Building a Remote Station with My Flex Radio

Like many of us, I have had to relocate my home station outside of town to get away from man-made interference caused by Solar regulators, LED lights, NBN modems, plasma TVs and the list goes on. This is becoming almost the norm in today’s age of cheap non-EMC compliant devices and little to no government controls on the same devices.

I got talking to my mate Stu who is also a ham but lives in a semi-rural area just north of Perth and we decided to pool our resources to build a cracker station that could also be used remotely. He had a 10m tower and a great shack. I relocated my Flex 6700, SPE1K-FA amplifier, Green Heron rotator controller and a TH5 tri-band yagi. Since then we brought two more hams into the group, each of whom are also contributing equipment or infrastructure, so by the end of the year, we will have the TH5 up around 17m off the ground, 2 amplifiers, 2 HF contest stations, a tilt-over tower capable of holding 3m2 of wind-loading, a 6 element LPA for 6m, a yagi for 17m and 12m and a steerable dipole for 40m. Hoping it will be a cracker contesting station as well as a remote station so we can have a tilt at the next RD contest, as well as the big DX contests next year as the sun spot cycle continues to build. Look out NCRG, The VK2GGC Callemondah crew, the VK4KW Lachlan Valley crew etc. We are coming for you in 2022!

The radio access is the most challenging aspect of building a remote station. My requirements were;

1. Intuitive to use

2. Reliable

3. Capable of use on all modes, including FT8

4. Good monitoring of all aspects of the station

5. Separate logging for each user (so they can choose their own favourite logging software)

 

We chose the Flex 6000 series radio as the transceiver of choice. The radio is used in exactly the same way remotely as it is locally. Serial and audio streaming for electronic logging and digital modes was very intuitive to use and integrates seamlessly with HRD, N1MM and WSJT, covering normal logging, contest logging and digital modes. For multiple digital mode software (I use WSJT-X, DM-780 and JS-Call) I can run separate comm ports, audio streams and radio slices for each package (plus separate slices for SSB and CW) – up to 8 in total.

All packages feed contact data back to my central point of reference (HRD Logbook), which then backs my log up to Clublog as well in case my PC crashes.

Because we have 4 operators accessing the station (plus the odd prospective Flex customer taking the station for a test drive), we each have separate global profiles for each mode of operation. This allows each of us to configure the radio however we want it, without affecting how other users configure it. All that is required is that as we turn the radio on, we select our own global profile and voila! It is exactly how we left it last time.

 

Because the comm ports and audio streams are connected between my PC and the radio via the same SmartLink™ server used for SSDR, it is easy to connect to all these other apps one needs in the shack these days. I use N1MM in normal everyday use to stream DX spot data to the Pan Adapter on SSDR (so that the spots come up on my spectrum display). I also use the same package as a voice keyer so I don’t have to sit around calling CQ manually (I like a good rag chew on SSB but I hate calling CQ on a dead 10m for an hour at a time).

To manage the amplifier and rotator controller, we have a Raspberry Pi on site that is permanently connected to those devices as well as running a digital O/P card that allows us to switch the radio on and off remotely. We use AnyDesk to connect to the Pi as a remote user, then from there we can control the rotator and monitor the amplifier using a Node Red Dashboard. Our dashboard brings together the rotator controller, monitoring of the radio and amplifier, network parameters and even shows the Solar Flux data. 

So.. how has this all worked so far? Well, I’m having some fun on the WIA DX Leader Board. 19 days in to the one year competition with 108 countries worked, 61 slots on SSB and 286 on FT8, and that is with having to share the station with 3 others, and fitting in work as well as continuing to build the station. I also note that there are 7 of the top 30 DX’ers on the leader board are using Flex Radios. Not bad given that there are less than 1% of all radios sold in VK are Flex branded. The station just works. It’s hugely reliable. One of our members of our group is in his 80s and coping with the technology just fine. 

So what do you think? Do you have a remote station or want to build one? Jump on over to our Facebook page and share your story.