Remote FT-991a series

Make smart, make remote and automate.

/ yaesu, tuner



This series is for HAMs and nerds.

I'll go over how I made my Stockcorner JC3-s tuner remotely tunable and turned the Yaesu FT-991a into a remote rig, which hasn't been achieved by many solutions on the market. The big plus point of my tinker solution: It's completely open source, until the very last bit when transmitting voice on macOS.

The other big plus: Concepts and elements presented are not only useful for Yaesu rigs or MacOS, but could be great for other transceivers and operating systems.

But why

The Yaesu FT-991a is a great shack-in-a-box offer at a fair price, for ham radio gear. It beats the ICOM offerings in value by combining all modes and all bands with up to 100W. But that is just my opinion and ICOM fans will already have foam around their lips. Hear me out.

Yaesu also has downsides: They are not as modern as ICOM when it comes to UI and UX. The menu structure of the FT-991a is clunky, while the integrated USB ports gives both CAT control and sound card access in one cable, remote controlling an FT-991a is way more involving than remote controlling an ICOM transceiver. Plus Yaesu changes rear ports with every rig.

The rear ports and their proprietary use is a motivation for this series: Unless you buy a specifically designed Autotuner to communicate with the unique ports of the FT-991a, you cannot control a remote tuner. The ports, pin-outs and usage of connectors differ among Yaesu radios. Bad UX, bad marketing strategy.

To use a true auto tuner with an FT-991a, one must either buy a dedicated device or cable. Or DIY. As we do in this series.

Over the course of designing the remote tuning routines and hardware, I moved to enable full remote operation. Right now my rig sits in our bedroom, so late night sessions, when bands are open and the air is clean, are not compatible with my YL. This is one reason. The other reason is I'd love to move my transceiver to a remote location. With the solution presented here, I can do both.

Chapters of this series can apply to other radios, other tuners.

I tried to design and combine elements with universal potential. If you don't own a JC-3s or an FT-991a, chances are that procedures presented here might still be of value to your shack - and home.

A github repository containing all material discussed will may come in the future. If there is demand.

Chapter 1 - Remote control the JC3-s


The first chapter deals exclusively with stockcorner JC-3s antenna tuner.

I propose an ESP8266 driven method to replicate the functionality of a supplied control box to enable remote operation. This chapter contains solder, electronics and esphome

Chapter 2 - Automate tuning and remote control the Yaesu FT-991a


This chapter starts by expanding chapter 1 by automatic the tuning process. There were a couple of ways to achieve this and I opted for node RED in combination with flrig.

Since the tuner does, by itself, not communicate with my Yaesu FT-991a, I need to introduce a middle ware to control and monitor both tuner and rig.
The overhead of introducing this automated, remote controlled tuning enabled going further: Introducing full remote operation, which is the focus of chapter 3.

I also touch upon remote control of the power supply as both failsafe and means to control power usage.

Chapter 3 - Remote operation with TX and RX


The last chapter started out as an appendix, but thanks to MacOS, the lovely pitfalls of open source software in Linux actually transporting audio back and forth between a Linux system controlling the Yaesu FT-991a and a remote machine wasn't as easy as thought.

The result contains building blocks for Windows, Linux and MacOS to universally transport Audio between the rig and whatever client is connected. It works via an Web client (RDP protocol) and native applications on controlling machines.

Not only is audio transported, but also CAT commands. I only touch the surface of it, but with being able to transport all exposed CAT commands, full remote operation is possible.

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