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Running 3 complete stations via remote control, when not at QTH

Thanks so much for stopping by my QRZ Page. If you are interested in operating your amateur station by remote control, as inexpensively as possible, you have come to the right place. See down the page for details and check back periodically for updates. Previous active calls VE3YUF and VA3VEC, see my VA3VEC QRZ page for previous operations at former qth.

QSL cards, Please do not send me US Stamped return envelopes, just your return address (SAE). Unfortunately, US postage stamps do not work going out from Canada .

I will answer any QSL Card ,EQSL or LOTW. For Mail QSL Cards, please send $1US & sae and I will send one out ASAP

Hello all from Colborne Ontario, Canada Grid FN14bb. Enjoying HF, VHF & UHF SSB weak signal skeds. Catch me on 144.205 Mhz at 08:00 (Eastern) when Im not working, using the Kenwood TS2000 , 2M SSB antenna is 17B2 and 350W amp. On 432Mhz,  running 100W, usually listening on 432.100 using TS790A 719 Cushcraft antenna and on 1296.100, running barefoot 7W using a 45 Element Looper.

6 Meters catch  me on 50.125 or up during the ES season, or above if the band is open.

I was originally Licenced in 1992 under the call VE3YUF (which I still have and use for packet / APRS) .

Below: House 50Ft tower - 17B2 Cushcraft 2M SSB antenna, 719 Cushcraft 432Mhz SSB antenna, Triband 6m/2m/70cm vertical. 1296 beam is a 45 Element Looper which I have on a temp mast, at the bottom of the stack. Plans for a second 17b2, 719 will place the looper at the top of the tower stack shortly. Coax Fed 80 Meter Windom and rx antennas also below top of tower.

 

HF & 6 Meter Tower

Main HAM Shack setup - using TS2000 for 2m, 70cm SSB

Upstairs Shack Consists of the following:

Main HAM Shack Setup:

Icom 746 Pro - 100W 160-2 meters all mode - Remote Radio 1

Icom IC2KL / AT500 500W Amplifier & Tuner, fully automatic band switching

Henry 3KA HF Console Amplifier 1500W PEP out nominal (or more)

Kenwood TS2000 - Remote Radio 2   (using on 2 meters, 70cm all mode)

TE Systems 1452G , 25Win (max) 350W out on 2 meters 

RF Concepts RFC4-110 - 10W in 100W out 70cm

Kenwood TS790A 2m all mode, 70cm all mode W/ 23cm Module installed - Remote Radio 3

Main HAM Shack FM Only Radios:

ID800H Dstar Dual VHF/UHF Band FM

Yeasu FT8900R Quad Band FM 10, 6 , 2 70cm 

Kenwood TMD700A APRS Dual Band Radio

Uniden BCD996T Digital Scanner

Base Antenna Setup:

KLM / Mirage KT34A Tri Band 4 Element Beam

Coax fed Windom 80-6 meters

Imax 2000 10-20 Meter Vertical

A505S 5 Element 6 meter Beam

17B2 17 Element 2 meter SSB Beam

719 - 19 Element 70CM SSB Beam

45 Element "Looper" 23cm Beam

GP15 x 2 Triband Vericals - 6 meter, 2 meter 70cm Omni

JTB4 x 2 (copy of GP15) 

Henry 3K-A Console model HF Amp. The plate transformer alone weighs in at 100lbs. Entire unit more than 150lbs. at 3800V this amp will put out more than legal limit!

REMOTE CONTROL of HAM shack - 3 radio stations

 I have been working on remote control of my shack radios since 2012 - 2013, adding control equipment as I learned more about how to do it. It is so neat and have been asked  to share the details, and if I can help others do the same, just drop me a line.

The idea of remote control of the station started to make sense when at our summer cottage after seeing a presentation at our local club a few years back, and the thought of installing another station at the cottage just seemed to be redundant with the technology available today, thus was the starting point of my project. Im remote controlling 3-4 rigs and two rotators. Why control more than one rig you may ask? In my case I was looking for multiple antennas and polarity for HF, 6M & 2M FM (IC746pro) and 2M, 432 & 1296Mhz SSB (TS790A & TS2000S) It just made more sense to me since I had the rigs when I started on the project, and it gives me the ability to operate 12 antennas remotely.. If you are going to go remote control you likely want to operate one rig to start to keep it simple.

What is required for remote control? Two or Three Control items depending on what bands and modes you wish to operate, and what your home station consists of rigs antennas etc. My list is............

