RaDAR – An 2022 evaluation from the perspective of the designer

RaDAR has come a long way from being something very similar to other ham radio activities to something increasingly unique although staying very much the same as any other ham radio activity. RaDAR once was seen as “Daring to be different” and it became a slogan proudly displayed.

Lucy M6ECG

The slogan was created by Lucy M6ECG who was once very active doing RaDAR Challenges. The RaDAR idea spread reasonably quickly to other parts of the world especially to the USA and the UK including other countries in Europe.

As RaDAR grew increasingly unique like having to move and redeploy, which in essence is what RaDAR is, participation in these activities were left to a select few. The use of “Military” terms like “ops” and “special forces” of ham radio seemed to distract many hams. RaDAR is seen as special as more is required of the radio amateur to participate. The knowledge of Morse code is high on the list, a certain level of fitness and preparedness is also welcomed. Communication accuracy of information is also considered to be very important.

Only just recently, RaDAR Sport was introduced which is a two hour long sprint but has not yet attracted the attention of the vast majority of outdoor hams. The four hour challenge still appears to be more popular with an odd few opting for a twenty four hour challenge. So the willingness of radio amateurs prepared to make physical activity much part of ham radio is still there.

The future of RaDAR, like many other ham radio activities, lies in the participation of not only the “activators” but the “chasers” as well. It has been widely publicised that RaDAR operators doing challenges need the support of chasers (Ordinary hams working from home or anywhere else) who look out for them but this has seldom been forthcoming – support provided again only by a select few..

An online community log, a unique idea within ham radio circles, was created to promote accurate logging and evaluation of the accuracy of logs. Again only a select few support this. It has been proved to be a reliable system and open for all to see. It was created initially to support the RaDAR Sport initiative but can be used for any ham radio activity.

Online community logbook

The system is very user friendly with lots of facilities to make logging a pleasure for all. Yet many hams shy away from it? It can be seen as a QSL system where each logger acknowledges his QSO with the other station, information accuracy is confirmed and everyone is happy. Ideal for simple contest logging and evaluations too.

RaDAR was designed so that any ham can take part from anywhere using any equipment at any power level. Why then is it not that popular compared to activities like SOTA, POTA, HOTA, BOTA, IOTA or any other similar activity?

I often look at the very popular activity known as SOTA, or summits on the air. The only times I ever activated a summit or two cost me a pretty penny in transport, accommodation and entrance fees. RaDAR has no cost other than if a ham would like to operate RaDAR from some exotic location.

SOTA requires that activators and chasers log their contacts on a central database, RaDAR has the online community logbook. SOTA has awards, RaDAR has no particular award and maybe that is what hams are after? Recognition for their efforts. RaDAR operators are quite satisfied in knowing he / she was able to set up and communicate with others under strenuous conditions. It can be fun too.

Here in South Africa we have two very active SOTA activators namely Sid ZS5AYC and Adele ZS5APT. They travel all over the country, arranging access to summits wherever they go. They are not young hams but very active for their age. They need to physically access the summits on foot and set up communications from the summits. Much like RaDAR? Many hams follow their activities on a regular basis, the chasers and obviously logging the contacts on the SOTA database.

Why does RaDAR not get that kind of support? It takes effort to create something, to nurture it for years and when it matures it should be able to continue on its own. The time for nurturing RaDAR is coming to an end. It may see its demise or it may grow. My hope is that it continues to grow. The online community log is at its centre. Without the support of chasers like those that support SOTA the chances of it dying is a shocking reality.

The RaDAR online community log can be accessed here – http://www.radarops.co.za/zsportal/

The SOTA database can be accessed here – https://www.sota.org.uk/

The RaDAR Challenge – In preparation of …

Because the RaDAR Challenge can be planned for beforehand, a suitable environment can be chosen, a park, a beach or anywhere where one can feel safe practising RaDAR. Not only the environmental’s but equipment and power choices need to be made too. There is no advantage in choosing a specific range of output powers. Higher power means more weight, as simple as that.

