RaDAR News – The end of 2020

Andre ZS6CO was the first to submit a log for the November 2020 RaDAR Challenge. Andre worked from home as a fixed station and filled an important role. He worked three moving RaDAR stations, ZS5AYC, ZS6BNE and ZS6MSW. This support is what RaDAR operator like to see.

Tjaart ZS3DR ran a mobile station from his Landcruiser. Tjaart enjoyed the RaDAR movements. He managed to activate seven individual grid locations.

Christi ZS4CGR a supporter of many ham radio activities also joined in on the RaDAR Challenge. His plan was to travel using his bicycle but I believe the wind was excessive so he travelled using his bakkie. Christi activated eight different grid locations.

Andy DL2DVE joined in the RaDAR Challenge again. Andy wrote, “For the 7th Nov 2020 challenge I decided to walk, and selected a few places beforehand close to my QTH. Main target was to contact other RaDAR operators and to try R2R DX, so I took with me not only the IC-706 (100W) and the 2m long (high) Vertical, but also the 10m long vertical EFHW for 20m with a 12m mast. Spent quite some time to figure out how to contact M0NOM after I left house without e-mail…   Finally we got a very nice R2R QSO on 20m SSB.  Could hear N4KGL on 14.062 with 229…339 with the short antenna – this motivated me to assemble the large one. It was my priority so I gave up to walk to the 3rd site.  But could not copy Greg at his 2nd stop on 20m SSB as there was European QRM.  Have two sites activated (less than my plan), but the main target R2R was achieved, with Mark M0NOM/P.  Temp was 5 deg C, no rain. Two deployments, one EU-R2R and one DX-Contact to US, resulting in 60 Points. 3x (2 x 5 +5 +5). 73 Andy DL2DVE”

Hoping 2021 will see the dark clouds of 2020 disappearing. 73 and hope to hear you all on the bands soon.

RaDAR – Ham radio sport

From a South African perspective.

Imagine each division in ZS will have a dedicated RTS (RaDAR Traffic station) for the four hour duration of a RaDAR Challenge. Let’s say HF only, 40m. A moving RaDAR station will call on a dedicated RTS frequency,
say for ZS1 7.085 MHz, “ZS1RTS ZS6BNE RaDAR Traffic”. No answer,
switch to 7.090 for ZS5. “ZS5RTS ZS6BNE RaDAR Traffic”.
ZS5 RTS station will reply, “ZS6BNE ZS5RTS Send”.
“ZS5RTS ZS6BNE Name Echo Delta Delta India Echo Grid Kilo Golf Three Four Alpha Charlie One Niner Foxtrot India”.
“ZS6BNE ZS5RTS Confirm grid Kilo Golf Three Four Alpha Charlie One Niner Foxtrot India”
If all OK, “ZS6BNE” (To sign out). In this case there is no two way exchange as the fixed RTS station operators and Grids are known. Once the moving RaDAR operator has five successful QSO’s he / she can move for redeployment elsewhere. There can however be a dedicated watering hole frequency for R2R (RaDAR to RaDAR) QSO’s if there is such a chance of a successful TWO way exchange between RaDAR operators. The first QSO having five bonus points. A QSO with a fixed RTS station counts as one point. …….. and so on.

Imagine country wide about forty hams taking part in the RADIO SPORT of RaDAR. Each chooses his own method vs distance of transport but he / she is free to change the method of transport at any time during the challenge – walk, bicycle, canoe, quad, SUV. They each have their individual routes planned, their tactic. Propagation will have minimal effect with the RTS stations distributed amongst each province / division. At the end of the four hour challenge period the logs are submitted to a website where the results are computed online giving the results. Prizes could be a year’s free SARL membership for the top contender etc. Naturally each contender has his / her own individual plan. Like Sid last weekend could have walked 1km faster than he could drive 6 km in his vehicle after the SOTA activation. Walking in that case could have been a better choice.

I was thinking it would be a little tough but really if out of the five QSO’s , one was incorrect then that whole deployment section of 5 contacts become NULL because only four out of the five could be counted ….. It actually makes sense to be that strict because in RaDAR, accuracy is worth more than a high QSO count. In my example way above where the RTS station confirms the grid it is quite important that he does that both stations do a final check for accuracy before continuing …..

