Activating with digital modes

If I activate using primarily (or even exclusively) PSK31, will I have trouble finding chasers? I noticed there are very few digital spots on sotawatch.

I have a KX3 on order and was hoping to activate some summits out here in W7W. Unfortunately, voice is not a strong point for me and I’m a long way from being conversant (or even competent) with CW. One of the big selling points of the KX3 for me is the built-in PSK31 modem - I’m putting together a small project to let me control it from a phone without the added weight of a laptop until I learn enough code to use the cw-to-digital mode.

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Hi Amelia,
I once tried a PSK31 SOTA activation when I was in Australia (as VK2JI). Technically I had everything working but when out on the summit I could not read the display on my mobile phone. So if you are taking a similar approach, make sure you have something to shade the phone so that you can see it.

It is rare to see PSK31 activations on SOTA but they do happen from time to time. If you post your intent to operate PSK31 on this reflector and in the Alerts section of SOTAWatch, I would hope there would be 4 home stations will to get on and try to help you qualify the summit. You might consider RTTY as well as there you can probably simply put out a CQ call on the common RTTY frequencies and get at least 4 callers.

I thought the KX3 decooded the PSK31 (or RTTY) itself and displayed it along the bottom of the screen. Not sure how you get the text in to be transmitted though. Here’s a video of the KX3 decoding PSK31 and CW.

There the Op does seem to be typing in text to be sent in Morse! Strange - as it’s an SDR you’d have though Elecraft wouuld allow a USB or bluetooth keyboard. Perhaps in the KX4 is ever one is designed will have that capability.

73 Ed DD5LP.

You might have trouble finding chasers at at first but, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need chasers. Anyone will be a perfectly suitable QSO partner. And if you start to do summits regularly either some digimode folks will become chasers and look for you or the established chaser community will migrate to PSK31. You have an interesting opportunity to be a catalyst for more SOTA digimode operation. Good luck!


Whilst I have never used psk from a summit I have chased psk activators on a few occasions. All they did was operate in the usual psk segment of the band i.e. 14.070 Mhz. Have fun and good luck

73 Glyn

I hope so!

Ed, the KX3 accepts input using a paddle or via its serial connection, it’s pretty slick. You just need the right software, which KS7D has already built for iOS as long as you have a laptop - I’m just trying to cut out the laptop. I was kind of hoping for USB keyboard capability too (I have this roll-up keyboard that would be perfect), but hey, it’s hard to complain. Maybe in the future I’ll build a module that uses a BT keyboard instead of a cell phone :slight_smile:

Thanks everyone. I’m definitely looking forward to getting on the air.


maybe an unusual comment or idea to try if your software allows for a cw macro at the end of your cq macro put sota in instead of a call sign !! that may attract attention . In critical comments on you SOTA spot place your position or freq in hertz on the rx tx scope on the software that will help SOTA chasers find you. But as Richard said just call cq and see who answers and have a macro ready with your summit details, which you will have to change every activation. Most psk ops I have worked recently will only swap a couple generic macros anyhow as long as you can get a signal report from them and you have sent one its a contact for SOTA. My biggest challenge with using psk on the kx3 I read all about it in the hand book and experimented on the bench at home but forgot how to do it by the time I was in the field I need more practise I guess.
good luck
Ian vk5cz …

I have activated several summits in PSK31 and i must agree that it’s a very nice mode to work with on a summit. It has some drawbacks in the extra weight you have to carry and it’s a little bit more work to setup your station, once arrived on the summit but running abt 2 watts from my FT817 in PSK mode makes it a very quiet mode on the summit (no shouting into the microphone) and it’s easy to make some QSO’s.
Best is to work on 14.070 and give a CQ, mentioning SOTA activation. It has never been a problem to get the minimum amount of QSO’s to get the SOTA-points. And announcing your digimode activation really helps. I’ve had some chasers following me from summit to summit.

I have no experiences with a KX3 so i take my netbook and FT817 with me and that setup works fine for me. If the KX3 can do PSK31 without additional hardware, it would be definitly worth trying!

