This is the first opportunity that I’ve had to get out the portable PSK-31 Amateur Radio station and it does work, though I suspect a better antenna is called for. In the picture you can see the Yaesu FT-817 portable HF/VHF/UHF transceiver, LDG Electronics Z11 automatic antenna tuner (atu), CG Antenna SB-2000 USB radio interface and Acer Aspire One netbook.
The station was rounded off with a Watson Walkabout antenna mounted on a 5′ aluminium pole and a 1/4 wave wire counterpoise for 40m. However this, combined with the abysmal location in urban Coventry and low power, probably conspired to limit the number of contacts to just one – IZ3JJD in Padova on 20m.
Powering the station is a 24Ah lead acid battery which should be enough to provide power for at least 8-10 hours of continuous use if my calculations are correct. Whilst the weight of the battery would cause problems carrying the station to the top of a summit, it would not pose a problem for future camping trips. We have on hand a solar charger to trickle charge the battery during daylight hours.
Despite the single contact the exercise did highlight a number of things:
- A small low cost netbook can comfortably run a PSK-31 station without any performance issues on the part of the netbook.
- Using a smaller and lighter 7Ah battery, we could probably operate PSK-31 from a summit for around two hours.
- Walkabout antennas do work, but better in open spaces that urban environments.
Our next experiment will involve using the Snowdonia Radio Company’s HF vertical antenna as we will be able to use this on our summer holidays at the camp site we frequent (though every year the antenna has got bigger and bigger – this is probably our limit).