Remote Radio Operation

As I have mentioned in pasts entries I can not operate from my RF noisy apartment. I do now have an IC-703+ set up and monitoring 28.05 MHz, 52.525 MHz and 50.081 MHz with the idea that I might participate in some local CW practice. I have heard one station, amazingly enough one from Hawaii, on 28.05 MHz, but as I type this the signal meter reads S5-7 noise on all three frequencies, usually it’s S7+.  So most of my operation is in the car or from the apartment remotely operating a radio 35 miles away at work. Recently I received an email asking about my remote operation. Since I have never really explained how I do this and how it works in one post I thought this would be a good thing to do. Here is how I do it and how I made it work for me.

The radio I use is the Kenwood TS-590s. I use and prefer to use all Kenwood software. So I use the ARCP-590 and ARVP-10R in the apartment. ARCP is for control and ARVP is the audio VOIP. At work I have a Windows machine that is hooked by RS-232 cable to the rig for control. I avoided using a USB connection due to lag and issues with Windows dealing with a USB port for audio and control. There I have the ARHP-590 and ARVP-10H running with VNC. VNC is used just so I can get in and adjust audio levels, restart software or the computer if really needed. On this end I have a Plantronics headset. On that end I use the speaker out and the line in ports to a couple of in line transformers then the ACC2 port on the radio. I use a 1:1 transformer for the rig audio out (ACC2) to the computer line input. I use an 8 ohm to 500 ohm transformer to go from the computer audio out to the Audio in pin on ACC2. This prevents ground loops and hum.

I just retired an old Pentium 4 computer on the radio end. That is too slow for the audio. One could use a much older computer for control, but with the Pentium 4 the audio, both receive and transmit, would cut out about every ten seconds. An even older machine I tried once had even worse audio cut outs. That was still the case with me going into Windows and maximizing RAM, etc to favor audio. By the way I have Win7 on the apartment computer and Win8.1 on the rig end and they work fine.

With a pair of the Remote Rig boxes I could run CW with this setup and drop the need for a computer on the radio end. I have been a bit skeptical of that, but will probably eventually try them.

So what do I think about how it all works? I think it’s great. It beats not operating or having to drive into work anytime I want to use the radio, which is not always possible, or sitting out in the truck with the Kenwood TS-480sat and a Hamstick antenna. I went out to the truck in -17 degrees to work a couple SKCC contacts for the K3Y event last month.

One recommendation. As I mentioned I use a Windows machine to access the radio at work. I have a second computer, an iMac exclusively running Ubuntu Linux that is used to run the N1MM logging software and occasionally check a contact on QRZ. One can use just one computer, but I highly recommend using one computer for control of the rig and another computer for everything else, logging, QRZ and whatever. When I first started doing this I can’t tell you how many times I went to hit transmit (I have it as F2) and the control software was not the active window because I was trying to log or look at QRZ. This was very frustrating and it really slows down one’s contact rate. So it is best if you can dedicate a machine for radio control. By the way don’t forget to set the radio time out timer to on. It is rare to lose internet here, but it has happened during three contests in the past two years.


About Tim

Amateur Radio operator, television broadcast engineer living in Minnesota.
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2 Responses to Remote Radio Operation

  1. corky says:

    Operating remotely with all that equipment is a long ways from where I started with a home built HW-8 from Heathkit, a wire dipole fed with coax without a balun, and a 2 dollar Radio Shack straight key.

    Im happy to see all this new remote technology, but sometimes I just want to get back to the basics without some clown down the street stepping all over me with his 1500 watts .

    I remember seeing a photo, in perhaps one of the ARRL handbooks, of a guy, or couple of guys, operating on top of a mountain somewhere. As a youth, my mind ignited with excitement when I first noticed that photo.

    Good work, Tim, in utilizing the best of the best. Someday, hopefully, we will meet again on the nets for a QSO – and we’ll just have to see just how little power we need to communicate half way around the world.

  2. Tim says:

    Thanks Corky, The mountain top operating has become very popular. Check out SOTA. I found out about it right after we moved from Tennessee to flat Minnesota.:)

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