RaDAR – It is what it has become

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Today became a day of truth. I was saddened to hear the comments from some of my ham friends while discussing the state of amateur radio in South Africa. The discussion moved to RaDAR and they were honest about their views. I respect them for that.

My friend Pierre, ZS6A asked, “Tell me how many R2R (RaDAR to RaDAR) stations have you worked?”

I replied, “Well there was John MW/ZS5J in the UK (Wales) – true inter continental RaDAR to RaDAR (Extraordinary) and yesterday with Andries ZS6VL on a hike near Heidelburg with two young radio amateurs. ZU6M and ZU6BV, practising RaDAR and having FUN! Mike ZS6AKU and Jaco ZR6CMG …… missing my usual friends in the list!”

Pierre commented further, “Working John ZS5J from the UK R2R now that is the real deal …………. Oh for me the “moving thing” that simply has zero appeal to me.” 

I replied again, “The “moving thing” is what makes it all that more FUN Pierre otherwise it’s just the same as anything else. That sense of URGENCY I experienced getting to the next point (3km on the mountain bike) to make contact with John ZS5J was an experience second to NONE! Hey Pierre, I’ll never forget the time you sat in your chariot and still supported RaDAR!!! (I had a QSO with Pierre while he was flying over Mozambique in his Boeing during the November 2013 RaDAR contest – true RaDAR ground to air comms!)

I commented further, “RaDAR is as wide as it gets and more! Yes, it’s sometimes a number game and chasing goals. I like RaDAR because it’s more than just the QSO’s it’s the whole thing from beginning to end.”

John, ZS5J commented, “Regarding RaDAR, I am with Pierre – I LOVE radio in the outdoors, and operating QRP from a field or the beach….I am just not keen on packing up after 5 QSO’s all the time. I would prefer to find a good location, deploy, and stay there for the duration of the contest.”

I was saddened from what I read but I have great respect for these two gentlemen. They are extremely good radio operators and ironically have given me some of the best experiences I have ever had while practising RaDAR!

I explained, “It’s that what makes RaDAR different otherwise it would be just the same as all the others – nothing different to what has been done for a 100 years. RaDAR has evolved into something where movements are the highlight. It is therefore more than just making QSO’s, it’s a challenge to quickly decide where and how to set up an effective station, prove it works by making 5 contacts, packing up making sure nothing is left behind. Sure it’s a different challenge. It’s still good to know you guys are there on the other side and of course that’s part of RaDAR too.”

I have chosen to travel the road that RaDAR has become. Many looking to practice amateur radio in different ways will see it’s value and the extreme fun it can be – daring to be different.

73 de Eddie
Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio

Daring to be different

RaDAR – The first deployment

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The transition behaviour during the four hour period is what counts. The initial deployment is however ambiguous.

Being away from home at 14:00 UTC would make you a portable station, if you’re still at home, fixed. That’s if you start operating at precisely 14:00 UTC.

I drove to my first position on the MTB and was ready for comms at 14:00 UTC but that really effectively means I’m portable not mobile! The second point could be counted as mobile as the bike was the transition method.

It’s a technical point we need to resolve for the future. It hasn’t been really that much of a critical thing but as RaDAR grows into something bigger and we start to split hairs, it could become an issue.

Either we accept a transition method directly before 14:00 UTC or we don’t. That would mean transitions (or not) need to take place at 14:00 UTC to determine the multiplier.

I’d like to give stations the benefit of the doubt by accepting whatever transition took place before the first contact even if it be in the first minute of the contest.

I kind of like the variety in deployments.

Arriving by car, climbing on the bike – going in the direction of a river, climb into a canoe and paddle downstream and cross to the other side, land, proceed on foot – stealth mode to the next deployment point etc.

It’s simple to take the points related to the transition to the operating point for calculation of the multiplier – if that’s important.

 

RaDAR – Not for the faint-hearted

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Calling frequencies are there as a central watering hole otherwise we would need to scan too wide a range to find each other. We don’t have to stay on the calling frequency. I moved down after 3 QSO’s during the recent challenge and broke into a net to get two QSO’s that I could move to the next position.

Conditions and propagation play an enormous role. It’s a very real situation and it’s never easy – it’s how it should be.

The times were specifically chosen in South Africa  to bring the challenge of night time into the equation – it brings it’s own challenges and again, also very real. Yes we do need to consider the safety aspect, especially in our beloved country.

RaDAR is global now in different time zones. There will probably be a third challenge coming from the Americas in July I think.

RaDAR is different to other armchair, comfortable shack, type challenges / contests – too much of the same thing.

RaDAR is – daring to be different.

RaDAR – It’s more than just radio

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I was sitting and thinking just now. Most people know what RaDAR is but there is more to it than just radio.

It’s been a few months build up to the contest date. Many radio amteurs spend their time experimenting, testing, discussing results and making new like minded friends.

