Field Day 2018 – Every day is field day

Almost every day is field day for me, “Special Event” optional. The excitement of Field Day is seeing so many other stations out working /P as well.

I didn’t make a big deal out of Field Day this year. My son was visiting home for that weekend, so I allotted 5 hours on Sunday to get outside for portable work.

Station configuration

Minimum and uncomplicated

One of the primary goals of my station configuration, whether at home or in the field, is keeping the station as small and uncomplicated as possible. You won’t see me with watt meters, inverters, unnecessarily large power distribution boxes, large charge controllers, or an array of equipment allowing Ham Radio Deluxe to control my rig. That’s the mistake we often make when going out to the field. For the most part, I try promoting this concept to operators new to field communications;

If it doesn’t help your signal get out into the world, it has no place in your backpack or go box.

That’s where the Maximize Capability, Minimal Gear concept came from. We simply take what we need for field communications, leaving the luxuries at home.

Core components of the station

Sometimes it’s necessary to keep things plain and simple in our minds. When we’re at home or operating from a fixed station, we often lose sight of what the core components of our amateur radio stations actually are. For this reason I like to break the station down into core groups.

  • Radio & transmission
  • Power & distribution
  • Data & logging

Looking at it from this perspective, I can ask myself what is it that I absolutely need for the station in the field. Whatever isn’t required, is Left Behind. This makes the station more portable, and reduces the amount of troubleshooting required to replicate our home stations, out in the field.

FT8 WSJT-X on Raspberry Pi

I decided to run FT8 for field day. I am not a contester, and I don’t enjoy contesting, so field day was treated as a simple outdoor excursion, like any other day. I used the same configuration as 2 days off grid in Lapland. FT8 was chosen for its casual properties, and ability to cut through the noise. It’s good for two things, probing potential propagation paths, and quickly & efficiently making contacts.

WSJT-X runs extremely well on the Raspberry Pi. Touch controls could be better, but an excellent user interface isn’t its primary mission. There is a lot of wasted space on the screen so it could be made better for tablet users.

The Raspberry Pi was configured with the PiJuice Hat. This little addition adds portable power capabilities to the Raspberry Pi. It also alleviates the risk of pulling the plug out, leading to a corrupted SD card. It integrated very well into my station power, but I think I’m going to make some improvements. I’ll talk about those as I get the components to make the modifications.

Solar power

As I mentioned earlier, the 120 watt solar panel was used for station power. This is becoming so routine, there isn’t really much to write. I arrived at my operating location with a full battery, and after four and a half hours of operating, I headed home with a nearly full battery. It took only a few minutes to top up the lithium iron phosphate pack, once I was home. My station power is certainly doing the job.

Results

At the end of the 4.5 hour run, I had 45 contacts, and ~15 countries. Countries bordering the Baltic and North Sea were predominant in the log book. I believe this a matter of RF following saltwater. The average of 10 contacts per hour was relatively easy and stress-free. The two That Got Away on Sunday were South Africa, and Greenland. I don’t mind too much, but it would have been awesome getting both of those countries while /P.

Learning

Audio interface

I think I’m going to get rid of the audio interface in this configuration. I can reduce current consumption, size, and complexity, but using a USB sound card on the Raspberry Pi into a WolphiLink, rather than the ZLP MiniProSC. The ZLP Works fabulously, but it’s too large for what it is. The WolphiLink and USB audio codec, achieve exactly the same thing, with a fraction of the size and weight.

Access point for Headless Pi

I’m also going to use one of the existing USB ports for a USB Wi-Fi dongle. This will allow me to create an access point on the Raspberry Pi, how long the Android tablet to connect to it.

73
Julian oh8stn
If you found this post entertaining or helpful consider dropping a buck in the tip jar using PayPal, or joining my Patreon community to support my efforts.

Be the first to comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.