
- Sound transfer to and from the transceiver.
- Keyer and hand-key signal transfer to and from the transceiver.
Is remote control of radio’s here to stay? The answer is Yes! At present I live in a QTH, Solna, which does not enable me to work microwave, so remote operation is a necessity for me to be able to work theses bands. Of course remote operation can be done in other ways but for me it was important to solve the problem by using my own equipment and software in the true radio amateur spirit. Already there are complete solutions on the markets and it won’t be long before they are available from the radio amateur stockists, then it will be easy for the ordinary “mains socket amateur” to use this method.
However I am pleased with my own solution which allows me to operate my radio wherever I may be with the front panel on the desk and to call CQ with the manipulator-keyer or hand key to my transceiver on the island of Öland. For instance when I was present at the VHF-meeting in Norway I listened and worked my radio on the island of Öland in Sweden. It felt real good.
73's de ULF. SM0LCB/SM7LCB
Translated from Swedish by Derek/SM5RN.