RaDAR – A visit to the other side of SOTA

I have a lot of respect for those that are able and do take part in the SOTA challenges. I don’t have many defined summits near to where I stay but I did try to access two of them. I did it in conjunction with my salt mine activities trying to expand on our wireless network.

The summits in question were ZS/NW-008 and ZS/NW-004.

NWKRecce

My colleague Jaco and I left early Friday morning for the Marico area traveling mostly on gravel roads. I’ve traveled these roads a few times over the years one of which was used for final training for the Comrades marathon a few years ago. Rough, with steep uphills and downhills and it brought back some fond memories.

The first recce was to NW-008. This summit was on top of one of the biggest mountains in the area. What lay between us and it was miles and miles of eight foot game fencing and private property. No contact numbers on the many gates that we passed.

100_1808

We continued down the road towards Groot Marico, the mountains became hills and the hills became flatter. It was time to turn around and that’s what we did. It was starting to get warmer and I climbed out of the car and took off my jacket. A farmer that was cutting feed in a field for his cattle came towards us and we introduced each other. After a discussion about looking for hills and places to expand our radio network he asked us to follow him home and he’d show us the top of a mountain on his farm and so as he drove past on his tractor we followed him.

What a kind gentleman, he took us through his hilly farmlands to the top of one of the highest hills (BERGG) in his Mahindra bakkie. He said we are most welcome to install whatever we need on the hill. It was not as high as NW-008 though.

C360_2014-06-20-10-41-01-028 (2)

I took a few measurements while we were up there and then we returned to the farmers farmhouse, bid our farewells and thanks. I wrote down his contact information if needed for the future.

We continued back down the road with the intention of going to NW-004. We passed NW-008 on our left and there was a farmer and farmhands working with a bull whose horns had gone septic. I stopped and Jaco and I introduced ourselves to him. “How can I help you?”, the gentleman asked and so I explained again what we were looking for. He said he’d take us to the top of a mountain on his farm. In fact he had three farms adjacent to one another all with mountains on them! Jaco mentioned NW-008 and the farmer said we can’t go there and I didn’t push the matter any further. He was kind enough to take us to another hill and I accepted his hospitality.

I had to use my own car this time, a Nissan X-Trail. It has 4×4 capability but not a fully fledged 4×4. So we climbed up embankments, through gates, and steep shale covered pathways. I had doubts in my mind that the car would be able to climb the mountain. In first gear, the car in 4×4 mode with hill assist the X-Trail climbed faithfully up the hill. It certainly surprised me! The farmer agreeing to take it slowly and then I found out he was 77 years old, as fit as a fiddle and very open minded, an interesting man!

I took measurements at the top of BERGJ and we traveled down the steep hill again. The 2.5 liter X-Trail handled that very well too. Jaco and I said our goodbyes and our thanks for his hospitality too. I also took his contact details.

We drove off to NW-004 stopping for coffee and sandwiches alongside the road. To prove to Jaco I could make contact with someone via shortwave while we were in a valley amongst the rocky hillside I did a quick RaDAR deployment with my FT817 and end fed antenna and had a short SSB QSO with Flip ZS6PJK. We packed up and continued to NW-004.

100_1837

A final realization.

I could not access any of the two defined SOTA summits. There were thousands of other places from where to operate. Later while trying to get access to NW-004 I did another RaDAR deployment on a ridge and made two CW QSO’s with Barrie ZS6AJY and John ZS6JBJ. We had to move because a number of cattle on their way home for the night looked unsettled with what they saw and so I packed up and we moved off to the cellphone tower (CELLT), Tafelkop (TFK) and eventually back home (NWK) changing a flat wheel on the way where a sharp rock had cut a hole through the back tyre just before leaving the gravel road.

I traveled a little over 300 km’s for the day, over 200 km’s were gravel roads. No summits could be activated but RaDAR deployments were effective and successful.

 

RaDAR – Historic first RaDAR to SOTA contact

A few stations in South Africa had plans to do an all time first SOTA to SOTA contact in particular Pierre, ZS6A and Dennis, ZS4BS. The sked time was 09:00. I thought it an ideal opportunity to make it a first RaDAR to SOTA too.

I always have my RaDAR kit packed and ready to go. At 08:40 I picked up the pack and Klaus mast and walked down the road, the destination behind the nearby primary school. There is quite an embankment on the edge of the sport field. I don’t have a mountain nearby.

