Category: Blog

Weather Station Froggit WH3000SE

I had been looking around for a cheap but reliable weather station for use at home. I wanted a unit that would upload data directly to the internet, and provide me with some on screen display.

Froggit is a name I had never come across before, but they are very big in Germany and sell a good selection of weather related products online.

The Froggit WH3000SE is available for around £149 with one screen but you can also purchase it with 2 screens if needed. The unit is wire-free, yes everything is mounted at the end of the garden, and no wires are needed to connect any of the sensors together.

Outdoor Sensor unit

From unpacking it out of the box to installation takes around 10 minutes and 2 x AA batteries. The unit comes in 433 or 868 MHz versions I think mine is 868 MHz, and that’s really good as 433 is quite busy these days.

The outdoor unit has a solar panel, I think much of the daytime power is generated from this unit, allowing the batteries to last longer.

The indoor screen is colorful and full of data, but it does have a narrow viewing angle. Put it on a desk or shelf so you are higher, and it’s just fine.

Indoor Screen

The unit can upload data to Wunderground, Met Office, Ecowitt and weathercloud.

To mount the unit in the clear you may need to order a small pole so the unit can be mounted on a fence or house. The idea is to keep the unit within easy reach, as you will need to change the batteries and periodically clean the rain gauge.

Stage one is to connect your phone or tablet to the Froggit unit, this should be easy but you can often run into trouble. The phone would connect to the Froggit unit, but it detected it didn’t have an internet connection and so it doesn’t try and route any traffic. It’s one of these options put in by the phone companies to help the user experience. I had to convince my phone it was OK to connect, otherwise it just kept timing out and failed to connect.

Once I had convinced the phone to connect, the setup was reasonably easy, I find Ecowitt is the best site for reading my own data.

Example Display from Ecowitt

This really is the best display for your own weather, but you can upload it to multiple sites at once, so WunderMap is also a great source of community data.

The wireless range seem fine for the average house, the range should provide you ample range to place the sensor unit in the garden and have the base display indoors.

As I understand it the outdoor sensor unit needs to be in the range of the indoor display, and the indoor display needs to be in the range of your home WiFi.

So if you are looking for a good starter kit, this excellent wireless range, then this really is a good unit. Temperate, rain and humidity to name a few all seem accurate. You can check out the review and further information on the unit online.

specifications:

    Internal temperature (accuracy: +/- 1 ° C)
    Outdoor temperature (accuracy: +/- 1 ° C
    Indoor humidity (accuracy: +/- 5%)
    Humidity outdoor (accuracy: +/- 5%)
    Barometric pressure (Accuracy: +/- 0.08 inHg (range: 27.13 to 32.50 inHg)
    Solar radiation (accuracy +/- 15%)
    UV (accuracy: +/- 15%)
    Precipitation (accuracy: +/- 10%)
    Precipitation (resolution: +/- 0.01 in)
    Wind direction (accuracy: +/- 1 °)
    Wind speed range (0 to 160 km / h)
    Wind speed (accuracy: +/- 3.5 km / h or 10%)
    Wind speed calculation (every 16 seconds)
    Wind gust calculation (every 16 seconds)

JS8 Call – Digital Mode

I have always enjoyed digital modes from home, like many I live in a noisy urban environment. Digital modes offer me a way to make low power QSO into the noise and still get results.

Using the Hermes Lite SDR and JS8 has provided great fun, I tend to stick to 7 MHz as my antenna works well on this band. I have a doublet antenna 10m per leg fed with 300 Ohm into the shack. If you’re looking for a 100w amplifier, this can help under poor conditions.

The first thing to realise about JS8 call is it a chat-based digital mode, you can send free text and its based on the FT8 protocoled. They are not compatible, so you cant use JS8 in the FT8 program, nor would you use the same frequencies.

The first step is to download JS8 and have a look at the readme file, it’s easy to set up like many digital modes it has a familiar interface. Add you QRA locator and call sign, some details on your QTH and your away.

JS8 is designed to be left on, so if you have a low powered computer or Raspberry PI this could provide a useful option. I use a fanless mini I7, as this powers the SDR and allows me to use 4 slice receivers as needed. You don’t need that computing power if you just want to run JS8 and a low power transceiver. I have recently worked a number of people using the new Icom 705, and this type of radio is ideal to be left on 24×7.

You have the option to send heart beat messages, and stations will reply automatically with your signal report.

