One of the best things about going to NC Scout’s classes are the people you meet. Multiple friendships have developed through those classes and one is with Teacher. Once a week, every week, Teacher and I meet on the airwaves practicing our digital comms. Being about 90-miles apart we use a 2-meter repeater located in-between us or HF, using 20-meters early in the day or 80-meters as the sun is setting.  Scout asked Teacher to write-up a quick beginners how-to article on digital comms using the FLdigo free software. Enjoy – JMc 

My brother and I talked about working on our ham radio communication skills and decided on 2-meter digital communications. We decided to work 2m FLdigi using the mode Thor22 in FM using a repeater . The repeater is close to him, but it is 73 miles from me.

We chose 2m FLdigi because of its many advantages. It is an efficient and effective method of communicating, with a variety of modes to choose from that allow your comms to become more robust as needed and include a measure of privacy, in that not just anyone can listen in. Importantly, it is also a digital mode available to those with only a technician’s license. Technician-class operators have a phenomenal tool at their comms fingertips.

“Simple, fast, reliable, energy efficient” is 2m FLdigi in a nutshell.

I was excited because I now have someone to continually work out the bugs in any potential comms plan, the technical side anyway. For me digital is the way to go, and FLdigi is a good place to start.

As we were adjusting settings to make our contacts, we would use our cells [phone] to pass suggestions. It took a few sessions to find success.

My station consists of a Yaesu 2900, a Signalink with cables to attach it to the 2900, and my Asus laptop running Windows 10. My antenna is a Diamond x-30a with a length of LMR 400 to the radio.

Yaesu FT-2900 powered by a 10ah lfp battery, and a SignaLink connected to an Asus laptop

The Yaesu FT-2900 is a single-band radio that can put out 75 watts at full power, but full power was never needed. The FT-2900 has been replaced with the Yaesu FT-2980.

A simple BaoFeng (5-watts) or Quansheng (5/10-watts) can be used in transmitting and receiving digital comms. You also do not need a computer to run FLdigi – A smartphone app is all you need. Over at NC Scout’s Brushbeater site, in the Communications & Software Resources section, is a link titled FLdigi for Android. Follow the link to the free software.

On our first attempts working at FLdigi, I had a little difficulty. I gave tech support a call and left a message. They responded quickly, and we got to the problem. Their help was concise, and knowledge of my specific radio was spot-on. The tech support from Tigertronics, where I purchased the SignaLink, is excellent. I highly recommend their products, their site, and their staff.

So, after searching for and watching a YouTube video on 2m FLdigi, reading the directions that came with the SignaLink, using tech support, and most importantly, finding a like-minded brother to build skills with, we had success.

The settings on my equipment are specific to my station, but I will pass them on as an example.

I first turn on the radio and the SignaLink and then open up FLdigi.

The SignaLink settings are as follows: the DLY is all the way counterclockwise, the RX is set to 12 o’clock, and the TX is set to 12 o’clock. If everything is adjusted correctly, the red LED should be lit when transmitting.

Computer settings were accomplished by doing the following: right-click on the speaker icon on the lower right-hand side of the computer screen. Open the volume mixer settings and set the speakers at 100 percent and the application at 50 percent. Right-click on the speaker icon again. Go to the Sound Control settings. The settings will be as follows: Speakers – level 100%. Microphone – level 50%.

Open up FLdigi and click on “Configure.” From UI, click on “Operator.” Go to “Audio.” For Capture, you should choose “USB Audio Codec.” For Playback, you should choose “USB Audio Codec.” Lastly, “Port Audio” is checked.

Enter your frequency, choose your mode, and confirm that you are in FM, not USB, etc.

On the radio, my SQL was set at 10 o’clock, and the volume control was at 8 o’clock.

If you play with the volume control, you affect the waterfall.

Put your settings in a notebook. They may be changed by someone, or someone else may need to send a message. Hopefully, eventually someone in the family or group other than yourself will learn to use your station.

The effort to accomplish 2m FM digital comms is well worth it. 2m FLdigi when using the SignaLink is an effective tool and not that difficult. Get the tools and the experience now.

With success in using 2m FLdigi for comms, we now move on to HF FLdigi. I have been using HF FLdigi for a while. But, with our being about 80 miles apart, the adventure looks to be on the NVIS side of the house.

Good Luck, God Bless, and 73s,