HF/Digital Station in a Box!

Started by RichardSinFWTX, February 19, 2014, 11:00:49 am

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RichardSinFWTX

OK...It looks like it's time to get down to the nut cuttin' on building my HF / Digital "station in a box".  For those that don't know, here's what I'm planning to do.  All future postings about it will be made here.

My goal is simple, to have a air/watertight container housing an HF radio, a VHF/UHF backup, power supply and a laptop to be able to maintain voice and digital comms with my all people from my retreat location or anywhere else I happen to be. 

This is container I'll be using to store and transport everything.


It's an army surplus medical instrument case.  The one pictured about isn't the exact one that I bought...I found one in nearly new condition locally for $90.  It has good seal all the way around and is completely air and watertight so it can go in the back of my vehicle as I head out for parts unknown.

I plan to build a rack out of aluminum angle and other materials with slide-out shelving for all components.


The rack will be on the left side on the same end as the wheels to keep the load at least fairly stable.  The right side will have a slide-out shelf with Dell Latitude D800 laptop that is just used for my radio activities (programming the two radios, using RMS Express or going digital with FL-Digi)

I've already built the shelf for the laptop.  That was the easy part.  I'll get a picture of it posted later.

Feel free to ask questions or offer any opinions / suggestions along the way.

John Galt

That's going to be quite a station in a box.  I see you've got it set up for 120v to the power supply.  Any plans for battery backup of any kind?


BTW, PM sent.

RichardSinFWTX

Yes, right now I've only got two 10Ah SLA batteries; but I'm going to talk to a fellow ham at my club's meeting tomorrow night.  He's built a 100Ah battery unit for his rig.  I'm gonna see how he did it!

PM replied also!

gil

Hello,

It seems like it is going to be quite heavy, especially with those batteries. I guess it all depends on intended use.. Personally I would not build anything I can't carry comfortably on my back.

If I was building a digital station I would use my KX3 with a small Asus EeePC (runs on 12V!). I have the signalink. The whole thing would fit in a medium size Pelican case, including a 4Ah Lipo pack. For VHF I'd use an HT with a ladder line Slim-Jim antenna that can be hoisted up a tree. Maybe I'd have a portable Arrow Yagi.. The antenna for the HF would be my wire end-fed of course. The case could be carried easily and for long periods of time without fatigue. A 4Ah Lipo battery with this setup would probably last a few days. I can recharge it with a solar panel.

Now, digital with 5W would not be as reliable as with 100W of course.. It's a tradeoff between portability and power. PSK-31 should do all right on 5W. Nothing beats CW of course. I've had trouble connecting to Winlink stations on 5W. The propagation has to be good.

For community emcom that would be a good box, assuming power is available. It's always recharging batteries that causes trouble. Maybe a small Honda generator would be your best bet... That opens a whole new can of worms though, with gasoline in the mix.

Great initiative to build something. Experimentation is what gets things moving forward.

Gil.

RichardSinFWTX

Gil,

You're right, it will be heavier than a backpack right.  That's why I'm calling this one my "Mk II - Heavy".  The original Mk I was my backpack portable FT-8900.  The "heavy" will only be vehicle portable.  I am either heading to my retreat location and will set up comms there or I'm mobilized to go out with RACES/ARES and set up in a shelter or somewhere else.

Using Lipo batteries would definitely save on the weight; but their price is prohibitive right now.  Eventually I plan to replace the SLA with Lipos; but until then...
I do have a foldable solar panel to go along with the batteries.

As far as antennas go I've got a couple options.  I've got an Inverted-V that I can run up on a camo-pole mast or an end-fed sloper that will do 40m - 6m.  Take a look at the one for sale on KX3Helper.com.  For VHF/UHF I've got an Arrow dual band J-pole.

One day I'd like to learn CW and key it old school; but I can also use FL-Digi to do CW.  I know it's not the same as keying it yourself; but why not take advantage of the technology that's there?  My hat's off to those of you smarter than me who do already know CW.

Thanks for the suggestions!   8)

gil

Quotebut their price is prohibitive right now


Hobby King has all sorts of Lipo packs for fairly cheap. The advantage of course is the light weight and capacity. You do need to be careful charging them though, I would not leave them unattended. When the smart charger says they're full, you need to disconnect them right away. Also, if one cell goes below about 2.85V, your pack is toast. You need to monitor voltage constantly. They have small voltage alarms that cost a few bucks, worth their price in Gold. Lipos do recharge quickly, another advantage...

Gil.

RichardSinFWTX

I'll definitely keep those in mind as I look at improvements to make.

KK0G

I'm sure it's no secret that I'd have to agree with Gil; that thing would be HUGE for my purposes. Of course portable is a relative term with a different meanings for different hams. In any case it looks like a cool project, make sure to post some photos of your progress.
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin

KK0G

RichardSinFWTX

True, but in this case I'm more concerned with protecting the gear inside than trying to hump it around.  If I'm heading for the hills and have to ditch the vehicle never to return, the radio(s) can come out of the case along with a battery or two and a long-wire antenna. 

Also, rack itself is going to be able to be taken out of the case all in one piece and used from a tabletop or truck tailgate without having to dis/re-connect everything.  There's going to be a USB hub so all I have to do is unplug one USB cable then pull the rack out.  I think it will be easier to describe once I've got some pictures.  Then you guys can see what my thought processes are working towards.

RadioRay

K5RFI -

Nicely done!  Yes, different tools fit different jobs.  I've built the ultra-light, yet armored and the vehicle transportable systems.  Yours is designed to be the latter.  I do like the way that you've done this and the lay-out seems operator friendly, in that the radios are centered around eye level and the sound is front firing.  Both of these are aspects I like. 

Batteries and fingers are what limit the size of our radios, computers and etc.  ha ha


73 de RadioRay ..._ ._
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry

RichardSinFWTX

I tried to make it as functional as possible.  If I'm using it "in the field" then I want to have everything I need within easy reach...including a spare hard drive for the laptop and a Ghost image of the current hard drive on a bootable thumb drive. 

gil

Hello,

If you are going to run the radios inside the box, a PC type fan might be a good idea, even though you have air gaps. You could even have it on a thermostat :o !

Gil.

RichardSinFWTX

Great minds, Gil!  I'm already planning on either two small (2"?) or one big (4"?) muffin fans on the back blowing forward.  :)

RichardSinFWTX

Yea, I'm on Spring Break this week and have cleared off the Honey-Do's...or at least am ignoring them!

Here's the sliding shelf for the laptop on my digital station-in-a-box.



I'm using an older Dell D800 laptop running Windows XP.  It's sole purpose is to program my radios and to run stuff like FLDigi and RMS Express.

It does slide out about 2" to allow the laptop to fully open.

More to follow...

KK0G

Looks good so far, keep the pics coming.
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin

KK0G