Beginner remote operations with an amplifier - Get me started

  • 1
  • Question
  • Updated 4 months ago
I currently run my 6300 with an Ameritron ALS-600 and an LDG AT-600ProII tuner. I have three wire antennas on an Alpha Delta manual switch (40m, fan dipole, and OCF Windom).  I also have no problems running remote from my iPad or PC, as long as I don't use the amp or have to change the antennas.

I am going to be spending three months of the year in the South, and of course want to remote into the shack here in CT.

Right now, I can't swap antennas (its a manual switch), or use the amp. The amp has to be switched to standby manually to do the tune, then switched back on.

So I am thinking of a new SS amp (Acom? Palstar? etc) and tuner. But it seems there are many ways to attack this. For example, remote controlling an Arduino or Raspi based thing to switch antennas and do other stuff. Or letting Flex control things via its USB functionality.

Assuming I'll not have more than 3 antennas (likely), should I use an antenna switch, or look for an amp with 3 or 4 outputs?  How do you tell the amp to be "offline" when you hit Tune in the flex?  

I was sort of thinking of playing with the RemoteQTH system, but maybe it is more than I need. Not a contester, just play radio single op.  I use the amp about 25% of the time. I have played a lot with Arduino's and Pi's, so not afraid of that either. 

Just looking for a little sense of direction here!

Thanks, Paul WB2JVB
Photo of Paul Lourd

Paul Lourd

  • 25 Posts
  • 7 Reply Likes

Posted 4 months ago

  • 1
Photo of JohnSweeney

JohnSweeney

  • 63 Posts
  • 3 Reply Likes
Buy an Expert amplifier. They are fully remotable - software works great. You can select up to 4 antennas remotely. Remote power on/off, remote operate/standby, etc.
Photo of Mark - WS7M

Mark - WS7M

  • 1071 Posts
  • 371 Reply Likes
Hi Paul,

Well your choice of equipment will really be the thing that decides what else you need for remote automation.

In short unless you get the PGXL amp which integrates with the SSDR software then you will need to get a little creative with your control system.

In my particular setup:

6600
SPE 2K FA amp
Palstar HF auto
2 antennas: loop (main), EF wire

My Palstar or AMP have enough antenna outputs to serve as the antenna switch

Since I did not go with PGXL (because it was and still is really not ready) I had to get creative to control my SPE amp remote.

What I did for amp control was to use a Raspberry Pi and a product called VirtualHere which allows internet forwarding of USB ports.  This makes it possible to run the SPE control software from just about anywhere.

The HF auto tuner is pretty much automatic.  I just need to give it some power and it will tune.

SSDR is remotable already.

So for my setup:

SSDR - controls the radio remote
Pi, VirtualHere and SPE control software - controls the SPE amp allowing all feature control
HF auto is automatic - but I can remotely change the settings and antennas

The raspberry Pi has following features:

Web page that allows:  DC power on/off, Flex 6600 remote on/off, SPE power on/off, changes to HF auto settings.

So for my setup this gives me just about 100% control of anything but for me I need a laptop to do this all.  I can't do my remote totally via an iPad.  I can do some but not the amp control.

But what I can do via iPad op and turn the amp on/off.  Since the HF auto tunes automatically I can turn the amp off, tune, then turn it back on all via the iPad.  So that is close but not quite 100%

Regardless of what you do Paul I think you will need something like a Pi or other device to be able to remote cycle power.  My Flex is pretty rock solid but every once in a while I needs a reboot and it seems to need it sometimes when I am remote.

Mark - WS7M
Photo of Steven Linley

Steven Linley

  • 270 Posts
  • 32 Reply Likes
I really like my RF-Kit, superior to all others in my biased opinion.
Photo of Norm - W7CK

Norm - W7CK

  • 747 Posts
  • 153 Reply Likes
I've used RCForb by RemoteHams for station control.  It works with a number of different transceivers, amplifiers, and antenna matching devices (tuners).  There is also an Android app that lets you control the whole station.  I've used this configuration for several years now and from all over the world.  You won't have the panadapter when using RCForb, but everything else works just fine.