Suggested Freq – can be auto selected from JS8

Store and relay messages via other call signs who can receive you, so let’s say you want to get a messaged to VK1ABC but he can’t read you. You can look on the screen and see that K1ABC can read you, and they also read VK1ABC so you have the option to send the message via a relay.

You can configure your station to automatically respond to requests to report stations signal, others heart beat messages and store messages in other mail boxes.

Its really good fun, so why not have a play?

OH8STN Julian near artic circle.

Amateur Radio Resources

Amateur radio requires you to start at Foundation, you can purchase the book online and the provided everything you need to get started.

Essential reading

As you expand your knowledge in the hobby you may find some of the special interest books helpful. Digital modes are very popular and ideal for low power operation

This book can provide invaluable insight into the radio amateur exam

Digital modes are increasingly popular

Hermes Lite v2 a 5w SDR

The Hermes-Lite is a low-cost direct down/up conversion software defined amateur radio HF transceiver based on a broadband modem chip and the Hermes SDR project. It is entirely open source and open hardware, including the tools used for design and fabrication files.

Hermes Lite V2 SDR

The SDR is controlled over your LAN, and plugs into your router. This can provide both local and remote operation. You can read more online about the project on the Hermes website.

The board comes fully installed, although you do need to follow the instructions on thermal dissipation for the PA. The radio will deliver 5w and is suitable for all modes and works particularly well on digital modes.

The microphone can be plugged into your PC, and then defined as the soundcard on the radio. In this audio clip, you can hear Gerald G4AXP (40w), and M0TAZ (5w) both using Hermes Lite SDR to have a chat on 5 MHz. In this case, I was using a cheap USB headset as I find headphones often help with noisy HF bands.

M0TAZ 5w and G4AXP 40w both using Hermes Lite SDR radios

The example RX filter setup in Spark SDR shown here.

The radio needs to be controlled by software locally installed on your PC, and you have a wide choice. I started with SparkSDR, as this program has a number of really neat features. The ability to have 4+ receivers running decoding digital modes on the fly. You will find SparkSDR have a online forum for questions and support.

Decoding 4 bands FT8 simultaneously

Here we will look at the setting to use Spark SDR with WSJT-X, setting up the sound card option, and radio mode set to DIGIU and hamlib.

You can use VAC to feed another digital program
Audio Settings
Enable Rigctl CAT
General setting page

In WSJT-x you need to set the rig to Hamlib NET rigctl and Network Server to your local IP address of the PC using port 51111

Network Server to PC IP address port 51111

Here we see WSJTx configured with SparkSDR and Hermes receiver decoding FT8

Its possible to do FT8 and other digital modes directly in SparkSDR, you dont even need to VAC but its good to have control as we can use this with other programs.

SparkSDR can be integrated with FLdigi using Hamlib

I have been running the Hermes Lite now for a few days. 140 QSO most FT8 or FT4 between 3 to 5w. This reception report is amazing, not worked but nice to know you have potential. ZL4AS

Raspberry Pi4 Remote Mount ADSB Receiver.

I know I am late to the party as ever, but I wanted to try and increase my knowledge of the Raspberry Pi and Linux so decided to try my had at 1090 MHz ADBS reception.

I wrote up some initial thoughts in a previous blog, this was my attempt to improve the reception and remote mount the Pi close to the antenna.

The problem with traditional deployment is the antenna and SDR receiver (FlightAware) are mounted some distance apart. High quality coax is needed, and even then the losses at 1090 MHz are high. I calculated 10 m of RG213 would equate to at least 3 dB loss, my antenna would need 25 m or coax to mount it in a convenient location. Factor in connectors and I was looking at a 9 dB loss, close on 90% or my received signal lost in attenuation.

The Pi has WiFi, and previous tests had shown me the range and reception was very good, so the idea of mounting the Pi in a waterproof box close to the antenna was conceived. Its not new, im not the first but this is my process and lessons I learned.

The rule of thumb in a box, is think of a size then double it, its not the pi that causes the issues, that is small.

85 mm x 56 mm in new money.

Its the routing of power, USB, SDR and the coax socket that need some consideration. Cooling may also be an issue, a sealed box could get very warm in the summer without some fan and ventilation.

Box options, I selected something marked waterproof and 150 x 110 x 70 mm and it cost £6.25 delivered.

