Remote amateur radio: Ham spirit from Germany to Argentina
The new way of life
Emigrating has never been an easy task. It is hard to leave behind family, friends, traditions and even a hobby. Coming from Argentina to Germany means a 180-degree turn in all aspects of daily life and that includes my hobby, amateur radio.
My Argentine amateur radio license is LU8MIL. I got the license in 2004 when I was 17 years old. When I arrived in Germany, unfortunately the language, the bureaucracy and the restrictions prevented me from enjoying the hobby to the fullest. Until I finally thought about the possibility of setting up a radio station in Argentina and controlling it remotely via the Internet. It seemed crazy. But that's what this hobby is all about. We hams are all a little crazy, right?
Remote Station Project
As a place to set up the remote station, the choice quickly fell on my mother's house. It is located in Mendoza, Argentina. A medium-sized city in mid-western Argentina, near the border with Chile, at the foot of the Andes Mountains. The house has three floors, which makes it a good height, and my mother is already used to having antennas and cables hanging from the roof (I think she deserves an amateur radio license as an honorary degree). The final impetus for the decision was the introduction of fiber optic internet in Mendoza and the possibility of having a good internet connection. The rest was just a matter of designing the station, visiting wimo.com, traveling, and setting up the radio and antennas.
Today, both Yaesu and ICOM offer solutions to operate their radios remotely. ICOM has the RS-BA1 software and YAESU has the SCU-LAN10. Both work great. I decided to use the IC-7300 from ICOM. Alternatively, this would also have been possible with the FT-991A, which would then also have allowed operation on 2m and 70cm.
When designing a remote station for the first time, simplicity should be emphasized, simplicity is a must. The more complicated the installation, the more likely it is to fail, and the more complicated the repair.... which would then have to be done by my mother via video call. For this reason, I opted for a multiband antenna from Argentina, similar to the Cushcraft D4. This allowed me to dispense with multiple cables and complicated antenna switches and to operate the 40, 20, 15 and 10 meter bands. A few months later, when the new remote antenna switches and software solutions came on the market (e.g. the Antenna Genius from 4O3A) I regretted my decision. But a constant expansion of the station is part of our great hobby.....
Another important topic in connection with the antenna is the grounding of the station and if necessary a lightning protection. Fortunately, there is a very high mobile phone antenna about 60 meters from my house, which tends to catch the lightning (hopefully ;-)). In any case, I installed a surge protector and grounded the station and antenna. The unit has been connected to the antenna 24/7 for 4 years now and has never had any problems. A Paradan safety antenna relay would be a useful addition, but would further complicate the concept.
My Rotary Dipole does not have a distinctive directional pattern but I still provided the ability to rotate it, perhaps a larger antenna will come here as well in the next step. I chose the SPID rotor system because it includes a USB interface for remote control and because I have a mast at home that fits perfectly. I also considered the Yaesu option with its mast mounting kit and USB control unit as an alternative. Also worth mentioning here is the ARCO from microHAM which has recently become available on the market.
24/7 PC management
The entire remote station is managed by a Lenovo miniPC, which I access remotely via Teamviewer. It runs the ICOM software, antenna rotor, SDR, IP cameras. Etc.
The software doesn't demand much from a PC. In my case, I use a 7 year old dual core i5 with 8 GB of memory. The best part is that it is a work PC. This one has the feature in the BIOS to turn on automatically when power is connected. This is very useful after power outages.
Initially I had problems with disconnects and reboots due to RF interference and the USB ports are very sensitive, especially at 40m for me. I was able to solve the problem with ferrites on the USB cables and a cladding wave lock on the transceiver and a current balun on the antenna.
Operating my station in Argentina from Germany means entering a virtual world. When I turn on the radio and listen to my colleagues 14,000 km away as if they were right next to me, I feel transported directly to my home country. It's virtually impossible for them to realize that I'm far away. They are often very surprised when I tell them that I am sitting in Germany. The latency of 300ms is negligible for normal QSOs, but a bit high for contests. Sometimes I miss the first vowels of my counterpart. But with a little technique (e.g. release PTT before) the problem is solved.
Why should you have a remote station?
Modern life in small apartments, interference from LED lights, Chinese chargers, solar inverters and etc. complicate the amateur radio passion - make it increasingly difficult to enjoy amateur radio in big cities. The ever-improving availability of high-speed Internet access via landline, cellular and, in the future, satellite, gives us the ability to set up a remote station virtually anywhere Internet access and power are available.
My recommendation for your Remote Station: Recommended by LU8MIL
Here you can find the products of my current remote Station in a bundle: Remote Station by LU8MIL
If you want to have a look over LU8MIL's shoulder while he is on the radio, we have just the right thing for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xXmyutN0kc&t=447s