Benaquhallie GM/ES-065 FT-8 test

I’ve been using raspberry pi single board computers with amateur radio for a year or two now. I have three running at home:

  1. Raspberry pi4b as main shack computer.
  2. Raspberry pi3b as a 2m FM APRS digipeater.
  3. Raspberry pi3b as a media streamer.

I’ve now cobbled together a fourth pi3b, along with a miniproSC sound card interface, a data lead, CAT control lead, running the pi headless and controlling the whole set up from a Galaxy android tablet. It all hooks up to my venerable ft-857d.

Keen to test it on a hill, what better choice than Benaquhallie, a 494m hill that I drive past twice a day, and one which can be easily climbed after work from a 317m starting point.

This is how it went:

The route is simple and short. 1.5 miles one way.

  1. Park well off the road at NJ591 073, as this is an access route.

  1. Walk downhill along the track until through the gate.

  2. Immediately climb left up an earth and stone bank which leads to a grassy then hard surfaced track.

  1. Follow this north, then eventually east up to the summit, passing through a small plantation or avoiding it to the north.

As has been the normal for June, I was fairly windy. Thankfully the summit has a decent stone wall running east to west, so finding shelter was not an issue. The mast went up on the south side of the wall, with my 20m vertical strung up the 7m pole.

I was on the north side, sheltering from the constant southerly. It took a little longer than normal to set up the kit, with all the patch leads and then getting the wireless hotspot up and running.

Once up and running, the waterfall started filling up and the game was on!

I worked sixteen stations on 20m, running 10 watts into my vertical.

I was delighted with the intercontinental DX - K6MKF to the west coast USA, around 5000 miles, 8000 km.

I then jumped the wall into the wind in order to stick up the 2m beam, aiming to try ft-8 on this band.

Beaming south produced a few faint traces on the waterfall, but nothing workable, so I switched to 2m SSB and put a few CQ calls out, but no joy here either, despite my self-spot.

This being an after work casual jaunt, I was dressed in trainers and a t-shirt. By now I had my fleece top and lightweight waterproof on. It had got considerably cooler, windier and generally more unpleasant on the top, so I decided to pack up and bale. Half an hour later I was back at the car.

In summary, ft-8 worked well for me on this activation. It’s more fiddly to set up on the hill and a technical challenge to get up and running in the first place. It brings in great DX, which is awesome. However, that’s where the fun ends. It’s not as exciting as working the Chasers on SSB, in fact I found it hard to keep concentration once it was up and running.

I spotted myself before activating on 20m ft-8. After uploading the log on my return, I could only see two stations that had chased me, a lot less than normal, so not so good for the Chasers on this activation.

I certainly plan to use ft-8 again on future activations, maybe with a dedicated radio or at least a QRP one to help keep the weight down. The next trip however, will see a return to SSB as I miss the Chasers!




Hello Fraser, thanks for your video about ft-8. Have not tried it yet but thinking about it after seeing your video. Will explore this mode further to get an understanding of it.

73 de Geoff vk3sq