1) Rig (Cat) Control

2) Rig Audio Control In and Out (if the remote control program doesnt handle audio such as in the case of HRD5)

3) Antenna Rotator Control*

*(if you are into 6 Meter, VHF/UHF ssb and weak signal work this is a must, but if you are using a dipole on HF, rotator obviously will not be required)

External equipment and software needed (that I use)

CAT Control --> Home Shack control computer - Pentium 4 Duo Core using Windows Vista and high speed internet (im pretty sure Windows XP or above will be fine)-  Ham Radio Deluxe Version 5 (last release of version 5) **I strongly recommend using a UPS on the Shack Computer, that way you dont have to run home to reset the system when the power goes out! My Remote Computer - using Small ASUS Netbook (see pics below) tethered via my smartphone. I can also control the station via smartphone alone with theTeamviewer  App. Can log into the remote server computer from anywhere with high speed internet as long as Teamviewer  installed on that computer.

Audio In / Out --> Signal Link USB x 3 (one for each radio) by Tigertronics hardware and Skype software installed on remote and local computers and/or cellphone . Teamviewer working on VOIP again August 2015. 

Rotator Control --> ERC Easy Rotor Control x 2 (one for each antenna stack). check out the website for more info at www.easy-rotor-control.com . I bought the ERC Version 4 USB version of the control card. You can also buy a version that works with Azimuth and Elevation rotators for those into EME.  They are easy to assemble, easy to install in any rotor control that has a voltage feedback (displays position of antenna on controller). ERC also supplies a calibration program, rotor control program and they have excellent tech support.  I am using two of the ERC Version 4 cards, one in the rotor box for the HF & 6 meter stack with the T2X hygain rotator and one in the rotor box for the VHF/UHF stack with the Hygain Ham 4 rotator.. Note: Power for the ERC cards requires 12VDC external (since most rotators operate at 24V or more) so make sure the rotor cards are powered by pure DC from a good DC supply like the one you power the radios from, cheap wall adapters will cause the cards to act irratic (I know from experience) and I made up some good DC cords that terminate on the 30A PSU with the radios, and properly fused for the current draw for the rotor cards.

My Project Start

CAT Control - "The beginning of remote control of my shack ":  Rig control is an excellent place to start and this is where I started on the project. It began with getting more familiar with Ham Radio Deluxe Version 5 and all its features. This is a free version of HRD and I cant say enough about it. There are several other programs that will work for Rig/CAT control including Kenwood & Icom software which works great as well from what I have seen . Some of the other remote control programs will also handle the audio porting as well, but you will likely have to pay for the program. HRD5 , Teamviewer & Skype are free, and I was aiming to do the project as cost effective as possible. Ham Radio Deluxe allows you to remote control many features, especially on newer rigs including: change frequency and (In my case with the Icom 746Pro) can control other items such as power level, RF gain, squelch, filter width,  tune the radio tuner, and most importantly save all your favourite frequencies and modes.. In the case of my older radio that I use for VHF/UHF SSB, the TS790A Kenwood, I can only control the frequency in VFO mode, the mode and some other minor features, but not power levels, squelch, RF Gain etc.  Most Older CAT featured radios didn't offer these features in CAT control yet. For SSB though you dont require squelch control and in most cases I want my power to be 160W through the Mirage Amp hard keyed and driven by the TS790A and its 40 W SSB, so this is not an issue for me. I have been using HRD for a fairly long time now, much longer than i was considering remote control . Even now when Im at the home station, most of the time I control the rigs locally in the house using HRD instead of being right at the rigs, it just seems to make HAM radio more fun to operate for me, to have the mobility to operate the station from anywhere..

Audio:  Below - picture of the signallink that controls the TS790A audio in and out, also shown is the Hygain rotor controller that has the ERC controller installed (not shown)

Next I started working with the audio porting through the computer to and from the radios .....I use the Signal link USB units made by Tigertronics - www.tigertronics.com , Also Rigblasters are another option that MAY work but i have not tested them to verify this personally . The Signal Link SLUSB units I use are very nice independant units with sound cards built in and plug right into the USB port on the computer. Very cool. You can make up jumper cables for the interface between the radio and Signal Link, or order the unit with the cables already made, and then you simply have to install the jumper wires inside the unit for the specific radio....close it up and its done. The signallink units have audio in and out gain controls on the front, and delay for ssb. I also use these same interfaces for Digital modes, and the cables (depending on the radio and what configuration you wish to use) plug into the back of the radios not to disturb microphones in the front. Also real slick! You can see one of my signallinks mounted above the rotor control box in the above picture of the remote shack.

