KC2SAH - VARA FM Gateway for Fort Walton Beach, FL

I recently stood-up a VARA FM Gateway in the Fort Walton Beach / Hurlburt Field, Florida area. This is a personally-run gateway that is mounted on my home and is intended as a local gateway/backup to the K4SRC gateway in Milton, FL. It is designed to be a public-use resource, but may be dedicated to emergency use as required (natural disaster, etc.).

STATION: The station currently runs 24/7 on a dedicated Icom IC-207, 12v Windows computer and Signalink soundcard with a 7db vertical antenna. The system will soon be operated entirely via solar power, with enough battery power to operate for a minimum of 3 days.

GATEWAY: The system supports VARA FM 1200/9600 baud. I have tested the system and shown effective data transfer rates of up to 23 kbps. I have tested the system's range and have been able to connect and transfer data across the vast majority of Fort Walton Beach, as well as along 98 in Navarre, FL. The antenna is currently only 10 ft AGL, but I am working on installing the antenna on my home's rooftop (approx. 22' AGL). Once that happens, range and SNR should be greater.

FUTURE PLANS: Soon the gateway will have LTE connection backup, so the gateway maintains connectivity even if my home's connection drops. Eventually, I will be tying this system into a dedicated HF station as well, to allow RMS Relay to automatically forward data received on FM over to HF gateways out of our region. Finally, I will eventually pair the system with Starlink, once our area becomes serviced. Depending on whether we can gain support/approval for it, I would like to see the system be installed on a dedicated radio tower or other high point in the Fort Walton area to drastically increase effectiveness.

REQUEST: If you are in the local area (Navarre, Hurlburt Field, Fort Walton Beach in the Florida panhandle), I would ask that you attempt to connect to the gateway and send me a signal report with your approx. location, your SNR and your achieved data transfer speeds. In your report, please indicate whether you connected using 1200 or 9600 baud and whether you are using full-speed VARA. Reports can be sent to [email protected] or [email protected] (checked daily).

Thank you for your help!

P.S. I will post photos soon, once I do some cable organization!


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