Norm
Photo of Larry Loen  WO7R

Larry Loen WO7R

  • 207 Posts
  • 23 Reply Likes
Having operated my Flex remotely and successfully for about 5 years, I can state that you want fully automatic solutions. You want automatic band switching in the amp. You want automatic antenna switching.

Because you are not there, you will not hear, smell, or see the results of any mistakes or omissions.

You want also to see status, remotely, from the amp, including SWR and "which antenna" despite having designed in remote switching.

The auto switching can be like the Alpha 9500 that senses the RF and makes the change or like the Expert amps that are instructed by the Flex over dedicated USB.

I have managed to create the odd spark out the back of an amp over the years. You don't want this when nobody is there.
Photo of Paul Lourd

Paul Lourd

  • 25 Posts
  • 7 Reply Likes
Thank you all for the hints and tips so far!   Can Flex tell the amp to automatically go into standby when it does a tune? Or do you have to separately send a command to put amp in standby, then do tune, then back online?  Maybe I should just run barefoot!  

I have also noticed my LDG AT-600Pro2 will drop out of "auto tune" mode, which is very frustrating, which is why I don't plan to use it when remote.
Photo of K1UO - Larry

K1UO - Larry

  • 819 Posts
  • 132 Reply Likes
Paul,   If you use an automatic Amp that can be controlled via Ethernet then everything you need to put the Amplifier in Tune or Standby or turn it on/off is on the amplifier control application you will need on your laptop or remote PC.  Especially on the SS amplifiers such as Elecraft, Flex or SPE..
It sounds klike the SPE 1.3 or 1.5K with built in antenna tuner (if needed) , up to 4 antenna ports included and controllable via Ethernet is exactly what you need to simplfy things and still have RF power.

Photo of Larry Loen  WO7R

Larry Loen WO7R

  • 207 Posts
  • 23 Reply Likes
If your amp is dropping out of auto tune, you need to understand why. Something is wrong somewhere and it could affect manual, on site operation as well. There's a loose connection or some such. Find it. Maybe the antenna design, in actual practice, has some unforeseen interaction at so and so a frequency because of who know what. Whatever it is, track it down.


Remoting is a harsh mistress. It has a way of forcing you to pay attention to issues you might be able to finesse when you are operating manually.

You should not need to "tune" explicitly at all. Not routinely. You need to set a freq on the Flex, maybe touch a CW key at most, and then just start transmitting. This needs to be 99.9 per cent true or you don't have a solution.

Have you done any needful "training " of the amp so it can auto tune based on prior settings in the relevant sub band?
(Edited)
Photo of Paul

Paul

  • 487 Posts
  • 149 Reply Likes
Hi Paul, you can prevent the amp from being keyed during auto tuning by connecting the PTT line from the rig via an LP100A or similar power/swr meter then into the amp. This only asserts the amp PTT when a pre-set SWR (set in the LP100A) is achieved by your auto ATU.

Your system sounds similar to mine which I have been using remotely in this way for several years. Flex 6500, LP100A, LDG AT1000 pro II, Amp. Band switching via USB bit cable.
More recently I use a Gemini HF1k amp which is ethernet controllable and has auto band-switching. The PTT control is still done via the LP100A.

As others have mentioned, you definitely need to make provision for emergency surgery. I use a VPN where possible but the ultimate fallback is to kill the power. For that I have a web-switch plus a GSM switch for redundancy.

Hope this helps. 73, Paul.
Photo of Paul Lourd

Paul Lourd

  • 25 Posts
  • 7 Reply Likes
Again, thanks for the comments all.  The SPE is sure looking like a great solution. I do plan to have an external way to kill power and restart everything.  Also, while I might have to wait a day or so, I can get someone in to reset things, worst case. 

From what I have read, the tuner in the SPE remains active even if the amp is on standby, so you can work normal power and still tune. This is cool feature if I am reading it correctly.

Must of my evening stuff is on 40m, with a dedicated dipole, no tuning really needed.

The other bands are serviced by the multiband wires.

I will do plenty of testing before I go of course.

73 WB2JVB