By 09:00 I was deployed and ready. I heard nothing on 7.090 MHz LSB or 7.020 MHz CW.

CQSOTA

While sitting and waiting, I heard Derek ZS5DM calling and we had a QSO from 09:09 to 09:26. He had a good signal and I received a good report from him too. He later tried 1W QRP and I could still hear him RST 519.

At 09:14 I had a QSO with Monk ZS4SF we also had 599 signals both ways but there were still no signs of Pierre, ZS6A on CW ?

At 10:07 I heard Dennis ZS4BS in QSO on 7.090 MHz LSB and as he signed I called him. He was at the SOTA peak ZS/FS-012 overlooking the Sterkfontein dam with the Drakensburg mountains on his right. A little windy he said. He was running 30W into a dipole using his FT857. I gave him a RST 51/55 with QSB and he gave me a RST 57

Dennis and Jaco were equipped with a flask of coffee and some rusks. I can only imagine what a fantastic time they were having on the mountain!

I used my FT-817ND running 5 Watts into my “shortened” end fed held high in a tree using the Klaus mast strapped to the tree trunk. The bungies barely made it around the tree!

KlausMastStrappedToATree

A SOTA to SOTA did take place – first summit to summit between Willie ZS6WBT on ZS/MP-005 and Dennis ZS4BS on ZS/FS-012

I had another short morse code (CW) contact with Monk on 7.020 at 10:20 then it was time to pack up and walk back home. I celebrated by taking Elrika and Eduan out for brunch.

RaDAR – Hamnet 24 hour field ops June 2014

Day 1

Saturday morning, Elrika and young Eduan had left early to get to Hartebeespoort dam for Eduan’s cross country run. Grandad is proud of his young trail runner!

The car had to be packed, the ops equipment already staged in the dining room the night before. It took around an hour to pack everything and I scouted around the house to make sure nothing was left behind. Time was running out, it was already 10:30. The exercise was to start at 12:00 local time. I still had to travel 35 kilometers to the deployment area, tactical name – Molopo.

My biggest concern was whether the Webb FST 400 multi band antenna would work. See http://webb.co.za/pdf/Fst%204004R-25R%20S3.pdf I bought this antenna second hand many years ago and it had not been tested – yet. I had other antennas packed just in case.

The cost of batteries dictated my mode of operation. I chose to go the full 24 hours running QRP only. The FST had to work! My rig, an FT-817ND, LDG z817 ATU and  2 x 7 A/Hr SLAB’s (Another in my backpack).

I decided to use my telescopic “Eskom pole” as the mast. It has a sturdy place at the top where I could bolt the FST’s balun on to. The FST is a very big antenna. I rolled out the wires in two opposite directions in an open space between the trees. There are two wires on each side but are joined at the ends.

By around 12:00 I was ready to use the antenna and set up temporary camp to make my first contact using the FST. All stations worked in a channelised fashion, channel 4 (7.095 MHz) was busy!

InTimeForTheFirstContact

At 12:08 I made my first contact with Waterberg and by 12:10 we had both exchanged messages and signed out. The FST antenna worked at least as an NVIS antenna! It was time to set up camp. The wind was already starting to increase in intensity. I unpacked the tent and positioned it so the coax could be routed through the tent doorway even when zipped up. I had to take into consideration the slope of the ground. I didn’t want to sleep on a downhill later in the night!

FieldDeployment

I had the tent set up by 13:00 and put the table inside, out of the wind. I exchanged further messages with Secunda, Nigel and Spaarwater all in division 6, Hibiscus in division 5 and Tanqua in division 1. The FST was working, even further than normal NVIS distances. At QRP power levels I was impressed with the performance of the FST. Granted, there is a lot of wire in the air!

During the second 3 hour session I wanted to deploy as an on foot RaDAR station and so it was time to pack the rig into the back pack and move out shutting the tent door on my way out.

GoingWalkies

I went east looking for a place to place my Klaus mast, an abandoned pipeline excavation area. I found a sutable tree trunk and strapped the mast to it using my heavy duty bungi cords. In no time at all I had my “shortened” end fed deployed and ready for comms. My 817 was connected to the 7 A/Hr SLAB in the base of my RaDAR backpack.

RaDARDeployment1

The picture below shows the end fed “bungied” at the feed point, the bungi acting as shock absorption protecting the wire from damage. The wind was chilly but not strong. I fed the end fed with 3 meters of RG58cu coax and lay it on the ground as a “counterpoise”, the other end plugged into the 817′s LDG z817 ATU.