 

There are two different ways I control the audio to and from the radio. In September of 2014, they changed the VOIP console on Teamviewer so someone actually has to physically activate (unmute) the audio settings on the remote computer screen, they changed it back on August of 2015 .You will need to set up Skype on both computers and your cellphone (if you wish to use one), . I prefer to use skype anyways to handle the audio in and out through my cellphone when operating via remote. You create two different skype accounts and call yourself on the home computer. Set it to auto answer on the station end.  I find the audio just sounds like im on the phone when I use it and if I didnt tell other HAM's I was remote they likely wouldnt know as long as the internet connection is good.. Below you can see the setting for the audio path on the home computer for Skype, this is in the options menu for Skype under audio settings. I am using two radios, so I have to make sure Im on the correct audio path for that radio before I transmit. Again you can simply Label the USB Codecs for each radio to make it easy as I did.

Rotator Control: As I mentioned above, I ordered the ERC Ver 4 from ERC in Germany. it took 7 business days to arrive at my door.  All this after waiting 3 weeks for Idiom Press in Oregon to NOT get back to me after 5 emails and 3 calls over 3 weeks. Read more about other HAMS bad experiences with Idiom on EHAM and QRZ, but I wouldnt recommend them for their terrible customer service and the fact Idiom cards are more expensive than ERC. ERC lets you turn the existing rotor into a Yeasu GS232B protocol, and the program they provide is just point and click, or you could use the HRD internal program if you wish. They both work.To control both rotators, I simply switch com ports on the little rotor control on the left from one to the other, no need to open a new window. As soon as it connects to the card it will tell you the azimuth of the rotator.

Station Remote Control  Screen:  I use a 90" screen and HD projector at home and use remote control even now when at home.  You can see the rotator control program open on the left, and HRD on the right with two tabs open (one for each radio)

Remote Control Using Team Viewer :

As you can see in the photo, I have created several profiles , one for each of my computers, and renamed them according to their purpose. I also operate an APRS Igate and Digipeater here and want to be able to turn it off and on remotely, so its also on the list.  You simply click on the computer you wish to control and it will log you in. Once logged in you can operate the computer remotely. Everything is password protected for security.

Now on to operation in the mobile.......

Picture: Radio stack as it looked before I started with remote control in the vehicle. Most of this equipment could likely be removed now as its redundant, though its good for backup & testing. The stack the radios are mounted on are made for emergency vehicles, which I purchased in the 90's and have had mounted in four pickup trucks so far, just upgrading the radios on the stack over the years/.

And what it looks like now.

Mobile Remote Control of shack:  **Check your local laws as its illegal in many areas to operate other than hands free on a cellphone, and this is one of the reasons I operate using the bluetooth headset. Using the computer while driving is illegal in my Province **

Nonetheless, even with the restrictions, this is really neat when a good cell connection is obtainable, as you will be dependant on a good cell signal.  I use either my cellphone and/or my laptop tethered to my cellphone. TeamViewer as mentioned allows you to see exactly what is on the screen at your home computer (see above and below), and thus operate several programs at once if need be including digital programs, rotor control etc. HRD does have its own remote control module built in, but this only operates HRD, and not the other programs. HRD also requires some ports on your router at home to be opened, where Teamviewer does not.  HRD 5 also will not operate on a cellphone (yet) but Teamviewer 10 will using the Smartphone app. so you can just operate HRD on the smartphone running teamviewer as the client. and use Skype for the audio in and out of the rig. 

Mobile Audio:  While driving I recommend using the earbuds and lapel microphone, especially at highway speeds. If not most bluetooth headsets will pick up way too much road noise and will sound terrible to the other operators.  Use a bluetooth while sitting stopped somewhere with minimal background noise in the vehicle is fine.  I have experimented with this for a year and believe me I have had great and terrible audio reports with bluetooth, but nothing but good reports with the lapel mic and earphones. Dont forget to mute Skype if you dont want to false transmit as skype and your signal link will act as a vox circuit on your radio back home.

Here is some pics of my radios with the remote operation also in operation in my F150 pickup truck. You can see my smartphone attached to the mobile Cell booster mount running Skype app.on my radio stack for easy screen access, and my Netbook on the centre counsole in the truck connected to the home station computer through Teamviewer 9. I use velcro to keep the laptop from moving when driving. Also attached are DC cords so mobile use will not drain the batteries in the units. I wear a bluetooth headset when Im driving, and just mute the mic on the smartphone screen when Im not in transmit.

 

Cellphone Booster for Smartphone. I purchased the Wilson 4G-C Cradle. It comes with external magnet antenna and the booster unit the phone drops into. Its adjustable for various phone sizes. Unit is powered by a USB cord 5.5V. Accessory kit is also available for base station use which will come in handy at the cottage. Accessory kit also comes with extension mount as shown in the picture below. I can report an improvement in signals on 4G, and will be testing this product and report back with my findings later.

