The functions that have to be addressed to set up a remotely operated station include rig control, remote computer access, audio interfaces, and control interfaces. Here is a quick summary of the functions I need to remote my Elecraft K2:
Rig Control – Ham Radio Deluxe is as application that can fully control the K2 from any PC. In fact I am very impressed with how comprehensive the application is, and how well it works. I downloaded and installed it on an old Toshiba Laptop. I connected the rig to the laptop using a serial interface (via a USB-to-serial port interface), and it works fine. I can control everything I expect to need. The only thing I have not determined yet is if it will be possible to “see” the K2 LED display at the remote location. That would help, because then I could see the SWR and I would be sure I have a good antenna match.
Remote Computer Access – I have Internet access at both the rig’s location which I will call the “host location” or the “rig location,” and at the operator’s end which I will call the “Client location.” Of course the client location could be anywhere that has Internet access. There are several possible programs available for remote access. For starters I am going with something that is free of charge. If it works, I may upgrade later. So I am looking mainly at Real VNC, Windows Remote Desktop, and Team Viewer. Since it is so easy, and I have used it before, I am beginning with Real VNC.
Audio Interfaces – I need to interface the Transmit and Receive audio between the two locations. I will use a free VOIP application for this. Skype is the one I have seen many people use. I prefer something that can be used on LINUX as well as windows, so my first choice was to use Ekiga, but after some initial testing, it looks like the Windows version still has some bugs to work out. I got it to connect between the two locations, but after several hours, it became impossible to make it work again. So for now I will use Skype. Since Skype will be bought by Microsoft, I will be trying to get away from that in the near future.
Control Interfaces – The rig control is easy. Just connect to the PC using a USB–> serial port adapter. The software already knows how to control the rig. The other control issue is the power to the rig. The FCC requires that the Control Operator have some means of stopping a runaway transmitter after 3 minutes. So I will need some kind of power disconnect that can either be triggered remotely (and preferably not via Internet), or can handle this task autonomously. I plan to use an Arduino embedded computer board for this task. It will use a 3-minute timer, and a PTT indicator line from the K2, to know when to disconnect power from the rig.