ShortenedEndFed

The RaDAR flag was flying! I exchanged messages with Spaarwater, Nigel, Secunda and Monateng all in division 6 on channel 4 (7.095 MHz LSB) and another contact with Hibiscus in devision 5 also on channel 4. The end fed was performing well! Hibiscus had a good operator !

RaDAR1

I walked back to where I had set up camp and exchanged messages with Honingklip and Tanqua both in division 1 on channel 4 before the end of the second 3 hour session using the FST. The sun was already showing signs of setting.

FST400OnAnEskomPole

I took a short walk down to the river. An awesome sunset. The wind had died down. A pleasant evening but a distinct chill in the air as the sun faded over the horizon.

MolopoRiver

Session 3, Waterberg and Hibiscus again on channel 2 (3.695 MHz LSB). I tuned to channel 1 (1.843 MHz LSB) and called there – Waterberg came back to me and we exchanged a special extra message. That was a bonus point and I worked my first QRP 160m station! The FST isn’t even rated for this frequency but it worked!

Thereafter messages were exchanged with Monateng and Nigel all on channel 2.

EarlyEvening

Around 21:30 during session 4 I exchanged messages with Hibiscus and and Tanqua on channel 2.

Next session – midnight and a new day.

Continued - Day 2

RaDAR – The Hamnet winter exercise

 

Busy building my check list that nothing gets left behind on Saturday!

HamnetWinterOps

Logistics

Five man Tent (Able to stand)

Fold up table

Fold up chair

Fold up stretcher

Fold up mattress

Sleeping bag

Gas bottle – Sufficient gas!

Gas lantern attachment

Firelighter!

Cooler bag – Food and water / cool drink (for two days)

GPS and Compass (Optional)

 

Warm clothing!

Warm Jacket

Track suit

Beanie

Gloves

Socks

Spare clothing

Easy sleep – anti mosquito!

 

Power and lighting

2 x LED Headlamps – New batteries

Waeco (18 A/Hr SLAB) – Charged

2 x 7 A/Hr SLAB’s – Charged

Homebrew FT-817ND power cable with crocodile clips (Beware polarity)

1 x 7 A/Hr SLAB (for backpack) – Charged

Rechargeable penlights – Charged

 

Blogging and ops reporting (Spare time, if any, blogging)

Netbook  - Charged

Spare netbook battery – Charged

Wireless mouse – New AAA battery

Smartphone (Spare time internet gateway) – Charged

PAYG Data bundle

Camera – New battery!

 

Masts and antenna supports

Eskom mast

3 x Guy ropes + carbiners (for Eskom mast)

3 x “7″ shaped Tent pegs (for Eskom mast)

10m Qick deployment fibreglass RaDAR mast

2 x Heavy duty bungies (for fibreglass mast)

2 x Paint roller handles (serves as a 4.5m mast / two hiking poles)

Joining tube (for paint roller handle mast)

Optional short guy ropes (for paint roller handle mast)

Rope (serves as a third guy wire for quick inverted vee format antenna deployments with the paint roller mast)

Bungi’s (shock absorption to protect wire antennas where needed)

Spare small carbiners

Small pulleys (Optional)

 

Antennas

Webb FST 400 including mast mountable balun http://webb.co.za/pdf/Fst%204004R-25R%20S3.pdf

Open wire fed W3EDP

Open wire fed (300 ohm) random length dipole

LDG 4:1 Balun (for above antenna and W3EDP)

Coax (PL259′s both ends)

Various Coax fly leads

Various coax adapters

Shortend 9:1 UNUN fed, multiband end fed

Trap dipole 40m / 80m

Trap dipole 30m / 20m / 10m + fixed coax

Roll up wire 10m J-Pole

Various tie ropes

Extra wire (for possible 160m deployments)

Terminal blocks (joining wires)

Tent pegs (securing antennas in the absence of natural tie down facilities)

 

Radio equipment

FT817ND Multiband QRP radio

LDG z817 comapnion auto ATU – With 4 x spare AA penlight batteries

Hand mic

Headphones

Heil Traveler headset + boom mic (Optional)

MP3 recorder

Headphone jack splitter

 

Administration

Programmed frequencies (HF channels)

2 x Operations log (RaDAR / Portable)

2 x Message lists (RaDAR / Portable)

5 x GOOD Pens

Notepad

Watch – accurately timed

 

 Tools and testers

Multimeter

Multitool

Knife

Measuring tape

Shifting spanner

Flat screwdriver

 

 

 

Selling the idea of RaDAR

C360_2014-04-05-18-11-23-932

Selling RaDAR is a difficult thing!