RaDAR Operators need to move, that is the uniqueness of RaDAR but RaDAR allows for portable and fixed stations too. These stations as I have said many times before are the stations that fill the gaps moving stations leave behind and are welcomed with open arms.

The categories are individually evaluated. Please refer to my previous articles on logging and evaluating the RaDAR Challenges. In less than a week we will see the first RaDAR Challenge of the year 2022. The new law allow you to remove your Covid masks while outdoors, at least in the case of South Africa. We are returning to normality!

I have been preparing the environment here in KG34ac for weeks now but with all the rain we have been receiving I often need to go back and cut the field grass again that literally grows overnight! I have the WSPR NVIS Detector running again after doing some improvements to the online software but will need to shut it down again for a while as I am in the process of moving QTH.

Cleared areas for quick antenna deployments

I will be taking part in the two hour on foot RaDAR Sport category (Starting 12:00 UTC) again but will also listen out for other stations as a chaser station outside the RaDAR Sport timeframe.

Have fun!!!

The RaDAR Challenge – How to

The first RaDAR Challenge takes place from 00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 2 April 2022. Contest details can be seen on http://radarops.co.za/index.php/radar-rules/

The RaDAR Challenge is for everyone. All logs however have to be logged online at http://www.radarops.co.za/radarsport/RaDAR_Sport.html In order to log online you will need a PIN which relates to your own call sign and can be obtained by contacting Eddie ZS6BNE at edleighton@gmail.com

The logging process is important. Logs can be uploaded via ADIF if you log your QSO’s using a different logging program but you will still need to edit RaDAR related fields online.

New log

As with any QSO log these are the standard fields that need to be logged. The frequency should be to the nearest kHz and the times in UTC and usually the time at the end of the QSO to be most accurate. This is important. RaDAR evaluations allow a maximum of five minutes difference in time. RST’s, Comments and Power are just additional information and not that critical as far as RaDAR evaluations go. Just good to know information.

RaDAR Related fields

The RaDAR Related fields are most important. With any RaDAR Challenge deployment only five contacts are needed for every deployment done. Some hams however make more than the required five contacts. Here you have a choice to mark the five QSO’s you consider to be the most important per deployment.

Category

Also very important, mark which category your RaDAR Chellenge is participating in. See the RaDAR rules for more info on these various categories. Evaluations are done online according to these various categories after the challenge. There is no need to submit a log, it is already online!

Your deployment grid locator and the other station grid are most important and important that they are accurate. Ideally both stations should be logging on the system as that validates the QSO and the exchange accuracy. This allows for bonus points to be generated during the evaluation process.

Mode of transport (If any)

Of course, your method of transport, if any, is important too. Fixed, field stations and moving stations have different multipliers. Make sure that you specify these criteria correctly.

Evaluations can be done online at any time by anyone. The evaluator can be accessed at http://www.radarops.co.za/radarsport/evaluate_Sprint.html

The goal of RaDAR

The QSO between Bob KK4DIV and Greg N4KGL is the goal we try to achieve during the RaDAR Challenges. Good luck and have fun!

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – November 2021 “Official” results

I was busy refining the Evaluator to cater for all the RaDAR Challenge rules. I had to edit just about all the logs, not the QSO or Grid detail but adding “Power” which means nothing here really and adding the x / 5 markers estimating which QSO’s were most valid.

The overall result (Category X) November the sixth 2021 from 00:00 to 23:59 UTC

The graph shows all participants that actually logged their QSO’s online. Queries can be further done to determine the scores for the Categories A, B, C and D (Chasers).

Category A (24 Hour challenge)
Category B (Standard four hour challenge)
Category C (Two hour RaDAR Sprint)
Category D (RaDAR Chaser stations)

Category D operator can be active at any time on the day of the RaDAR Challenge. They are the chasers and the guys the moving RaDAR stations really need. They are usually fixed stations and possibly connected to the grid too.