RaDAR has it’s monthly get together on various frequencies and we’ve all tried to make it work and still do. There are on going discussions and motivations taking place on the Google + RaDAR group. Many hams write their own blogs about their RaDAR experiences. It’s about sharing ideas and learning from one another. RaDAR just gets better and better and it’s because so many people believe in it.

RaDAR is different and forever changing, improving, taking the lead and daring to be different!

Then contest day arrives and it becomes more than a day, more than an afternoon as the excitement builds up by preparing and strategizing. Each very different from the other challenging themselves against whatever nature throws at them and yet all succeed. Certainly in this environment, practice makes perfect!

Then after the contest, exciting discussion on what went right, what went wrong and ideas for the future – to be better. Blogs are written, feedback is given in text and video all sharing very different stories.

What is really great is that RaDAR is global and we have become friends no matter how far away. The Internet and modern social media has certainly been used in the way it should – bringing people together. There is great strength in numbers and many minds with new ideas only make RaDAR even better!

RaDAR – Feedback on today’s ops

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I stood in the dark alongside the Molopo river, the air a pleasant chill, and I admired the stars above, the milky way, and I hoped to see a moving object amongst the many millions of of tiny lights. I thought about today, RaDAR day, many looked forward to it for months now.

Today started a little early, 10:30 local time to be exact. I had a sked with Etienne ZS6Y to work Funcube, AO-73, a little cubesat. I could not pack my RaDAR kit for I use it for satellites too. I deployed outside, my Arrow dual band yagi mounted on a tripod and the backpack with FT-817ND on the ground standing there like a dog waiting for it’s master’s commands.

Sure enough, AO-73 was right on time, I could hear Etienne on the downlink, 145.960 MHz USB +- doppler. I called on the uplink, my 817′s VFO A set to 435.140 LSB, the centre of the transponder’s passband and set for split mode. Etienne heard me and I completed my first cubesat QSO – ever!

No points could be claimed for this historic QSO as a RaDAR contest QSO it did not fall within the contest period. Nevertheless, it was a point for RaDAR SatComms – it’s been  a while!

Later this afternoon I drove out to my RaDAR ops area. The idea was to get my trusty mountain bike ready to move out to deployment point 1, 3 kilometers away. The first time I’d used a bike during a RaDAR contest.

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This is an old bike with perma-tubes (solid rubber!) and not easy to ride, nevertheless I had goals to achieve and I was driven to succeed. I deployed at the first deployment point. I used a fixed tuned end fed for 40m as a sloper the far end held high on the ten meter high Klaus mast strapped to a fence post.

My first contact was Dirk, ZS6AKU, also a Comrades runner and supporter through many a RaDAR activity. Then there was Jaco, ZR6CMG calling CQ RaDAR on 7090 kHz.

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To my surprise, Gert ZS6SMI from Lichtenburg called, and we had a successful QSO.

I was running out of time, I had seen on Facebook that John ZS5J would call me from the UK at 15:00 UTC on 28.060 kHz as MW/ZS5J ….. I broke into a net on 7085 kHz and worked two kind gentlemen, Chris ZS6GM and Barney ZS6TQ – I was heard by Alex ZS1L so I heard later tonight – it was time to pack up and move!

I had a half an hour to get to the next point and deploy in time to listen out for John. I climbed on the bike and started pedalling, moving at 6 minutes a kilometer …. it’s possible to run faster than this! My legs were cramping and it reminded me of many a close finish during marathons and some not close enough but I had to get to the next point in time …. there was no other way and I pedalled!

The deployment point I chose was a mistake! I was hoping to use a perimeter fence below my 10m J-Pole for what it was worth. I was joined by a few young interested children who weren’t doing my mission and focus much good.

I got the Klaus mast up with the 10m wire J-Pole hanging from the top, coax fly leads in place and I tuned to 28.060 – POWERLINE NOISE! My heart sank – how would I hear a weak signal with this noise but there was John calling! I battled to hear him for the young children were asking numerous questions – I answered John barely hearing my own side tone and the paddle was sticking – I’d be pretty embarrassed about the quality of my sending.

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I must still talk to John but as far as I know he a deployed as a RaDAR operator on a different continent to his motherland and that could very well be an inter continental RaDAR to RaDAR QSO – we sent locators, mine was KG34ac19fk and his grid IO71ls.

RaDAR – QTH vs Grid locators

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The QTH is only really there for those that have no idea what their grid locator is but no harm in giving both, it’s easier to know where Lichtenburg is than KG33bu.
The 10 character locator is available via applications like HamGPS on Android and many others. RaDAR accepts 6 but it would be great if many outdoor hams use the 10 character one, it has it’s advantages and RaDAR is a good place to start.
Like many “contests” a high QSO count is the goal, not so with RaDAR. I think of it as “training” to survive and communicate giving sensible, accurate information. WARC band exclusion is only for the “contest” otherwise RaDAR activities can take place on any band.
Decent reception reports are always handy. I like QRP contests because you know where you stand while listening and transmitting!
I used to use my Garmin eTrex legend for a 6 character grid but HamGPS on the smartphone is a lot better! Using new technology is also the goals of RaDAR.
Really looking forward to next Saturday!
73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – The new contest April 2014

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1. Aim

The RaDAR contest is a unique event aimed at promoting the use of Rapidly Deployable Amateur Radio stations. This contest is for all licensed radio amateurs not limited to South Africa. A choice is made prior to the contest to participate in one of the defined categories but may be changed at any time during the contest. The points system is so structured as to encourage portable operations especially moveable RaDAR stations.