There are so many similar activities like SOTA, Adventure radio, various QRP activities etc.

We need to sell the idea where RaDAR is different to everything else. I like to compare it to an obstacle course, a game.

The basic things are:

  • All moving operators have to move after every five QSO’s for a required distance.
  • We need to determine accurate positional information and communicate this and other basic information in an accurate manner.
  • No 59 or 5NN useless info.
  • We need to be self sustainable carrying water, food and protection from the elements.
  • We communicate by using every means possible, from CW, to voice modes, to digital, to satellite communications.
  • We need to be practised that we know what works best allowing us to  make decisions quickly. Every deployment is a new puzzle to solve and lots of FUN!
  • RaDAR is daring to be different.
  • RaDAR is living a healthy lifestyle and incorporating amateur radio within our outdoor activities.

We can add to the list!

RaDAR – Power supply a challenging decision

waeco-battt

 

I have joined in for the national 24 hour Hamnet exercise that takes place this weekend from Saturday at 12:00 to Sunday 12:00 local time. Communications take place between stations within all divisions of South Africa including Gough island.

Last weekend, I looked around for deep cycle batteries that would be capable of powering my FT-847, including the FC-20 automatic ATU, for 24 hours. These batteries are incredibly expensive so I am forced to run a QRP station. I have sufficient battery power to power my FT817ND RaDAR backpack radio for 24 hours.

All HF bands are used (160m to 10m, including the WARC bands) in a channelised fashion. The use of a multiband antenna and antenna tuning facilities could facilitate quick switching between the channels. ATU’s use power too and are forever tuning – at least in the case of my FC-20! The 817′s companion LDG z817 ATU runs off penlights but only uses power while tuning. Maybe time for a battery change. They have been in service for a few years already – pretty efficient I’d say!

The Hamnet Winter Challenge 2014 document makes it quite clear that only battery supplies and field charging methods may be used.

There is quite a lot of accurate messaging to be done with 20 different field stations during every 3 hour period for 24 hours. A few others will be using QRP too!

This may be a “portable” deployment but  will be a rather challenging exercise from a RaDAR perspective.

Other things need to be taken into consideration too. Emergency lighting, headlamps, shelter from the cold (a small tent and sleeping bag) not to mention food and water.

Protection from biting insects cannot be over emphasised!

 

 

The Future Ham

EduanSoldering

On a chilly winters Saturday morning, Eduan sat on a chair, the warm sunlight shining through the dining room window bringing comfort from the cold. He was startled by the sudden question, “Hi uncle Eduan, what are you doing?”, asked the little boy from across the street. He was visiting young Sam, Eduan’s son. “Hello Juandre, I’m paging through some old magazines that my grandfather stored in cardboard boxes many years ago. He said they would become quite valuable one day. I guess he was right, no one prints magazines anymore”.

Wow, uncle Eduan, I’ve never seen one, a magazine? Why are some big and some of them small?”. Juandre had many questions, quite an inquisitive little boy and Eduan thought to himself, “How interesting young kids are, so willing to learn but nothing is as it was anymore. How lucky I was to experience many of the things these young children will never see”.

Juandre, go and call Sam and I will explain to you both”, said Eduan. Juandre ran around the house calling, “Sam, Sam come quickly, your dad wants to show some zines he found in a box”, they raced to get back to Eduan. “Why are you crying dad?”, asked little Sam and Eduan quickly wiped away the tear that ran down his cheek and swallowed, deeply. “Not crying, son, it must be the dust from these old boxes” explained Eduan but realized his son had witnessed his tender side.

Juandre, Sam’s great grandfather and my grandfather, was a radio ham”, explained Eduan, “right from before I could walk he used to let me play with his ham radio things like a big morse code key, the buttons and the dials on his big radio’s ….”, Eduan noticed the vague looks on the two little boy’s faces, they had no idea what he was talking about.

Dad, you’ve lost us”, Sam said in an alarming way. “Please explain what a morse code thing is and what is a radio? Is it like dad’s glasses?”. Eduan thought to himself, “I have a lot of explaining to do, much has changed since I was their age”.

