Radio Ranch antenna Upgrade – 3 Ele Steppir

Radio Ranch antenna Upgrade – 3 Ele Steppir

The KIO hex beam has worked well here at the K2ADA Radio Ranch. Now that we are here most days, I began thinking about an upgrade. Since my primary rig here is a Flex 6300, a multi band yagi or log periodic interested me. Both would “listen” to all bands with a single coax run and I could open multiple slices on the Flex. However, both also have compromises. A mono band antenna for every band would of course be the ultimate, but I didn’t want the multiple towers and switching that would be required.

A dynamic antenna. The Steppir has been around for awhile now. The 3 element (w/ 40m option) will not pose a problem for my Universal 50ft tower and Hygain rotor, and after several months of thinking and rethinking, I pulled the trigger.

Assembly is really straight forward but the instructions could use some attention. Steppir has updated the documentation of each option and sends each as an addendum to the basic build. This is a little confusing and requires a lot of extra work to assemble the antenna correctly.  A phone call to one of the Steppir techs cleared everything up and the build took me about 3 days.  Working several hours a day.

Here are some photos (thanks Annie) of the assembly, and the removal of the hex and raising of the Steppir:

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Steppir needs to rethink their assembly documentation

KIO Hex beam

KIO Hex beam.

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Steppir element tubes

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Steppir boom and EHU (stepper motor).

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The entire boom assembly

 

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40m driven element

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a 60ft lift was used to retrieve the Hex antenna and replace it with the 3 ele Steppir

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the completed Steppir is visible in the foreground

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Thanks to help from a neighbor, we raised the Steppir, and attached it to the existing mast

I’m getting use to the time it takes the Steppir to “remodel” itself for each frequency change.  Signals have been strong and reports have also been good.

 

Flex 6300

Flex 6300


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I have been interested in SDR (software define radio) for years. Several companies have been marketing radios for a while now and FlexRadio has been the most aggressive in America in demoing their offerings at hamfests and on the web.
I recently saw a demo of an Anan 100 which was very impressive. Apache labs makes the Anan line of SDR radios and you should take a look before plunging into this world.
When FlexRadio introduced the Flex 6300 at the Dayton hamfest (2014) I could resist no longer. The price point was in my range and the feature set is perfect for my style of operating.

So now, the Radio Ranch station is complete. When I’m on Merritt Island, I can remote into the Radio Ranch via the Kenwood TS-2000/Remote Rig set up, and work with the SDR radio when we visit the Ranch. Flex has promised some remote capability in a future software update.
Switching Antennas
IMG_0638Two rigs, one set of antennas. A simple set of switches handle the task. I use a KIO hex beam for 20m – 6m, and a Buckmaster OCF dipole for 80m – 40m. The Kenwood auto switches antenna based on the operating band. Since I have a 600 watt amp in line with the Flex 6300, I have to switch antennas on the MFJ 998 manually.
No problem since I am right in the control room when I operate the Flex.IMG_0642IMG_0643

RemoteRig configured and Fully Functional

RemoteRig configured and Fully Functional

Big step forward.  The RemoteRig units arrived and, after  a struggle with ip set up and port forwarding, they are functioning at the Radio Ranch and in the condo on Merritt Island.  The two locations are 140 miles apart.  Connected by the internet, I can now control the Kenwood TS-2000 at the Radio Ranch from the condo.  Audio – both ways – and radio control are controlled by the RemoteRig units (one on each end) and I’m controlling the rotor by a remote desktop app called LogMein.  Audio reports have been good, no packet drop outs reported.

I have an Icom IC-7200 with a Buckmaster 6 band OCF dipole at the condo.  This station is still in place and it’s very interesting to run both stations side by side.  I have even used the two stations together, listening on the Icom and transmitting from the Radio Ranch with success.  The difference in what I can hear between the two locations has also been surprising.  The dipole at the condo runs north-south, favoring signals from the east-west in theory, and the Radio Ranch is a hexx beam, favoring the direction in which it is pointed.  Early tests have shown the hexx beam into Europe and Asia is very strong.  I’ve been able to work many stations on both stations and difference in signal reports have been significant.  More to follow as I get more operating time.

The Tower is UP at the Radio Ranch!

The Tower is UP at the Radio Ranch!

With help from Frank (Annie’s Father), and Ted’s (Authority Tree Service) bucket lift,  the Universal tower has been raised.  On top, the hex beam (6, 10, 12, 17, 15 and 20 meters), below, two Comet VHF/UHF verticals.

 

The assembled tower before antenna installation

Tower assembled

The hex beam was assembled on the ground and attached to the mast.  Stand off brackets were bolted to the tower and VHF/UHF antennas were installed.  The rotor cable was run into the shack and tested.

tower & antennas

The bucket truck arrived and the key was getting the bucket up to about 70ft above the tower base.  We attached a pulley at bucket height and a rope to the tower, and slowly raised it to vertical!

bucket truck

The tower in place and ready.  Now working on grounding systems and coax runs.

RR tower

Universal 21-50 Tower Installation

Universal 21-50 Tower Installation

My first tower installation at the K2ADA Radio Ranch.  The Universal 21-50 is an aluminum 50 ft tower rated at 21 sq ft of wind load.  It is self supporting, and requires a substantial base of concrete: 5’x5’x6′.  The hole was dug by hand, no , not by me.  Caruthers concrete dug the hole and provided the forms and concrete – lots of it.  Here are some photos of the hole, steel base and the first tower section.

Antennas and Tower for the Radio Ranch

The tower has arrived (Universal 21-50), and the main multi band HF antenna is on order.  After much consideration and research, I ordered the KIO Broadband Hexagonal Beam.  6 bands, one feed line and twenty pounds.  I really considered a Mosley TA-54-XLN-6 and, one day, I may still end up with one.  I’ve sized the tower (21 sqft wind load) and rotor (hy-gain IV with up to 15 sqft of wind load) to turn a much larger antenna than the hex beam.  The TA-54 has a 21ft boom, longest element 30ft, and weighs 87 lbs.  It’s a bit of a beast.  Of course there is a big difference in gain:  4 elements compared to 2, but I like the light wind load of the hex and it will make the raising of the tower much less of an adventure.

The tower will also support two Comet GP-3 VHF/UHF ground planes and the surrounding trees will support a Buckmaster 7 Band OCF Dipole and an Alpha Delta 80/40 inverted V Dipole.