There is however something I need to look into. I calculate the number of deployments by deviding the number of (Selected) contacts by 5 and rounding up. The number of contacts that chaser stations make are calculated in the same way although not seen as deployments but certainly can be seen as a multiplier for the many contacts the chaser station could make making himself available.

The categories are calculated separately so this should not present a problem, the multiplier for category D just needs a name and has not been mentioned to date.

RaDAR Sport – ZS3DR Test case

In the year 2021 RaDAR Sport was introduced and practical experiments done during the last of three challenges on November the sixth. Much development and updates were done to accommodate the situations which may arise during a RaDAR Challenge.

New fields were introduced into the online logger to cater for these situations and here presented as a test case and to explain how the online community logger and evaluator are used to evaluate any of the RaDAR Challenges.

Please refer to the RaDAR rules at http://radarops.co.za/index.php/radar-rules/

Page 1

The new columns introduced are Power and x / 5, where Category existed on the day of the challenge already. Here ZS3DR took part as a category B (SINGLE PERIOD, FOUR HOUR ops) RaDAR station, moving by vehicle (Vehicles, motorcycles and motorboats (motorized transport) – move 6 km every five contacts).

If more contacts were made than the required five per deployment, the best five QSO’s can be selected for evaluation. The best options are where a valid grid check took place (Bonus points) and second at least where QSO information has been validated by other operator log submissions. Good choices could be those where the operator is also taking part in the RaDAR challenges.

So in effect, after the RaDAR challenge has taken place the operator can come back to the online log and make these decisions and also correcting any mistakes that may have crept in during the logging process. Certainly after an ADIF upload this will be required as ADIF files only carry the most basic information. Once the logs have been submitted and refined by all participants then an evaluation can be done online.

Here again a test case for ZS3DR. Tjaart only operated two hours but category B runs for four hours unlike the RaDAR Sprint category C which is two hours but no motorised vehicles allowed.

Date, time and category selection

Tjaart’s operating times and category were selected for the test case evaluation for the 6th of November 2021. Fortunately all the guys that logged their RaDAR Challenge logs have provided valuable data to refine the system for this year 2022 and years to come.

On clicking the submit button, all the magic happens, within seconds. Concentrate here just on the results for ZS3DR.

ZS3DR’s Final result

Here we can see from the selections Tjaart made (Edited by ZS6BNE) to his logs that he made 10 official RaDAR contacts (Even though he had more QSO’s than the required five per deployment). His mode of transport / movement was a vehicle and moving stations have a multiplier of 3. That gives a score of 30. From the logs he had selected 2 were validated by other RaDAR operator logs right up to the grid exchange which gave him in total 4 bonus points. A subtotal was then calculated to be 34. The number of deployments (Five contacts per deployment) then come into play as a multiplier. Those stations that do multiple deployments within the time frame enjoy a higher score than other stations doing fewer deployments.

Each participants score presented graphically.

Once all the other call signs are correctly marked and refined by each participant (Here I will use that data to edit and test) then the graph will be quite representative of all the results.

Ensure you have your assigned PIN which is related to your call sign. The first RaDAR Challenge for 2022 is just around the corner, in April!

73’s de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – Building alliances

ADIF Downloads

I’ve just finished watching the latest South African Survivor series on Showmax hence the heading and “Building alliances”. I’d also transferred my logs from the Online Community Logbook to other Internet based logs using the ADIF download facility. It works like clockwork and yet another facility built into the online logbook.

One doesn’t have to look very much further than the Mode column to see where our alliances lie. Certainly the growing CW community has taken to this facility and using it on a regular basis, yet sadly not ALL CW operators do. Maybe those belong to another alliance much like the SSB alliance and maybe the FT8 alliance too. I say that with “tongue in cheek” but that really appears to be the case.

Certainly as far as RaDAR is concerned the online logbook is a prerequisite for any participation within future challenges. How else would evaluations be done if the data is not readily available? It should be regularly used in order to practice for those upcoming challenges. Tom G0SBW certainly does that. He has found it an easy to use facility for logging his pedestrian mobile activities. Many, like Frank ZS6FN, have commented on how streamlined the sharing of logs are using the system.