 

Cost of the Project (over and above regular station equipment)

Signallinks $120CDN each x 3 = $360

ERC cards $ 66 euros or around $100 each x 2 = $200

Mobile Cell Booster and Accessory kit $250CDN

Our total was around $800 CDN to make the station completely remote control on three station tranceivers, two rotator controllers with a cell phone booster to provide better cell coverage in the spotty areas while operating from the mobile.  Most HAMS will likely only want or need to control and operate one tranceiver so this will keep the cost down.  If operating remote from another location with available high speed internet, with computer laptop the smart phone and / or cell booster cradle will not be required .

upgrading rigs, antennas, rotors or computers etc this will cost more if required, but the rest (in my case) were existing equipment and the software programs are free!

There will likely be more to come as this is, and will be, an ongoing and evolving radio project. As mentioned I want to thoroughly test the cell phone booster at the cottage and either add another radio for my dipole antenna and HF vertical or buy a remote antenna switch for port 2 on the Icom 746 Pro.

This page is always in work, check back periodically for more to come - for now.......

 

73 for now

 

LED Christmas lights. 2015/2016 Season is over! - as of Feb 1st, 95% of the LED lighting is down, the rest is shut off, with the exception of a new addition called "APP Lights" . These are controlled via smartphone, and designed for themes and colours for all holidays. Right now we are showing purple and pink for Valentines Day These lights will be along the eves and peak of roof on 1st floor for the season , and will only be on around each holiday for a few days. 

 

Won the Township Lighting Contest for the Second Year!

The first comment people usually make to me is " I wouldnt want your electric bill ", my answer to that..... Ah, yes you would!. With LED lights the electrical bill is not really any more than it would be without them running as they are super efficiant, over 90% in most cases . This year I expect around a $10/ Month increase on the bill. Peanuts for the light show! Once you pay the initial cost of the LED lights, the savings start there.  Of course I usually buy my LED lights when on sale , around and after xmas is the best time for the deals. Ill be out looking for next years additions shortly.

One piece of advice, the best and longest lasting LED Light strings are the sealed type, thats the light strings where you cannot remove or replace the LED lamps.  Why?  Because water will eventually work its way into the cheaper built LED lights.  These retail light strings are fine for indoors and under canopies and porches, where protected from water , but in the open,  once water gets into the light socket(s) its only a matter of time before the lamp terminals start to corrode and fail..

2013/2014 Season - 1500 LED lights 

2014/2015 Season - 5000 LED Lights  

2015/2016 Season - 12K in LED lighting. see below

 

Please also check out my VA3VEC page for info on my other home and mobile station setups previous. Please see the VE3RTY page for info on the two repeaters operational at the site.

73 for now

De Sean

VA3HD

7055208 Last modified: 2016-02-02 01:53:05, 23893 bytes

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QRZ Logbook Summary for - VA3HD
Latest Contacts for VA3HD at QRZ.com
dedateband mode grid Country op
K1TEO 2016-02-01 6m SSB FN31jh United States JEFFREY D KLEIN
VE3ZV 2016-02-01 70cm SSB EN92vw Canada Stephen John Land
VE3ZV 2016-02-01 2m SSB EN92vw Canada Stephen John Land
VE3ZV 2016-02-01 6m SSB EN92vw Canada Stephen John Land
VA3ST 2016-02-01 6m SSB FN03ha Canada Stanley D Thimm
VA3ST 2016-02-01 2m SSB FN03ha Canada Stanley D Thimm
VA3ST 2016-02-01 70cm SSB FN03ha Canada Stanley D Thimm
VA3ELE 2016-02-01 70cm SSB FN03dm Canada Peter Paul Prabucki
VA3ELE 2016-02-01 2m SSB FN03dm Canada Peter Paul Prabucki
K3GNC 2016-02-01 2m SSB FN20ja United States JEROME N BYRD
K2LIM 2016-02-01 70cm SSB FN12mg United States LIM Amateur Radio Group
K2LIM 2016-02-01 2m SSB FN12mg United States LIM Amateur Radio Group
K2LIM 2016-02-01 6m SSB FN12mg United States LIM Amateur Radio Group
WZ1V 2016-02-01 2m CW FN31rh United States RONALD J KLIMAS
KA2ENE 2016-01-31 70cm SSB FN13fe United States HARRY E HOFFMAN

Book Totals: 49 qso's   3 confirmed Get a free logbook at QRZ.COM

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