Jan (ZS1VDV) and Rassie (ZS1YT) went to Hanskop reconfigured the repeater controller and did all measurements for the big site power upgrade and antenna migration.
Most site visits starts the evening before the time with a 1 hour planning and packing session.
Tools and Spares for trip
Wake up 06:30, pack vehicle.
Leave for Strand 07:30 from Stellenbosch.
Pickup key 07:45.
Drive to site, which was very long and challenging drive. Had to “find” a way to the top.
“Finding” the road
MMMM, where to now?
Some holes with bakkie for size reference
08:45 arrive on site.
With all the power interruptions and no backup power, the site controller’s EPROM got corrupted. Reprogrammed the controller. Changed default for links to VHF and East. (please see updates DTMF updates on Hanskop)
Did some detail measurement for coax and battery placements.
10:00 left site.
11:45 Home in Stellenbosch
12:00 Finished unpacking.
View from top in mist
Mast in mist
ZS1SCI (Ohan) and ZS1VDV (Jan) went to site around 17:00
UHF repeater ZU9DMR running DMR, D-Star and YSF
The reconfigured UHF repeater ZU9DMR was reinstalled on site.
A new gateway was installed for the VHF D-Star repeater.
Last view of site, with alarm activated
The site was left around 18:45. The drive down in the dark and mist was a big challenge.
Jan (ZS1VDV) and John (ZS1EQ) did a round trip to service 3 sites.
Started to load the bakkie 07:00.
Left Stellenbosch around 08:00 and reached Piketberg by 09:45
At the end of 2017, the Piketberg VHF repeater was removed. The repeater was serviced by Verstay. The final transistor was replaced. A replacement duplexer was prepared during the week. The duplexer was swapped out and VHF repeater reinstalled. SWR between duplexer and VHF radio was 1.2 and between the duplexer and antenna 1.3.
Left Piketberg 11:15 and was on Hawequa at 12:45.
The 10 amp battery charger was swapped out for a 7 amp battery charger. The 10 amp is designated to go to Hanskop.
Left Hawequa 13:45 and reached Bottelary at 14:45.
Removed the UHF DMR repeater for service.
Back in Stellenbosch and unpacked by 16:15.
The UHF back2back link was moved from the QTH of ZS1DDK to Libertas on 4 November by ZS1DDK and ZS1TAF.
More maintenance was done today by ZS1VDV and ZS1TAF.
Today the equipment was moved on to racks in the cabinet and a link controller was installed. A powerpole distribution block was added and all power connections migrated to powerpoles.
Rack with radios and controller
This controller can now be used to link or unlink the back2back via DTMF codes.
8500 = Link
8504 = Unlink
Jan (ZS1VDV) and Rassie (ZS1YT) went to Hanskop to investigate the controller not responding to DTMF.
Started packing vehicle 06:30, left Stellenbosch 07:00.
Had to drive very slowly up as the road is in very bad condition and had the sun just over the horizon.
On site by 08:15. The temperature outside was 1.2 degrees, the wind was cutting through everything.
The problem with the controller was found to be interference on the 145.600 Repeater. The interference is not from our equipment but most likely from WISP equipment.
The 145.600 repeater’s SQL was closed to 1.1uV (about 4 times more that what it should be). This only helps about 80% of the time. The interference will need more work/investigation.
All SWR was checked. VHF repeater (1.1), UHF repeater (1.1), Jonaskop link (1.6).
CTCSS was added to the 434.650 repeater.
Home at Stellenbosch by 12:45.
Today Jan ZS1VDV and David ZS1DDK went to the site to service the power problem.
It was found that the DC power distribution box was faulty and replaced.
VHF repeater SWR was tested (1.2)
UHF repeater SWR was tested (1.4)
Backup battery voltage was measured (13.8V)
Jan, ZS1VDV went to Hawequa to investigate why the 650 VHF repeater was not working. The worst was suspected, that the mast did not survive the storms. Luckily this was not the case. The mast and building was in good condition.
It was found that the repeater was on, but as soon as it started to transmit it restarted. After long debugging, it was found that the repeater was not at fault but the dc power distribution box and power supply. The fault was corrosion on the conductors in the connectors (dust and soot blasted in by the storms, as well as intermittent power would have caused this), as well as crackling sound in the power supply.
The power supply will have to be replaced on a next visit and serviced.
It was great to see the water flowing off the mountain.
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.
Made up coax fly leads.
Installed UHF HD 400 antenna.
ZS1VDV installing antennas
Did a final cleanup.
Returned home by 14:30
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.)
Tested everything and left site 19:45.
Back home 20:45.
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.