We are nearing the end of 2021 and how I wish the world could once again return to normal……

RaDAR – Taking orders

Mike ZS6MSW came up with a brilliant idea that kind of falls in line with the requirements of accurate logging much like RaDAR.

His idea was to make CW QSO’s fun and to expand on the standard exchanges a little into short purposeful QSO’s. We placed an order for food with each other, logging the ordered foods in the comments column on the RaDAR Sport Online logbook. Grids were exchanged as well which could be seen as a delivery address and falls in line with what the world is experiencing through Covid-19 that we “accept deliveries”.

Arthur ZS5DUV introduced some unexpected responses when Eddie ZS6BNE ordered Chicken hearts saying he does not have them on the menu and Eddie had to change his order. This was incredible fun. enjoyed by none other than the CW fraternity in ZS. It gave CW and accurate exchanges a purpose.

The “Evaluator” was used to evaluate the exercise and the accuracy of taking orders. Mike ZS6MSW was called by Frank ZS6FN while Mike was entering his log which may be seen too as passing the order to the kitchen. Mike kindly asked Frank to wait. When all was clear they exchanged their orders!

This was close to real world information exchange and done entirely using Morse Code!

The new RaDAR

Updated : 2021-10-30 (Draft)

The “Evaluator”

The RaDAR Challenges / RaDAR Sport Sprint

1. Aim

1.1 The RaDAR “Challenge” is a unique event aimed at promoting the use of Rapidly Deployable Amateur Radio stations. Options (Fixed, Field or Moving) may be changed at any time during the challenges. The points system is so structured as to encourage portable RaDAR operations especially moveable RaDAR stations.

1.2 RaDAR operators are encouraged to be self-sufficient during each challenge, with not only power supply and communications equipment but food, water, protective clothing and shelter.

1.3 The introduction of various categories starting from November 2021 (Test phase).

Category A – A FULL twenty four hour RaDAR Challenge.

Category B – The standard RaDAR challenge. It’s up to each individual to plan his / her MAXIMUM, SINGLE PERIOD, FOUR HOUR ops.

Category C – A 2 hour RaDAR Sport sprint, starting time 14:00 LOCAL TIME. This is a physically demanding challenge.

Category D – A RaDAR Chaser station. Without these stations RaDAR operators will find difficulty in maintaining quick QSO’s per deployment.

Please ensure that you mark your category correctly when entering or editing your logs in the online logbook.

Once a challenge is completed by a RaDAR Challenge participant, there is no harm in becoming a Category D Chaser station. Monitoring the online logbook in real time will provide clues to where to find the activity worldwide.

All logs are to be recorded using the unique online logbook. A PIN is required for access and must be arranged a week ahead of the challenges. Ideally every RaDAR operator should be possesion of his own PIN to be able to log online. Contact Eddie, ZS6BNE via email on edleighton@gmail.com. The online logbook can be found at :

http://www.radarops.co.za/radarsport/RaDAR_Sport.html

As in the past one point was allocated for each of the five QSO’s per deployment. Now if the log is matched on the system with another then both stations get credit for the QSO otherwise the logged QSO only has a one point value. As this concept will grow so will the accurate logging from all stations become a reality. This has been proven during the development and testing of the online community logbook.

2. Dates and Times

2.1 RaDAR operators define their own categories.. He / she should consider propagation with the ultimate goal of inter-continental RaDAR to RaDAR communications in mind.

2.2 00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 3 April 2021

2.3 00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 10 July 2021

2.4 00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 6 November 2021.

3. Bands and Modes

3.1 All amateur bands are allowed including cross band contacts via amateur radio satellites. Modes – CW, SSB, FM or any legal amateur radio digital mode (Except modes like FT8, preferably keyboard to keyboard modes like PSK31 where the operator is directly responsible for the information exchange).

The WARC bands are INCLUDED – The RaDAR Challenge is not considered to be a contest but an individual challenge with a low QSO count and a simulation of emergency situations. 17m is a popular band to use.