Hope to see you on the air.
73 Bart de PE1RIK

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Amy, you will have seen the other replies so go ahead and try some PSK31 on a summit. I did a PSK activation a long time just so I could tick the box for a digital activation. What I would suggest you do is that you try the setup for digital in your backyard, then a local park etc. to make sure you have all the gear with you and that you can see the screen and operate outside etc. You don’t want to find out at the summit you can’t read the screen!

you could try configuration with small 7/8 inch Windows tablet with small bluetooth keyboard. This is my solution for psk activation portable shack. It’s still lightweight but more ergonomics than smartphone. I use KComm software - it’s dedicated to KX3. In EU I never have any problem with successful activating summit on 30m. RBNetwork and KU6J gate making good job for me.

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Hi Amy

Have a check on this site it has a u tube clip showing the kX3 being used with a tablet as a companion, Video By Steve WG0AT Using KX3 Companion – KX3 Companion , this is also the link for the website that explains the setup and features .

I have just got a KX3 and used it once for decoding CW at home, it needs a good signal or else you end up with coded text and the human ear can decode the weaker signals much better.
Another option is the NUE psk modem I have used this on few activations with the ft817 it can do PSk31, RTTY, CW and can now output the display to a computer screen at home. This has worked well for me when used and the only problem is remembering to bring the cables on an activation.
There is a few ops who use a mobile phone device along with an interface that can be purchased on the web, the problem with this setup is needling your phone for an emergency and the battery goes flat.

A search on the reflector may show a few threads for digi modes and there was also a thread before Christmas 2014 for cheap android and window tablet devices.


I have done a PSK31 activation. I got a couple of QSO’s with VK chasers when I spotted but to get to the 4 to qualify the summit I simply went and got a few QSO’s with stations who didnt know they were chasers. For SOTA anyone is a chaser even if they know it or not!! Its also a good way to spread the SOTA story to non Sotarians.

So you can easily qualify a summitt on PSK 31, plus many other digitral modes if you want.

Hi, I am new here and almost new to SOTA. I am also considering operating PSK31 on the summit. I am preparing the station, FT817, Android smartphone, small foldable BT ketboard (unfolds full size), Signalink interfase (Wolphilink is on its way). My question is, would it be valid to call “CQ CQ CQ XE1TRY/SOTA XE1TRY/SOTA CQ CQ CQ” ? I can set this up in my macros.

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Hi Rueben and welcome to SOTA.
Although it is better using a Wolphi-link (I have one for my FT-817), just to try it out you know you can hold the FT817 microphone to the Android phone and the phone near the FT-817 speaker and it’ll work, don’t you?

I am not a PSK31 expert but I see no problem with the message format you are suggesting. If there’s another memory in DroidPSK, you could also pre-program the SOTA summit reference in there as well. Then all you will need to type is the signal report and any extra comments that you want to make.

Just checking that you also know that ANY contacts from the summit count - you don’t have to only contact SOTA chasers. Just any 4 different contacts and you’ll get the activator points, hopefully you’ll get many more than 4 though!

73 Ed DD5LP.

Thank you Ed for your comments. The Wolphilink interface is supposed to arrive today. I have created a macro to comment on the summit info. Looking forward to make PSK31 contacts from the Summit. I am also preparing a QRP Satellite station to try Satellite contacts in that mode… whatever helps me get the 4 required contacts. I don’t do CW (yet) so I have to find options to work on. 73s de XE1TRY.

WOW satellite as well!

All I can say is WELL DONE!

I’m sure you’ll get your 4 contacts as long as you can self spot but don’t be upset if you don’t get 4 contacts - it’s happened to all of us at some time (actually on my last activation, I only managed two). when the conditions are bad, there’s nothing you can do about it and if you get just one contact, you have officially activated the summit and when you put your log in, that will be shown on the list. The four contacts are needed to get the points for the summit added to your activator total.

73 & have fun! Ed.

I only use my phone as a phone. For actual phone calls or to spot with the sms system. Battery banks can recharge my phone several times, and can also serve as auxiliary power for my handheld GPS. That is why I always take TWO battery banks.

I have failed to earn points occasionally on an activation attempt, but never because of a dead phone or GPS.

Get a sidekar or a sidekar plus from QRPworks attaches right onto you kx2 or kx3 and you can do macros in psk31 just like your computer. It works with a wireless key board I have a miniature keyboard very light weight works very well. I also use a alex loop antenna that pairs very nicly with the kx2 with its built in swr meter on the tune feature.