2. Date and Time

First Saturday of April and first Saturday of November (5 April 2014 and 1 November 2014), starting at 14:00 UTC and ending at 18:00 UTC (16:00 to 20:00 CAT) – Approximately two hours during the day and two hours at night within the South African time zone.

3. Bands and Modes

All amateur bands, besides the WARC bands, are allowed including cross band contacts via amateur radio satellites. Modes – CW, SSB, AM, FM or any digital mode. QSOs via terrestrial repeaters will NOT be allowed.

4. Suggested HF Calling frequencies

http://zs6bne.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/radar-calling-frequencies/ for the latest international list of frequencies.

Recommended digital modes frequencies – Refer to the SARL Contest Manual, General Rule 15.

5. Exchange

The RaDAR contest requires more than a minimalistic information exchange. Accurate information exchange is considered more important than a large QSO count.

Call sign, Name, RS(T) Report, QTH and grid locator. Note the grid locator can change as RaDAR operators are allowed to move position at any time. The grid locator of six characters is acceptable but should preferably be accurate to 10 characters for higher position accuracy.

6. Scoring

1 point per QSO.
Individual QSOs – per mode, per band, per satellite, per call sign.

7. Categories and multipliers.

The following multipliers are applicable to determine the
final score. If category changes were made during the contest than calculate accordingly.

x 1 – RaDAR Fixed station (At home or in another building)
x 2 – RaDAR Field station (Portable – away from home)
x 3 – Moving RaDAR station – Car / motorcycle / bicycle / etc., minimum 3 km
x 4 – Moving RaDAR station – On foot – minimum 1 km

Note: Moving RaDAR stations can move at any time but are required to move to the next destination after five contacts have been made from the present location. The move needs to cover the required distance before further contacts are allowed to be made. This requirement tests the ability to rapidly re-deploy your amateur radio field station.

Power multiplier: The power multiplier that applies is determined by the highest power output of any of the transmitters used during the contest at any point in time.

x 6 – 5 Watts or less
x 4 – 6 to 50 Watts
x 2 – 51 watts or greater

9. Bonus points (All categories).

5 Points (The equivalent of five QSO’s) for a minimum of one satellite or any digital modes QSO involving a computer, smartphone or digital modes device. (For clarity thereafter 1 point per Satellite / Digital modes QSO)
5 Points for the first inter continental DX QSO – 10 Points if that QSO is between two participating RaDAR stations.

10. Log Sheets

The SARL RaDAR Contest manager – Eddie, ZS6BNE. Send email entries to edleighton (at) gmail.com. The closing date for logs is 19 April 2014 and 15 November 2014.

See https://www.dropbox.com/s/trkir582qf0fmh3/ZS6BNE-RaDAR-GenericContestLog2014.pdf for a log sheet specifically designed for the RaDAR contest.

Note: A photo of the station (JPG format) MUST accompany every log entry. A photo is required for each new location that moveable stations move to. These photos are used to promote amateur radio and the RaDAR concept showing where amateur radio can be used to communicate from and in the many different ways.

73 de Eddie
Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio

Daring to be different

RaDAR – Fair competition

There is nothing wrong with the idea that categories compete among themselves. Multipliers were built in to cater for difficulty but I see no problem that the contest results are published with individual categories in mind.
Much like my running sport I’ve been practicing for close on two decades, there are juniors, seniors, veterans, masters and great masters. They certainly would not be able to compete against each other. Prize giving is per group – 1st, 2nd and 3rd. etc. It gets more difficult with age, I know, I’m moving to the great master category – fast!

73 de Eddie
Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio

Daring to be different

RaDAR – Being different

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What makes the RaDAR contest different to any other. The requirement to move.

Sure it’s more difficult for some than others. Most field type contests allow set up 24 hours before the event.

I looked at this and thought there must be some other way of making amateur radio a little more exciting.

I started with one contact per kilometer moved proving the concept. See http://zs6bne.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/radar-one-contact-per-kilometer-moved/

Then it had to be made achievable by most hams and made it 5 contacts per distance moved depending on the medium.

RaDAR categories were defined to suit many different ways of practising RaDAR.

As we’ve mentioned, contests are only really measurements of our ability to take on whatever challenge and have fun at the same time.

Too many contests are the same, RaDAR needs to be and is different – RaDAR, daring to be different.