3.2 QSOs via terrestrial FM repeaters should preferably NOT be used for the purpose of the challenge.

4. Suggested (Non WARC) HF calling frequencies

See https://zs6bne.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/radar-calling-frequencies/ for the general RaDAR Calling channels, the latest suggested international list of calling frequencies

5. Exchange

5.1 The RaDAR challenge requires more than a minimalistic information exchange. Accurate information exchange is considered more important than a large QSO count. Callsign, Name, RS (T) report and Grid locator. The grid locator of six characters is acceptable but should preferably be accurate to 8 or 10 characters for higher position accuracy (especially for moving RaDAR stations). If the other station is unable or unwilling to give a grid location then the name of his town will suffice.

6. Scoring

One point per QSO. Individual QSOs could be per band, per satellite, per grid location. If the other station also logs the contact accurately on the online logbook, it is then considered to be a RaDAR to RaDAR contact and the bonus points then come into play.

The online logbook has a facility for evaluating the accuracy of logs. For RaDAR even the grid exchanges need to be exact. If the times are within five minutes, date, frequency and grids match then two bonus points are awarded to both stations. This is done by the RaDAR Challenge online Evaluator.

It can be found at http://www.radarops.co.za/radarsport/evaluate_Sprint.html

If the moving RaDAR station has moved the required distance contact can be made with a previously worked station again. Suggestions have been made to call CQ including grid location, for example CQ RaDAR from grid KG34ACXXYY, to help chasers determine whether it is possible for a new contact with a previously worked moving RaDAR station.

The number of transitions that took place will be considered a multiplier for the total scores achieved through the five contacts per deployment point.

7. RaDAR transisiton options and multipliers

7.1 The following multipliers are applicable to determine the final score. If the mode of transport changes were made during the challenge, then calculations take place accordingly. Ensure your mode of transport is correctly selected when entering your log into the online logbook.

x 1 – RaDAR Fixed station (in a building away from home)

x 2 – RaDAR Field station (camping)

x 3 – Moving RaDAR station – see modes of transport below.

7.2 Modes of transport and required movement distances (moving RaDAR stations only)

Vehicles, motorcycles and motorboats (motorized transport) – 6 km.

Note: Motorized transport is only allowed for the twenty four and four hour challenges and not for the two hour RaDAR Sport sprint. The RaDAR Sport sprint is more of a physical challenge.

Bicycles – 2 km.

On foot and paddle canoes – 1 km.

Wheelchairs – 500 m (The four hour challenge only).

7.3 Aeronautical mobile stations are considered moving stations and can communicate at any convenient time.

7.4 Moving RaDAR stations need to make five QSOs before moving to the next deployment point thereafter they are required to move to their next destination. The move needs to cover the required distance before further contacts can be made. This requirement tests the ability to rapidly and successfully re-deploy your amateur radio station. If it be gentlemanly to make further QSOs before moving, then please feel free to do so but the QSOs in excess of five per deployment point cannot be counted for points. For simplicity, log only the five required contacts per deployment point. It will make it easier to follow the activity of moving stations in real time.

8. Log Sheets

8.1 Log sheets must be entered online or uploaded to the online log using ADIF. Logs should preferably entered directly after each QSO (See Note). End of QSO times are also the most accurate to log. If ADIF uploads are done after using a logging program it will be necessary to do final edits of the uploaded logs as ADIF does not cater for all RaDAR related fields. It is no longer necessary to submit a log as it already exists in a database behind the online logbook. This is what makes the online logbook quite unique.

Note: Ideally the logs should be entered as quickly as possible that activity can be monitored in real time but it is understandable if this is not possible. Some deployments may be out of range for Internet access. In this case enter or upload your logs at your earliest convenience preferably not later than one week after the challenge. An online evaluation can be done at any time.