Come and sit next to me and let’s page through a few of these old magazines”, said Eduan. The two young boys looked in awe, and both shouted out excitedly and in stereo, “dad!”, “uncle Eduan!”, “all the zines have the same name, R a de e oh Zed Ess !”. Eduan knew then the boys would not be stopped in their quest for knowledge. It was his responsibility to spread the word.

Eduan was alerted to a message flashing within the glasses he wore, a message from his friend in Hawaii – Noise levels non existent on 15 an 20 metres, put out calls…….nothing. Terrain is like Mars and has extremely high iron oxide content, I can’t to stay too long, in case of altitude sickness.

Eduan looked at his son, “Sam, your great granddad was a radio ham for over a half a century. That is a long time. He made sure I took part in radio youth activities when I was your age. I got two book prizes, one for his radio club and one for myself. He loved browsing through my book, it was all about low power radios. Grandpa loved nature and practicing ham radio in the field. He loved jogging too, he wasn’t a champion in any way but always believed if he could take on the challenge it would be possible for others too”.

Eduan further explained to the two boys, “Much has changed since I was your age. Grandpa had old radios which he sold to some friends much older than him, they were collectors items. He had other radios too. He spoke of APRS short for Automatic Position Reporting System and TNC’s which is short for Terminal Node Controllers and also said there used to be packet radio that used the same protocol, or way to communicate between radio stations. It was used to send short messages all over the world. It worked very well and he received replies to questions within a day or two. That was pretty quick considering people used to write letters to each other then that took two weeks on average to get to the addressed person”. The two boys sat and listened carefully as if they understood. “We’d be pretty lost if messages took that long to get”, said Sam. Eduan smiled and was proud of his son’s response.

Sam, messaging became faster through what they called SMS, short for Short Messenging Service, then. When handheld telephone devices could connect to the Internet then other cheaper services became available. You could even do APRS on such telephone devices that it could be used without a radio, you did not even need a GPS it’s built in just like your comms unit. Not many people use a radio now”, explained Eduan.

Sam got all excited, “Dad! Where are granddad’s radios now? We’d really like to see them!”. Eduan replied, “I still have grandpa’s radios. I have permission from the governement to have them on display but they have been sealed that they cannot be switched on”. “Cannot be switched on?”. Little Sam was quite disapointed. “Why?”.

Eduan explained in his way, “Goverments of the world were told by scientists that they have received intelligent messages from space. Five short tones followed by two long and short tones. For decades radio hams taking part in senseless contests weekend after weekend constantly sent the morse code “DiDiDiDiDit DahDit DahDit”, faster than normal, a sort of common denominator and it appears that life from other planets received these signals somehow and have become aware of our existence on earth. There was a need for radio silence…..” Eduan distinctly remembered listening to his grandfathers CD’s, The War of The Worlds …..

Awesome!”, Shouted Sam and Juandre, “just like our XXXBox virtual reality games”. The children did not realize the graveness of their passion.

Around ten years after the turn of the century, BYOD, or short for Bring You Own Device, became quite popular. People used them to connect to the Internet to share electronic mail and to talk to each other. They could even use the devices to see each other no matter where they were in the world! Radio repeater systems could be accessed using these handheld devices and it was no longer any use to have a radio. If you really wanted to, you could listen to someone else’s radio over the Internet but that became expensive especially if you wanted to use it to communicate with other radio stations. It was the beginning where radios became just too expensive to own and lost sales stopped production lines for radio’s but the BYOD unit’s continued to improve and everyone had one.” – Eduan just gave a history lesson in a few short words.

Every connection the the Internet is identified by what they call an IP address. The world was united because it made no sense to be separate. Like the magazine’s name ZS, ham radio call signs were replaced with an IP address number as it uniquely identifies the user. Everyone had their own IP address! The GPS is always switched on so your immediate position is always known. For our own safety the national government says. Boys don’t be too concerned it is how we live now. It was different when I was your age.”, said Eduan, he’d already said too much!

RaDAR – April 2014 contest report

JacoZR6CMGa

Jaco ZR6CMG – Mobile category

It is difficult to determine how many official participants took part in the April 2014 RaDAR contest because not everyone sends his / her log to the contest organiser for evaluation. The RaDAR contest requires movement after every 5 QSO’s. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea but it’s really a fun activity and should be seen as such. Some RaDAR operators, like John ZS5J, do send at least a check log. The following radio operators submitted logs - Dirk ZS6AKU, Eddie ZS6BNE, Jaco ZR6CMG, Lucy M6ECG and John MW/ZS5J (Check log). 

