VK5SW's Remote Radio Setup
Control End Internet connection Radio End
The Internet has changed our lives. It has definitely impacted the hobby of Amateur Radio. For me, the prospect of setting up a remote ham radio station seemed rather daunting at first but I soon came to realize that it wasn't that difficult. Remote operating is possible nowadays because of computers being connected together via the Internet. One such online computer connected to a Ham radio transceiver is known as the ' host ' computer, while another online computer, usually some distance away is called the ' remote ' computer. Suitable software is installed in both computers. Since this remote computer is able to communicate with the host computer via the Internet, it is able to control and operate the radio which is connected to the host. The system I use here is called 'Remoterig'. This Swedish company uses a Remoterig 'black box' as the 'dedicated computer.' One at the Control end and the other at the Radio end. Various configurations are able to be employed so that you can operate remotely.
This image shows the Remoterig 'Control and Radio black boxes.'
Information about the Remoterig system can be found at Remoterig.com
At the control end, in my case, I use CW and also a computer running Ham Radio Deluxe on the digital modes. (By the way, when running HRD and Signalink USB for the digital modes, Signalink USB is connected to Remoterig at the Control end.) This computer is connected to the Remoterig module which is connected via the Internet to the other Remoterig module at the radio end. Of course, the Remoterig at the radio end is connected to the Ham Radio transceiver. The Remoterig software needs to be configured to suit your system of operation. This is done via a computer Internet interface. The Internet connection at the radio end at our Getaway property in the Australian Bush is a wireless 3G connection. External Internet (mobile phone) antennas are needed here to receive the signals from the nearest town, ten kilometres away. The Internet connection at the Control end here at home is ADSL2 via the telephone landline. The distance between the control and radio locations is about 150 kilometres but the distance doesn't really matter. The location of the property at the radio end is fairly isolated so the background noise level on the radio is strength zero. Since the radio end is unattended, an SMS Relay switch is used to turn on and off the radio when I'm at home, 150 klms away. I have the switch and wi-fi modem connected to a 12 volt battery all the time. The radio draws around 3 amps on receive, so the SMS switch is used to turn on both the radio and Remoterig when operating and then afterwards, switch them off again. By using your 'smart' mobile phone, this SMS switch is turned on or off when you send the appropriate SMS message to the number of the Sim card within the switch. An SMS message is then sent back to you, after you have sent the SMS, to let you know that the relay switch has been turned on or off, as the case may be.
With most modern radios, within the menu settings, you can find the 'Total On Time' or 'TOT'. For remote operating, I understand that this should be set to 3 minutes. This is a safety feature for remote operating (eg. in the event of losing Internet connection) whereby the transmitter having been turned on for 3 minutes will automatically switch off - from transmit to receive.
The following images give you some idea of my remote radio setup.
This configuration which I use is only one of those available.
The Control End
The Radio End
150 klms away
The location of the Ham Radio station in the South Australian Bush.
The wireless Internet antenna The SMS switch external antenna
(You could probably use a single antenna with a 'splitter.')
The blue SMS switch is shown to the left of the radio, an Icom IC-7600. The Remoterig and wi-fi Internet modem can
be seen in the foreground. These components are powered by a large 12 volt battery which is charged by a solar panel.
A screenshot of Ham Radio Deluxe using BPSK31 at the Control End while operating remotely.
I approached the setting up of the Remoterig system in a leisurely fashion. I tend to do things in a hurry and I know what it's like to put pressure on yourself to finish something and then when things don't work out, you feel frustrated. Firstly, I printed off the instruction manual. There are over 200 pages. I read the manual over a long period of time and only did the work when I felt inclined. I kept coming back to it after reading more of the manual.
In my case, since we have a wireless 3G connection at the radio end, the quality of the connection is dependent on Internet traffic. I have found that the 3G connection is not that reliable during weekends and public holidays. Even so, connection permitting, I am now able to get on the air when ever I want to, even if my Ham Radio station is 150 klms away. Thanks to the global reach of the Internet, remote stations like this can be operated from just about anywhere in the world.
I would like to say that I am no expert with this mode of operating. Like most, I have learnt from trial and error. Having the control end and radio end far apart, means that I have had to travel long distances when time allowed to correct this system when there were problems. After about 12 months, I felt comfortable with the way the system was working even though I initially had things working ok after a couple of months. I found that small problems would surface which I could not correct until I could get to the radio location. The problems were not always with the system as such but also with things like the Internet antenna cable or the power to the wi-fi modem for example.
Power Line Interference at my home Qth is often strength nine but the background noise level on the remote radio is strength zero. For me, this is one of the greatest benefits of remote operating. There is plenty of room for antennas at the radio location too. If you have any comments or queries, feel free to send me an email. If you would like to set up a remote Ham Radio station, I recommend that you purchase a copy of the ARRL's 'Remote Operating for Amateur Radio'.
For more information and if you would like to see my other remotely operated radio, an FT-897, click here.
Remote operating from just about any where in the world.
Last updated Nov. 2014
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