Next was some waterproof sealant, I was going to be drilling holes in the box, and some waterproofing would be required. A tube of Silicon bathroom sealant seemed suitable. I would use this to seal around the power and coax cable entry points. I was going to be drilling all my holes on the bottom of the box, but everything needs to be sealed

The next issue was around the USB ports, I wanted the flexibility to mount the Flight Aware USB receive in a location of my choice and not be limited to the position of the USB ports.

Right angled USB extension cable

The short extension cable offered the ability to mount the USB receiver flush to the case, with a hole drilled for the SMA to poke out.

USB C Power cable with break out for wires.

Only suitable for short runs of power cable.

Powering the Pi needed some thought, was I going to connect 5v directly onto the board (this would have been easier) of could I look for some way to wire directly into the USB C connector. In the end this connector cause me a few concerns, it worked exactly as described, but in a tight box it takes up and incredible amount of space. If I could have got a right angled version, this would have made for a much neater installation. They are also quite expensive, but needs must.

For longer power cable runs voltage drop will become significant, and so I used a DC to DC converter from PIMORONI. They have one detailed on their website as Wide Input voltage SHIM, and you can power it with 3 to 16v

Wide input DC to DC converter

The last piece of the puzzle for me was a coax cable, I wanted N type on one end to connect to the antenna, and SMA on the other for the Flight Aware receiver.

If you wondered why I selected the blue Flight Aware receiver, in the tests I completed the band pass filtering and amplification out performed a standard RTL dongle by 10 to 20% range.

You will need a good 1090 MHz antenna, having something with some gain mounted as high as possible will make all the difference. I opted for a commercial made option, but if you have the equipment you could consider making a co-linear.

Have a look at the antenna options on amazon or ebay.

So having gathered all the items together, it was now just a case of positioning them in the box, the flight aware receiver has a long SMA shaft, so the hole can simply be drilled through the box and SMA pushed out. Once the SMA plug with coax is connected you can use a liberal application of silicon sealer to prevent water ingress.

I added a fan into the box, and made sure the Pi had a large heat sink fitted to the processor. The fan isn’t running right now, but this in itself provides a challenge. Not much point adding a fan if it doesn’t extract or force air into the box. I decided to drill 4 x 6 mm holes, and then as it turned out badly align these with the fan. I fitted some foam to the inside of the box, and then bolted the fan down, sandwiching the foam to the inside of the box.

Temperature readings of boxed Pi4

This again was mounted on the bottom of the box, as with every hole, to hopefully prevent water ingress. The other issue is likely to be insect infestation, they like nothing more than a warm dry home high up on a pole!

You may want to consider the application of some grease on the pole, its amazing how earwigs can find these warm homes.

Power was the final thing to do, I did try and power it direct from home, but the voltage drop was just too much. I decided to use a DC to DC converter, this allowed me to feed with anything from 3 to 16v.

PoE was considered, but i couldn’t really see the advantage over WiFi and separate power cable.

Under voltage messages would indicate I still have some issues to resolve, but its working.

The box on a pole, cable ties used as a temporary fix

Pi 4 with DC to DC converter fitted

You can view my live map here

Typical text display

Almost everything you need to go portable.

New to amateur radio, or a seasoned operator some people have never experienced the fun of operating out portable. The thrill of operating in a low noise environment.

VHF/UHF

If you going to take out your VHF/UHF handy, make sure you have a good antenna fitted. The stock antenna or the fake cheapo antenna on eBay is exactly that mostly useless. VHF operators sometimes take a vertical antenna with some gain to take advantage of an elevated location.

If your hill walking with unlicensed operators, then consider some PMR 446 radios as they provide good range and the ability to keep in touch with your fellow walkers.

HF Antennas

Speaker wire makes excellent antenna wire, lightweight and strong, and I would suggest you make a few dipoles and maybe wind them onto a former so they are easy to deploy.

If you are taking the equipment in the car, then you may want to consider getting a telescopic mast. These can be deployed behind the car with a suitable mount.

Para style cord is great for putting up guy ropes. You will also need some tent pegs to secure items in the ground. Flimsy tent pegs often bend, why not try these more robust pegs.

Guy line tensioner will come in very handy when putting up a mast.

Telescopic plastic poles used to fly flags at campsites make ideal HF antenna supports.

Power

No one wants to run out of power for their phone while out on the hills. These USB power banks will recharge your phone making sure its ready when you need it.

Everyone needs a torch, this one fits on your key ring and provides best in class illumination.

Depending on power requirements, you may wish to use a leisure battery or a suitable voltage LiPo system.  If your going QRO then a small generator will provide the power needed.