Repeater Installation Bottelary 20170319

Panoramic View

The first digital repeater high site in the Western Cape was installed on Sunday.

ZS1VDV and ZS1DDK completed the main install on Sunday 19 March 2017.

UHF MMDVM Repeater and ICOM VHF DSTAR repeater and controller

The install on site started around 08:30. All equipment had to be carried a few 100m up the hill.

Uninstalled old equipment from rack.
Cleaned out all dead animals and dust.
Installed power supply unit.
Automatic transfer switch with low voltage dropout on battery side.
Power pole distribution block.
Installed networking router.
Did all network cabeling.
Installed MMDVM UHF repeater (DMR and DSTAR configured)
Installed ICOM ID RP2C controller and ID RP2000V repeater.
Installed VHF duplexer.

Equipment Rack

Made up coax fly leads.
Installed UHF HD 400 antenna.

ZS1VDV installing antennas

Did a final cleanup.

Returned home by 14:30

Maintenance Hawequa 20170221

The morning started early and ended late. The wind on site provided an extra challenge, gusting at near gale speeds.  Paul (ZS1V) started at 05:30 and met Jan (ZS1VDV) to load equipment in Stellenbosch at 05:50 before arriving on site at 06:20.

Battery was tested (12.6V).
Eskom power was down on the site, so no further debugging could be done.
Back in Stellenbosch 08:00

Left Stellenbosch 18:10.
On site 18:45.
Labelled all plugs.
Reprogrammed controller. (Flash memory in controller was corrupted after too many reboots.)

Sunset

Tested everything and left site 19:45.
Back home 20:45.

Digital Repeater Build Day

On Sunday 19 February 2017 a digital repeater build day was held in Stellenbosch at the home of Jan (ZS1VDV).  The result was that there are now three homebrew (MMDVM based) repeaters running in the Western Cape.

Digital repeater coverage as of 20 February 2017

In June 2016 the build process first started. Jan (ZS1VDV) and Paul (ZS1V) reached out to Ronald (ZS6RVC) and Johan (ZS6JPL) for some help and lessons. Johan provided ZS1VDV with a single PCB for an SP8NTH v6 shield. Orders were placed for Raspberry Pi’s, Arduino Due, SP8NTH v6.1 PCBs, components and Nextion screens.  ZS1VDV started to collect duplexers and radios.

SP8NTH v6.1 1st production

10 complete SP8NTH v 6.1 PCB were assembled of which 7 were shipped up country.

In September 2016 the first proof of concept repeater was built by ZS1VDV. The next step was to design and produce a case that can be used on a highsite. This was completed early November 2016.

Stainless steel case

In January 2017 the finer setup and software configuration were completed.

The next step was to build more repeaters.

A repeater that was built

ZS1MTF, ZS1BSD and ZS1VDV participated in the build day. It started the morning at 09:00 with a quick recap of what digital repeaters are, what they are made of and how they work. Then two repeaters were built and configured.  They are on temporary wooden boards to keep costs down.

Currently there are three UHF repeaters running in the Western Cape that are DMR and DSTAR capable. The WCRWG is in process of moving a VHF DSTAR repeater and a UHF MMDVM repeater to a high site. This will improve the current coverage area.

Hermanus maintenance 20170212

David (ZS1DDK), Jan (ZS1VDV) went to do some maintenance on the Hermanus repeater.

With the last installation of the repeater it was found that the repeater rf sensitivity was not what was expected and needed to be corrected.

The weather was on and off with rain, the same as installation day, which did not make it fun.

Rain, not fun.

Started 06:30 in Bellville.
Pickup and pack equipment in Stellenbosch 07:15

Equipment packed

Left Strand around 08:00
Arrived on site 09:15.
Debug repeater sensitivity. In the process to realign the front-end, it was found that one of the 4 notch filters tuning pots need to be replaced as it was damaged.
The spare repeater was installed, audio aligned and link controller reconfigured for new repeater.
Did some testing with Sam (ZS1OR). The spare repeater is better, but still some areas need to be looked at.
Left site around 11:30.
Extended the power supply power lead with 2m.
Got some “quick” lunch on the way back.
Unpacked at Stellenbosch 14:30.
Back in Bellville 15:00.

Link Installation Hermanus 20170115

ZS1TAF left home at 07:00. ZS1DDK, ZS1VDV, ZS1V and ZS1OR were collected and all the equipment was loaded in 2 vehicles.

The team arrived on site at about 09:45.

View

Unpacking

The weather was windy, misty and there was some rain to complicate matters. The team all got stuck in and many of the tasks were executed in parallel.

Raining, ZS1TAF sealing new UHF antenna, ZS1V keeping rain off ZS1VDV tuning the duplexer

The first step was to confirm the correct SWR on the current VHF installation.  This was found to be an acceptable 1.2:1.

The previous repeater was removed and the hut cleaned out.  A Webb HD400 UHF dipole, fed by half inch Heliax and an LMR400 patch lead, was installed with lightning protection, for the link to Hanskop some 40km away.

ZS1TAF sealing the UHF antenna with ZS1OR

The duplexer was retuned which improved the insertion loss from 3 dB to 1.5 dB, and the rejection from 65 dB to 82 dB).

145.725 duplexer results after tuning by ZS1VDV

The UHF power output was measured at 2W and SWR on the antenna system after installation at 1.1:1.

As with many of the WCRWG repeater installations, the new link controller installation includes inside and outside temperature sensors as well as a DC voltmeter that can be queried by sending DTMF codes.

