Back to the future
It has been two years since my last post, but I am happy to report that you may expect to see more regular reports henceforth.
During the past two years, W4MPS, W4MY, N4HAY, W4CX, AA4OO and I have been working on several projects relating to Amateur Radio Station WQ4RP, the station being known as Excalibur by members of the KnightLites QRP Society.
In the forthcoming posts, we will be sharing details of major infrastructure improvements at Excalibur, along with highlights from our QRP related activities:
- Completed microwave internet link to Excalibur site
- Installed a 1.5KW solar panel array
- Increased battery capacity to 8.5KW (660AH capacity at 12.8VDC)
- Updated solar charge controllers
- Implemented internet based remote control of the station.
- Operated several contests as Multi-Op entry
Remote control of the Excalibur Station
This Winter, the Excalibur team was able to realize the longtime goal of implementing remote control of WQ4RP using a Remoterig system.
The Remoterig system at WQ4RP consists of one Radio Unit and several Control Units–one Control Unit being being located at the QTH of each remote operator. The Radio Unit is located adjacent to the Flex 6300 transceiver at the Excalibur site, and it controls the routing of audio and control signals between the Flex radio and the outside world.
Marc, W4MPS recently put Remoterig to the test during the North Carolina QSO Party. Marc was located at the QTH of Marty Young, W4MY, who lives about 25 miles from the Excalibur Site. Marc kindly submitted his comments below.
Comments from Marc, W4MPS:
I was excited when Paul announced his retirement. After asking him 20 times “what are you waiting for?”, he finally gave in. I’m sure he doesn’t regret it. I was even more excited when he started work on a remote station setup for Excalibur. I hadn’t been very active since my XYL Eileen passed away in July. About a year before, we relocated to a smaller, more manageable QTH. The new home is great, but there is very little room for antennas. I did manage to shoot up an end fed, but it’s not very efficient. So when I heard Paul’s plans, I was the first to raise my hand.
After purchasing a RemoteRig RRC-1258 MxII remote controller unit, Paul and I set out to get it up and running. Our goal was to be remotely QRV for the NC QSO Party. If we were successful, I agreed to operate digital modes from Marty’s QTH (W4MY) to hand out digital bonus Q’s for the Chairmen’s Challenge Award and for W4DW.
Paul had the patience of a saint as we confronted one obstacle after another. We thought we had all the programming and settings correct at least three times. But each time, Murphy reared his ugly head and we were back to scratching ours. Patience and persistence prevailed and all appeared to be FB the week before the contest.
We then set out to add multiband options to the Excalibur antenna site. I had my trusty 282 foot 80 meter loop antenna just sitting around doing nothing. I loved using it at my previous QTH and missed it very much. What better addition to Excalibur than that? Down came the 80 meter dipole, and up went the 80 meter horizontal loop. Since it’s a continuous loop connected to twinlead, the trick was getting it over and in the clear of all the elevated radials at the site. We did our best to imitate two of the Three Stooges, but managed to figure it out. It fits perfectly and with some pretty slick slingshots, were able to get it up to a respectable height. Excalibur now has switchable choices between the 160 meter vertical loop and the 80 meter horizontal loop.
Operating from my home QTH, I ran some signal strength comparisons on FT8 between my end fed and the Excalibur 80M loop.Here are a few examples on 20 meters:
Excalibur Loop W4MPS EF
R5AJ +06 -05
W1BUB +03 -15
UA9CEL -01 -17
Pretty incredible. I’d say the loop is doing well. It loads on 80 through 6, and even loads on 160, although we don’t intend to use it on that band.
Remote operations were flawless from W4MY. Marty was on Phone, Dave, WN4AFP (SCQP Chairman), was on CW and I was on Digital. Paul was there first thing to insure that we had no glitches. After everything appeared to be working well, we demonstrated a CW QSO on 80 meters to Kim, KY4FAB, Marty’s XYL. They were receiving my CW signal emanating from Excalibur to Dave’s K2 599. We were both seated in Marty’s living room. Then we all got a big laugh when we realized the situation: “Now let me get this straight. We just spent a bunch of money and about a week’s worth of aggravation, so that Marc could communicate with Marty who was seated 3 feet away in the living room?” YUP, ‘fraid so! Great, isn’t it?
The next effort will be Stew Perry 160 CW on March 9-10. It will be a totally remote, QRP, battery powered effort. I’ll be at my home QTH, Paul will be at his, and only the equipment will be at Excalibur. Should be fun.
Many thanks to Paul for working with me to get my remote up and running. I’m looking forward to many enjoyable QSO’s with the new setup.
Sir Marc, W4MPS (5 March 2019)
Please stay tuned for more specifics on the Remoterig system in the next edition of AA4XX.com.