“How in the world did a Multi/Multi contest station deliver a top ten finish with no operators in the shack?
Team W4AAW has taken remote contest operation to the next level: Totally Remote M/M contesting.
There’s even a zero-cost operator option!”
Description of TeamW4AAW’s achievements by Ken Claerbout, K4ZW
During major DX contests, operators from across the globe fire up their computers and log into W4AAW in Virginia, to operate the station by remote control. TeamW4AAW’s operators, all of whom hold FCC-issued Extra Class licenses, use the Internet and a Virtual Private Network to engage in RadioSport in a new and exciting way: Remotely.
The team was the first group to mount a totally remote M/M contest effort. It has to its credit numerous top ten finishes and several new North America M/M category record scores.
W4AAW operators pay no dues or fees. The station is furnished free of charge to its operating team. Members lend their considerable and varied expertise to solve problems encountered in a remotely operated multi-multi station. They also contribute financially from time to time as they wish.
Other operators furnish rigs or amplifiers to the station.
An interactive on-line operator schedule handles the tiresome operator scheduling tasks for over a dozen contests each season.
Remote operators may log into any of three remote-capable operating positions at W4AAW.
Two positions are fitted out with upgraded FT-2000 transceivers with mu-tuning units. The third position offers a K3S. (Note: The Microbit RemoteRig equipment has been retired for now. The RemoteRig could not survive the demands of supporting use of the N1MM+ Logger Network over various Internet connections without crippling audio dropouts and loss of rig control. If this problem is resolved, we will consider reinstalling it, as our operators did enjoy operating W4AAW's K3S using their own local K3 / RemoteRig compatible gear.)
All positions have Acom 2000A amplifiers and use N1MM+ Logger for logging operations and for control of all antenna rotors.
Antenna switching is automatic. The Top Ten Devices-designed antenna switchboard allows operators to move to an available band by simply changing bands on their transceiver.
Acom Director Software from MØYOM Systems allows remote starting, monitoring, controlling and shutting down of the Acom 2000A amplifiers. The application presents this screen:
Remote operators see the full W4AAW operating screen on their own computer screen. Each operator may adjust the position of screen elements to suit his own needs and preferences. Several operators use a two-screen monitor arrangement in order to display all the information they require. Others use very large monitors to avoid screen clutter. Remote operators can see amplifier information, antenna directions, antenna-stack control buttons and many other things a local operator would never need to see, on screen. All controls can be controlled with a mouse or with a touch screen.
Here what our resident RTTY wizard, Don-AA5AU sees at his New Orleans operating position. Don was operating in the SAC Worldwide RTTY contest on 20M. He was using two RTTY decoders (MMTTY and 2Tone).
Operators who use Positions 1 and 3 see this on their computer screen(s).
Some of TeamW4AAW’s operators engage in SO2R operation. Some manage to operate W4AAW while traveling. To the right is KU1CW’s hotel room set up in Jakarta, Indonesia (YB). Below, W3UL operates in his Florida condo. Bill started the contest in Maryland and finished up from Florida!
Igor, N3TOD/UA9CDC operates from Ekaterinburg, Russia. Tom, K2GO frequently visits Inchon, South Korea in connection with his Boeing 787 Simulator project. He regularly operates in CWT sessions from his Inchon Hotel.
W4AAW is not a “Pay-and-Play” operation. The ARRL wrote this about our team: ...."a group of more than 20 operators helps to maintain and operate the station, which has become a real-world laboratory in the to-date niche field of remotely controlled contesting."
We look forward to working you in the next big DX contest.