The repeater power output was measured at 10w after the duplexer.  Due to local noise levels, the squelch of the repeater had to be tightened somewhat.

The team left the site at about 13:00 and everybody was back home with the vehicles unloaded by around 16:00.

Maintenance Hanskop 20161030

David (ZS1DDK), Andre (ZS1AN) and Jan (ZS1VDV) did maintenance on Hanskop.

Summary:
Removed UPS, replaced with battery and charger
Changed UHF repeater frequency (434.650 output/ 433.050 input)

Log:

Left Bellville 06:45.
Packed all equipment in Stellenbosch (07:45) (4 ammo crates, 2 x 15L storage boxes, 1 tool box(very heavy), Pelican case, comms test set, table and chair). (Takes about 1.5 hour to prep all equipment).
Collected battery and low drop out switch in Somerset West from ZS1V (08:00).
Collected key from ZS1YT (08:15).
Arrived on site at around 09:05. (15 degrees Celsius)

Unpacking

Unpacking

Removed faulty UPS (Battery banks is dead).
Installed new Victron Energy Charger.
Collect more equipment at N2 (Thank you Melissa (ZS1MEL) for driving from Stellenbosch).
Installed battery (donated by ZS1V).

Backup Battery

Backup Battery

Changed power wiring for new configuration.
Retuned UHF duplexer for new frequencies (434.650 output / 433.050 input).

Retuning Duplexer

Retuning Duplexer

Duplexer

Duplexer Results

Made changes to repeater configs.
Tested UHF repeater (1.5 SWR and 0.56uV sql)
Made changes to link controller.
Left site 14:23. (4 degrees Celsius)
Drop key at ZS1YT 15:15.
Unpack equipment in Stellenbosch 15:50.
Home in Bellville 16:30.

Maintenance Hawequa 20161009

ZS1YT, ZS1VDV and ZR1SWB went to Hawequa to investigate some errors after big Eskom/power outages/instability the last few weeks.

Vehicles Parked

Vehicles Parked

Wellington view

ZS1VDV and ZR1SWB

The morning started at around 07:00 with packing all tools and equipment. Left Stellenbosch around 08:00. On site at around 08:45.

First checked all voltage levels. It was found that the Benton Charger again was off and not charging the battery. The charger was replaced by an 10A Victron Energy charger which was donated by ZS1FX.

The link controller opened, and no damage could be seen. The audio paths was traced and all seemed in order. A complete firmware reload and configuration reprogram was done. At a stage last week the controller was rebooted numerous times(by power outages/spikes) and this caused the configuration to go faulty.

Left for home around 10:15.

Home and unpacked by 11:30.

Maintenance Hanskop 20160918

AGENDA:

Reinstall 434.600 Repeater and Duplexer
Research interference from 145.600 Repeater on commercial repeater
Research interference on 433.000
Research 145.600 dropout on input from Jonaskop.

Jan(ZS1VDV) left Stellenbosch 07:30.

Reinstalled 434.600 Repeater and Duplexer. Checked SWR (1.1).
Interference on 433 was determined to not be within the hut.

The interference from 145.600 and the commercial repeater was determined to be proximity. Moving antennas will be investigated. (Before tower fall it was 11m vertical, now only 1m vertical and 3m horizontal)

Could not replicate the dropout. Problem will continue.

Back in Stellenbosch 12:40

Maintenance Hanskop 20160904

Jan (ZS1VDV), David (ZS1DDK) and Andre (ZS1AN) started early at around 06:00.

We arrived on site around 08:15.

View from Hankop

SWR was tested on a few areas on the UHF repeater, duplexer and antenna.

It was found that the repeater has a permanent PA error and will need to be serviced.  The duplexer, harness is also suspect and have been returned for servicing.  The antenna and coax was all working fine.

The VHF main power supply was moved from UPS power to mains power.  This will now enable an short over beep on the VHF repeater when power is out on site.

Returned home around 12:00

Maintenance Hawequa 20160709

Jan (ZS1VDV) and a friend departed to Hawequa around 09:00

Arrived on site 09:45, little to no wind and about 5 degrees.

View towards Worcester from Hawequa

View towards Worcester from Hawequa

Started to try reproduce the current interference problem. Could only get it to happen when our repeater started to transmit first and the the commercial repeater in our hut second.

Next step was to measure our duplexer and bandpass filter (RX) and second harmonic filter after the circulator. I did not check SWR, because this was checked on the previous visit. Nothing could be found wrong with our filters and duplexers. (The bandpass filter on RX does add about 2dB insertion loss on 145.050 Mhz and will need to be replaced as this sets our total insertion loss for the duplexer and bandpass filter to about 4 dB).

145.650 Duplexer (Sinclair Q202)

145.650 Duplexer (Sinclair Q202)

Bandpass filter in RX path

Bandpass filter in RX path

Then scanned with a SDR spectrum analyzer. Found that the commercial repeaters RX and TX frequencies was labelled wrongly. Could not find any strange signals. About -85 dB filter on the TX frequency of the commercial repeater in the input path.

SDR Spectrum Analyzer

SDR Spectrum Analyzer

So the only conclusion was that the interference is a mix of our output signal, but mixed with the commercial repeaters signal. The second harmonic filter was replaced by a bandpass filter to make sure that our transmission path is clean.

New bandpass filter installed

New bandpass filter installed

This did not solve the problem.

For now removed the CTCSS on TX path. Will check in with commercial repeater owner to add a circulator to their repeater.

Resolved the battery voltage that was reading wrong. The sense wire got damaged and was replaced.

Left for home around 13:50, about 9 degrees.

Arrived home around 14:30