Dirk worked from home as a portable station, Eddie travelled by mountain bike, Lucy took on the “on foot” category, Jaco took on the mobile category and John the portable category. Lucy and Jaco excelled in their operation by communicating for the full four hours while moving after every 5 contacts and are the resulting winners of their categories.

The ultimate goal for the 2014 international RaDAR contest are the inter continental RaDAR to RaDAR QSO’s. John and Eddie were successful in making such a QSO. John was on holiday and had deployed a portable RaDAR station on a hill in Wales. Both stations were using only 5 Watts. John’s antenna, a vertical dipole and Eddie’s antenna a roll up 10m wire J-Pole. The QSO took place using CW on 28.060 MHz. Signal were around RST 529.

John’s comments to Eddie on Facebook, “ I was thrilled to work you from a field surrounded by sheep in Wales, UK during the RaDAR contest using CW QRP both ways….that was an adrenaline rush for me!”. That says it all. John submitted a check log but could very well have been the winner in his category. He made many DX QSO’s from his portable RaDAR station in the field. John unfortunately left his camera at home and was unable to take a picture.

Congratulations to all the winners!

 

 

 

 

RaDAR – Moving amateur radio stations

RaDAR

Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio

Introduction

Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio, often referred to by its acronym RaDAR, is a concept for operating an amateur radio station anywhere, anytime and even in adverse environmental conditions. This concept supports the amateur radio service’s emergency communications mandate.

Where the concept originated

Radio amateurs from South Africa came up with a concept to build a comfortable portable radio station capable of operating for extended periods while walking or stationary after walking to a specified site.

The idea was discussed in an open forum and ideas gleaned from many of the local hams, some prototyping was done and the “Shack in a Sack” (SiaS) concept was born.

In August 2009 RaDAR – Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio, was launched – a more professional version of the SiaS concept.

Natural evolution

Rapid deployment of an amateur radio stations was the goal of RaDAR. Initially it was a requirement to walk at least one kilometer carrying all station equipment, antennas and logistics to the operating position. This was no different to any other similar outdoor amateur radio activity.

The need to be different

There was no time limit set for an initial deployment so the essence of deploying quickly was not quite there, it was simply too easy.

Some experiments were done and RaDAR once again evolved into a more refined idea by having to move station for a required distance depending on the mode of transport after every five contacts. No other amateur radio activity in the world works this way. RaDAR is different.

The concept adapted

Rapid deployment and indeed rapid re-deployment is 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 decide quickly where and how to set up an effective station, proving it works by making 5 contacts, packing up making sure nothing is left behind, moving and doing it all over again.

Sure it’s a different challenge including repeated physical activity. It’s also a method of learning, practising and finding what works and what does not.

Modes of communication

RaDAR promotes the use of voice, digital, point to point VHF and UHF communications and even satellite communications. The use of terrestrial repeaters is however not allowed, for contest purposes at least.

The future of RaDAR

Many looking to practice amateur radio in different ways will see it’s value and the extreme fun it can be. The highlight is the “moving” aspect of RaDAR which is what makes RaDAR different to all other amateur radio activities.

A slogan was appropriately recently developed, “RaDAR – daring to be different”.

A few comments from RaDAR operators worldwide:

I love the challenge of the RaDAR contest because it’s different … It keeps me on my toes!”

Every time I set up outdoors, I am practicing for RaDAR.”

Some runners may not run a marathon each weekend but they train with the marathon in mind. I actually find the moving fun in itself.”

Whilst I am not a true RaDAR operator in the sense of moving after every 5 contacts, I like field operating and if conditions are favourable for me to keep moving, then I will do so.”

RADAR is like a parachute, if it is not there when you need it, the chances that you will ever need it again is very slim! Radar concept plays a vital role in times of disaster and during Search and Rescue operations!

RaDAR – It is what it has become

Tumbleweed01

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.

This was a summary of the conversation we had together. It highlighted the “moving” aspect of RaDAR which is what makes RaDAR different to all other amateur radio activities. John and Pierre are fortunately radio operators that still enjoy the great outdoors and the challenge of QRP – they just don’t like to have to deploy and redeploy which is a test in itself, RaDAR.

73 de Eddie
Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio

Daring to be different