The purpose of this activation was to test that adding a link for 15 metres into my long-suffering linked dipole hadn’t caused issues on the other bands that it covers. Ideally, some contacts on the new 15m section would be great but this would depend upon the MUF getting high enough, which over the preceding days had not been the case.
I also had just received a new beta version of the FT8 Radio smartphone App from Dhiru, where he had added support for the G90 radio, so I needed to test that out as well. The change over just using vox as I have been doing is that the radio is now switched via CAT running over a second cable between the Xiegu G90 radio and my Android 11 smartphone. The change should also automatically move the radio to the required frequency to transmit its data message into the FT8 network, later to appear on SOTAWatch as a spot message – This is sent over RF for situations where no cell coverage for internet connectivity from the phone and even no SMS coverage. Some people would use APRS to achieve a similar result however the number of in-range APRS digital gateways on HF may be low, where HF skimmers and SDRs that receive FT8 signals are plentiful.
Checking with our small “comm Checkers” group, Mike 2E0YYY was willing to head out to his local park and Ian VK3YFD was also happy to try for contacts on the bands as we moved up them to test the antenna.
As usual, all equipment was packed and ready to go on Thursday evening for the early departure on Friday. This consists of just one backpack to carry everything needed.
The last time I activated this summit was in May under the DL20SOTA call sign, so I would not receive any activator points for this outing but the main purpose was to perform tests. The site is good for that with a nice area for setting up the 6m mast and antenna. What I had forgotten was that there is only a thin topsoil before you hit stones into which the screw-in sun umbrella base which I use to support the mast does not cut into very well. I would have been better bringing the surveyor’s tripod with me but I didn’t so I had to make do with a slightly wobbly mast.
Both Mike and I arrived at our respective sites at around the same time just after 0530 UTC (or 7:30 am local time with me) and indeed the first and only 40m contact today would be a short contact with Mike, who was having difficulty hearing me. Ian in Victoria, Australia took a listen as well, but not surprisingly no contact on 40m. So we all agreed to head up to 20m and after changing the links on the antenna and finding a free frequency, Ian, VK3YFD was the first 20m contact this morning in my log. Ian puts a good signal into Europe thanks to his beam antenna.
Mike joined Ian and me a couple of minutes later and we had a small net going. Ian was having issues with WSB on my relatively weak signal with him, but he made it work.
The next band up to test was 17m and when we all went there none of us could hear each other and indeed we could hear nothing on the band. The band was dead, so trying even higher on 15m would have been a waste of time, so we all agreed to head back to 20m, where I logged a few SOTA contacts before saying 73 to the guys, leaving Mike with the frequency.
So my next task was to test the updated smartphone App and although I was able to successfully send the spot via RF using FT&8 and it was picked up and displayed on SOTAWatch, I still had to tune the radio manually to the required 14074 kHz frequency for the transmission. So although the message sending worked, the new feature has not given me anything in addition to what I could do using VOX rather than CAT control and for CAT control I have to have a second cable between radio and phone.
I have reported back to the developer that the frequency change feature has not worked.
By 0700 UTC the skies were still dark and a cool wind had appeared. as I had finished the purpose of my activation, I decided to pack up and leave before any rain arrived (it didn’t, at least not until the afternoon).
- Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
- Xiegu G90.
- Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
- Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
- Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
- Screw-in sun umbrella support.
- SotaBeams linked dipole (modified).
- SotaBeams random length end-fed antenna (not used)
- 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
- 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
- Painter’s thick plastic sheet (not used).
- Gardeners nealing pad (not used).
- Lightweight headphones.
- Smartphone for back channel comms with the group over “Signal”.
- The FT8 Radio App appears to have an issue with the “set frequency” function.
- Extending the coax on the Linked dipole made it easier to position the mast base than had been possible previously with just seven metres of the feeder. I now have almost 10 metres of coax on the antenna.
- It appears that certainly on 40m and 20m that adding in the new 15m band link has not affected the antennas performance however the most likely band to be affected would be 17m I will need to test again, once 17 & 15-metre bands open up more often,
73 ’til the next summit(s).