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Author Topic: Equipment for specific needs in a motorhome  (Read 4974 times)

Posts: 1

« on: October 11, 2017, 09:11:40 PM »

My wife and I will soon be traveling by motor home for a period of one year.  In addition to the myriad electronics already installed on the motor home I would like to incorporate the following functionality (in order of desirability):
1) The ability to transmit our position so that friends and family can track us.
2) The ability to communicate with our spouse via Ht over a distance greater than is afforded by Ht to Ht.
3) The option to send text messages via SMS or email when we do not have cell coverage or WiFi access.

Two general methods have come to mind: a) purchase a very capable transceiver that has these features built in, and b) utilize two mobile transceivers, one of which is dedicated to APRS.

For the "all-in-one" solution I have considered the following candidates:
a1) Yaesu Original FTM-400XDR 144/430MHz Dual-Band Analog/Digital Mobile Transceiver System Fusion:  Provides compatibility with the many Fusion repeaters. $ 690.70

a2) Icom ID-4100A:  D-Star, built-in GPS. $459 Incorporates D-prs.  Provides compatibility with the D-Star repeaters. Bluetooth interface to headset, and control from Android.
There is no TNC connector for this radio. Interface with APRS can be achieved through the Android device and app, or another interface gateway.

a3) Icom ID-5100ADLX: D-Star.  I haven't recognized functionality in this unit that I need that is not incorporated in the 4100A. $510

a4) Kenwood TM-D710GA:  Echolink. True dual band.
Wide reception:118-524MHz, 800-1300MHz*
Built-in APRS and TNC. Worth about $200.
GPS Unit in control head.  Worth about $30.
APRS is killer. Voice Alert is really easy to enable, and it is likely to produce contacts that will keep the wife entertained. You can filter and sort the list of APRS contacts by call sign and distance. You can just press a button to QSY to the frequency/tone/offset that the APRS contact has indicated in their packet.   $559 at Gigaparts.
Echolink requires PC interface cable: $19
When connecting the internal TNC to a PC for packet mode, a serial transmission (programming) cable (PG-5G) is required in addition to the PG-5H used for EchoLink Sysop mode. $34. This is a 8 pin mini din to to USB.($29 on Ebay)
See cable description in separate document.
There is a PS2 keyboard option to send text via APRS.
The disadvantages includes: 1) single point of failure, i.e. all your eggs in one basket.  2) The internal TNC might constrain future software development.

a5) Kenwood TM-v71A: Echolink. Dual Receive on Same Band(V?V,U?U).  Advantage is that by utilizing an external TNC I would likely to be able have greater latitude in developing my own applications.  Disadvantage during the trip is more piece and more wiring to maintain. $334
Requires external TNC or modem, such as Mobilinkd $70
Android tablet running APRSdroid with OpenStreetmap offline maps, stored on the SD card seems like a good plan.

The Kenwoods are attractive to me.  They seem more open/hackable and less proprietary/closed.  The Kenwood TM-V71 and TM-D710 dual-band FM transceivers are the only commercially-available rigs with EchoLink capabilities built in. With these rigs, no special interface is required; you can use the optional PG-5H cable (or a homebrew cable) to connect the rig directly to your PC.

Among the candidates for the category of "dedicated APRS transceiver" I have considered the following:
b1) ICOM 2300H 05 144MHz Amateur Radio : $195
b2) Yaesu FTM-3200DR :  $169
b3) Yaesu FTM-3100R:  $149
b4) Kenwood TM-281A : $156
The above would require an external modem/tnc with APRS software such as Mobilink TNC 2.2:  $70 with APRSdroid.
b5) Yaesu FTM-100DR:  $320 (built-in aprs)
Requires Interface cable: $15

I have very little recent ham experience, although I was a ham in my distant youth. I recently obtained my extra class licence, I am a retired computer software engineer with many communications applications to my credit, and in my early years I received an extensive education in electronics.  My wife also has a ham license. And so we should be able to implement most any solution that you guys deem appropriate to our purposes.  If I implement the “dedicated aprs transceiver” solution then I can provide a separation of about 10 feet between the transceiver antenna for the dedicated APRS transceiver and the transceiver that I would utilize for voice communications.  On the subject of utilizing a mobile transceiver for voice, the transceiver for voice communications to the spouse via ht or to some ham that we stumble upon would not likely be utilized more than once per day.  Thus interrupting APRS for the infrequent voice communications would not be an issue.  Also, the transceiver utilized for voice must be VOX capable so that I can communicate with my wife hands free when she is outside guiding me through unfamiliar campsites.

Many thanks in advance for the benefit of your experience and expertise.

Posts: 489

« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2017, 06:05:26 AM »

1) The ability to transmit our position so that friends and family can track us.
2) The ability to communicate with our spouse via Ht over a distance greater than is afforded by Ht to Ht.
3) The option to send text messages via SMS or email when we do not have cell coverage or WiFi access.

Here's my vote, having done all of these, although not all at the same time and not from an RV...

1) a dedicated radio system (radio, antenna, etc.). A standalone 2-M mobile and a "mini tracker" will locating and digipeating and once you configure it, you can hide it someplace that's out of the way and it'll just work. You might want to configure a remote on/off switch and some of the mini trackers can be configured to change their operation (e.g. enable/disable functions) remotely. This is not something that will need much fiddling around with after you get it configured so it's better to be left alone. A complete system can be assembled for less than $300.

2) A dual-band V/UHF radio with crossband capability (e.g. the Kenwood V71A or it's APRS-capable big brother.) For areas where your RV is in the best location, that would be the easiest (with a couple of dual-band handhelds, of course). Anything else will be more complicated (and crossband setup is usually complicated enough).  If this is a frequent event, you might consider building a cross-band repeater using separate radios to get higher power and duty-cycle. Using a repeater controller, you can configure it to work as you'd like. I suggest cross-band rather than in-band to give you more frequency options and less need for diplexers to filter out interference. Mount one antenna on the front and the other on the back and you should be good-to-go.

But, take a repeater book with you. In many places, there are repeaters installed on nearby mountain tops that provide some amazing coverage (e.g. there's a repeater system that connect Arizona, Utah, and Idaho). So, don't be afraid to put that (vastly underutilized) capability to work for you.

3) In this scenario, you'll probably need an HF set. I've used Winlink with the SCS modems and WinMor protocols. SCS modems are best, but you pay (dearly) for that performance. WinMor is cheaper, but not as reliable or as fast. Which is "better" depends on how much speed you're willing to pay for. I'd suggest trying WinMor first and if that's not fast enough, spring for an SCS modem

Enjoy your coming adventures!
« Last Edit: October 15, 2017, 06:07:37 AM by K7RBW » Logged
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