RaDAR – A new radio sport

Through the QSO Today virtual expo I introduced the idea of RaDAR Sport. Since then I have done much to contribute towards the idea, in ZS at least. The RaDAR Challenge has been with us for many years, unusual ham radio fun. It was designed to cover a whole twenty four hours with the hope of international RaDAR to RaDAR communications. It was mostly touch and go with no defined times, modes or frequencies and usually local groups made arrangements to meet somewhere, somehow on the bands.

I want to take RaDAR to the next step starting in November as a trial run for future years. The three dates per year will remain but the times will become shorter and planned using UTC as a reference time. My suggestion is that the RaDAR Sport Challenges start at 14:00 local time in whatever time zone you live and the end time16:00 local. That gives a full two hours to make as many deployments as possible. The requirement is still five QSO’s per deployment point.

Individuals or teams of individuals will line up at the start time. No motorised transport, you are either on your feet, on a bicycle or in a canoe. Travel distances for on foot and canoes, as always, one kilometer and two kilometers if travelling by bicycle. This allows us to compare apples with apples.

During the past few weeks I have been developing the online RaDAR Sport log and has been tested mainly by the CW guys in ZS. It caters for RaDAR Grid exchanges. This online system will need to be used during the RaDAR Sport challenges. It will allow the world to see the activities taking place throughout the world and chasers can now have better opportunities to work RaDAR Sport participants and they will have a general idea where the stations are active having international access to the online logbook.

I have also built an Evaluator so each period can be evaluated separately or an evaluation of the international 24 hour period can be done in literally, seconds. The Evaluator has been tested and has become very popular. An option to do the RaDAR Sport evaluations still needs to be written but the infrastructure is now there to evaluate just about any type of contest. In the case of RaDAR, accurate grid exchanges are critical. No points for unmatched grids or incorrect times.

Keeps these ideas in mind and try to do the November challenge according to these rules.

The online logbook can be accessed on http://www.radarops.co.za/radarsport/RaDAR_Sport.html

The Evaluator can be accessed on http://www.radarops.co.za/radarsport/evaluate_Sprint.html

System access is controlled via registered PIN’s so RaDAR Sport participants can request a PIN from Eddie ZS6BNE in time for the RaDAR Sport challenge. This is there to limit any abuse of the system.

Hope to see your callsigns in the log! 73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – The April 2021 challenge

Quite a bit of organising took place before this challenge. The idea was to have a support system in the way of monitor stations distributed throughout ZS on CW and SSB. The monitor stations were designated unique calling frequencies on 40m.

The final list of monitor stations

The idea of monitor stations stemmed from a suggestion I made during the recent QSO Today virtual expo so the concept for RaDAR Sport was successfully tested within this RaDAR Challenge.

For quite a few days I used WSPR to estimate a suitable time of day for the challenge and we decided on 14:00 to 18:00 local time (CAT). Not all stations took part in this particular time frame which of course is still quite acceptable within RaDAR. 40m can change within minutes I have found but it was there for us that afternoon. Propagation conditions were quite suitable.

Using Libre Office to draw propagation graphs from WSPR Data.

A log sent in by Christi ZS4CGR who was a SSB monitot station. Moving stations could easily make contact with these station to make up their required five QSO’s so they could move to their next location. Ludwig ZS5CN and Rudi ZS2M were also there on every call. Great to he Frank ZS6FN too. CW certainly shined here in South Africa this day.

ZS4CGR’s RaDAR Log

This was my log, my ADIF Data uploaded to qrz dot com. It was undoubtedly the best RaDAR Challeng to date!

ZS6BNE’s log uploaded to QRZ dot Com

I carried my Icom IC-7200 just so I was able to do SSB and push a little more power than five Watts – Just in case. I had a newly built dipole which wasn’t field tested yet and I paid dearly for that and had to do field repairs on two occasions. I also carried two 7 A/Hr SLABS in parallel as a D.C. power source.

On foot RaDAR – ZS6BNE
ZS6BNE’s last deployment – Just before the sun set in the west.

Sid ZS5AYC and Adele ZS5APT, our regular SOTA activators and RaDAR Challenge participants too part in the challenge again too.

Sid ZS5AYC
Anthony ZS6ARW’s log