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Transatlantic VHF Digital Receiver Site Now Operational in Newfoundland


A transatlantic VHF digital receiver site has begun operation in Newfoundland. Frank Davis, VO1HP, reports that antennas were erected and a VHF SDR activated on May 19 to inaugurate the VO1FN “TransAtlantic VHF Digital Beacon Receiver Site.” The receiver site, in grid square GN37, is sponsored by the Society of Newfoundland Radio Amateurs (SONRA), the Baccalieu Amateur Radio Klub (VO1BRK), and the Upper Trinity Amateur Radio Club (UTARC). Davis made his summer home and station in Freshwater, Conception Bay North, available for the receive-only site; it offers an unobstructed view of the North Atlantic, and he’s open to suggestions as to how to take best advantage of the site’s capabilities.

“The point of this experiment is to provide a North American receiver online 24/7 that can be used by European beacon operators or well-equipped VHF stations to test their transmissions,” he told ARRL. “It is a receive-only site, but if it is proven over time that signals can be heard and correlated with propagation studies, then it might stimulate operators to equip their stations to attempt a two-way QSO.”

Attempts have been made from Newfoundland and Labrador to transmit an Amateur Radio signal across the North Atlantic on 2 meters, with a two-way contact as the ultimate goal. The Irish Radio Transmitters Society (IRTS) offers its Brendan Trophy to the operators of the Amateur Radio stations to establish the first two-way communication on 2 meters between Europe and North or South America.

The most recent effort to snag the Brendan Trophy took place from Newfoundland in 2014. The VC1T group set up a 33-meter long rope-supported Yagi and a sophisticated high-power station, and it transmitted toward Europe on digital modes.

Interest stemming from the VC1T experiment led to the VO1FN project, Davis said. John Anderson, MI0AAZ, offered a Raspberry Pi computer and FUNcube Dongle Pro+ to the cause, although the current system uses a PC which can run SDR Console software. Davis said he’d very much like to upgrade from the FUNcube dongle to an Ethernet SDR with lower noise figure for weak VHF signals, but the project doesn’t have the budget just yet.

Davis approached SONRA President Douglas Mercer, VO1DM, who canvassed the other two clubs involved for contributions and made a personal donation. The funds permitted the purchase of two InnovAntennas 5 element LFA-Q (loop-fed array quad) Yagis. Justin Johnson, G0KSC, of InnovAntennas donated a phasing harness and power combiner.

“The receiver site is up and running using an SDR and SDR Console software,” Davis told ARRL. He explained that users would first have to install SDR Console V2.3, and he would open a free account permitting them to log in. Davis said the receiver has been listening continuously on 144.488 MHz for any JT65 signals from Irish beacon station EI2DKH, operated by Tony Baldwin, EI8JK.

“We are willing to rotate the Yagi array in any direction for testing with distant 144 MHz digital stations,” Davis said.



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