It is good to see a small but growing number of activators trying out FT8 (and FT4) from summits.
When spotting yourself, try to spot your EXACT frequency - or note the TX offset in the comments field. Also in the comments field, note your TX cycle - odd or even. This will make it much easier for chasers to find you.
FT4 is probably more SOTA-chaser-friendly than FT8 as it tends to be significantly less congested - so do consider FT4 too.
I think anything to help FT4/8 become more SOTA friendly is helpful. Though I will probably have to do some digging on how to set and listen on a set frequency!
But I guess the issue is whether a SOTA activation in a digital mode is aimed at SOTA chasers or the very large number of people doing digital modes who don’t follow SOTA? When using 2m FM it is not uncommon to get responses from operators who don’t follow SOTA, particularly if you use the calling frequency but otherwise on HF it tends to be chasers only.
I think your suggestion to use FT4 is a good idea and if the activator is struggling to qualify a summit on FT4 they can switch to FT8.
By coincidence I was reading something on FB today where a POTA activator was saying qualifying a park on FT8 was easy but they then preferred to switch to SSB for some “real” radio.
I have noticed some DXpedition FT4/8 operators recently using non-standard frequencies such as 14.060. Interesting idea - in their case I guess they are relying on the cluster and word of mouth for people to find them there.
Why not do the same for SOTA activations ? Since many chasers will see you on SOTAwatch it may work and will be congestion free !
Poor operating style/procedure to decamp to the CW QRP center of operation for a DC digital operation. Very poor.
However, pick your own frequency …
Sorry typing on phone keyboard after some beer in a pub where there is too much eye-candy for a gentleman of advancing years!
Just by the by, has anyone done RTTY activations ?
The reason I ask is that you can get RTTY software for mobile phones and that would save lugging a laptop/tablet along
All my SOTA activations are aimed at licensed radio amateurs. Whether they are chasers or not doesn’t matter (as per the rules) - though I always self-spot so that chasers know where to find me.
I did this bt never got round to trying it /p. What I found with the phone was its hard to type a free hand messgae. Macros worked fine though.
I have now build a FT8 portable set up using a PI and 5inch touch screen built into a small Pelli case and micro qrp single channel dedicated data tranciever. All very compact.
Given it one try on the hill but failed to get a GPS lock for timing but now perfected that issue.
Next time out it should work as planned.
You don’t really need the ability to type free form custom messages when FT8 activating. Just store a TX macro of your summit reference before you start - and call upon it as and when required.
My KX3 has built in PSK31 and RTTY modes using the CW key. I wonder if other QRp rigs have this capability?
I see a few FT8 activators operating POTA
Hi Tom @M1EYP
Please could you explain to an FT8/FT4 newbie how putting that information helps?
As a chaser I just choose the band from the drop-down in WSJT-X and let it do its thing. If I see a SOTA/POTA/whatever decoded, I’ll double click their callsign and it’ll go on its merry way making the contact (usually; obviously if I’m not received by them there’s more to it). I’m interested to know what being aware of the specific offset, cycle etc would let me do that I’m not doing now?
I know I should read the manual, but I’d rather be out activating
Hiya John @M0WIV,
I’ve just started with FT8/FT4 really; I don’t find it ‘easy’ having to lug all the gubbins I need to make the FT-818 do it, but it definitely opens up contacts with more people than just doing SSB. I’ll admit that my recent change from a 3.5kg Dell laptop to a 0.5kg Surface Pro has made the mode more viable for SOTA…
I’ve also just started with POTA too and the US amateurs are very keen to contact parks. I’ve found doing FT8 on certain bands gives the US foundation/novice (or Tech & General) type licencees a chance to chase, which they would otherwise miss out on. Combining parks and SOTAs is the ultimate, as you get a good mix of chasers for both schemes.
I am hopeful that when Yaesu bring out a replacement for the FT-818, it’ll have all the necessary data/CAT/USB interfaces built in. And do 25w. And only use 1a on transmit. Have every filter I want. And make the tea…wishful thinking I suppose!!!
You might already be operating and working other stations. If you’re on the other TX cycle, you won’t RX the SOTA station - though you may notice the callsign being worked by others in the band activity window.
Noting the offset is just the same as stating what frequency you’re on. On 20m for instance, the nominal dial frequency is 14.074, but the FT8 activity could be anywhere from 14.074 to 14.077/078 - but your RX bandwidth is probably 2000Hz or less - so there’s lots of activity you’re not seeing - unless you know where to look for it.
Rather than stating 14.074 as the QRG, and adding (for instance) “1987Hz” in the comments, these days I’m more habitually spotting the exact frequency (14.075987) and not mentioning the offset in the comments (as if you spot the exact frequency, the offset is redundant information).
It’s got data/CAT built in. The 818 is a re-spin of the 817 due to component obsolescence primarily caused RoHS legislation. It will be a mid to late 90s design and back then, USB was a new thing. It was some time before USB became ubiquitous and a standard option on microcontrollers (off the shelf or custom silicon built for you by people like my employers).
It has taken a long time for USB to become de-rigueur in ham products. Mainly because of the software overhead. Not only do you need USB hardware and some USB firmware to handle the protocol but also sufficient software to make use of the features which means a bigger, faster processor.
A week ago I did my very first SOTA activation. I wanted to try the SDR Control app for iPad in the field with my Icom IC-705 in FT8 mode. It worked very well. The iPad + IC-705 combo is great for SOTA.
Yeah these are really handy. Just been adding a few for different things.
That’s an aspect I hadn’t thought of. I’ve only done a few digital activations and just did it as I would at home.
Giving a specific frequency to help SOTA chasers connect with the activator sounds worthwhile although whether folk like me can change to that frequency is another matter.
You probably know that its bad practice to call back on the stations own offset using MGM modes, still probably worth highlighting though in case. Many don’t TX on an offset though. I see it on the bands all the time. Several stations wiping each other out by TXing together on the same offset as the wanted station. Tom @M1EYP spotting his own offset is a great help but I would never transmit on the same frequency, best to look for a clear space on the waterfall and call there.
Thanks Tom, that makes sense now. I shall experiment with this during my next few activities and chaser sessions.