Something to think about and any country in the world could take part in a similar way, anytime!

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

Sid’s RaDAR Challenge – November 2020

Sid ZS5AYC and his wife Adele ZS5APT are regular SOTA activators and take part in all the RaDAR Challenges too. This is Sid’s report ……

Saturday morning for Adele and I started at 04:45, the summit we had decide to activate was between Kokstad and Underberg, we had deciding to first activate the summit ZS/KN-145 Belfast and then start the RaDAR challenge to coincide with the other RaDAR operators, this was the first time in South Africa that there would be so many RaDAR ops and we were excited to be part of the challenge.

We misjudged the time it would take to reach the summit and after hiking up we were 19 minutes behind schedule. After the first few minutes we realized that this would have to be our first RaDAR station, because the temperature was already 26°, we needed to keep operating because the chasers were piling up, within an hour we had made 17 contacts, with Eddie ZS6BNE being our first RaDAR to RaDAR contact.

I set off for my kilometre walk, but once we had descended our friends asked if we were still up on the summit, we then went back into the activation zone and set up to make contact with them, unfortunately they couldn’t hear us, so we broke station, and I continued with my walk, with Adele making her way down in the Toyota.

We quickly set up station and started calling, making 4 contacts, one with Denise (ZS1DS) who was participating in the Day of the YL.

As we had spent so much time activating the summt, we decided to drive 6km, big mistake ……. the trip down on the farm rode took us nearly an hour to reach the 6km distance, I would have walked the 1km faster.

After the 5 contacts we drove the next 6 kilometres but by the time we had set up we only had 5 minutes to make 5 contacts. We managed 3 contacts before our time was up.

All in all we had so much fun, making contact with three of the other RaDAR stations.

Looking forward to the RaDAR Challenge in April 2021.

My RaDAR Challenge – November 2020

I heard my friends Sid ZS5AYC and Adele ZS5APT were going to activate a SOTA summit and at the same time start their RaDAR Challenge as it was going to be a hot day. I was glad really as I wanted to support their SOTA effort but also wanted save my batteries and energy for the RaDAR Challenge we would have started later. I grabbed my kit and walked a circular route on my “E-Trail” deploying at grid KG34ac19fo.

I took the Icom IC-7200 for it’s first walk in the outdoors and I am its third owner! I was a little concerned but the weight was not really that bad in my back pack. I carried a Waeco battery pack in my hand. The pack contained two 7 A/Hr Gel Cells wired in parallel. I set up on the top of a rock.

I’m very happy with this radio. I usually get an answer to practically every call I make with it! I made five contacts from this location, two SSB and three CW. CW activity is on the rise in ZS and that is such good news!

I had an antenna breakage on one of my link insulators. Why it had to happen now was just another test. It’s my link antenna I use all the time and it has seen some rough storms in its lifetime and by the way all the bullet connectors are crimped and not soldered. Nothing wrong with a crimped connection by the looks of things. I had to walk back home to make a new insulator out of a piece of plastic sheeting.

I packed up and walked the circular route back to the starting point at my QTH and set up the antenna again making another five QSO’s. That was another three CW and two SSB QSO’s. That was all in all five R2R QSO’s!

Because there is a lot more CW activity in the RSA I opted to only do HF this time round and no satellite communications. I have found doing both can become quite distracting.

My friend Mike ZS6MSW, the driving force behind CW in ZS, made a video of his first RaDAR Challenge. Our R2R QSO and quick information exchange serves as a good example how RaDAR Challenge QSO’s should take place.

Thank you Mike ZS6MSW!

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR and the Icom IC-7200

I’ve had the radio for a few weeks now and although it’s an “old” radio and discontinued, it’s a new radio to me. This one still looks brand new.

I was asked to try 60m and a standard 7200 will not be able to do that but then I discovered, mine is wide open and apparently was opened by the first owner. I’m the third. Working 60m was a simple case of dialling in the frequency and with the right antenna I was ready to go!

While tuning my linked inverted vee for 60m I found the SWR protection to be quick and very effective. The heat sinks just show what a workhorse this radio is. My kind of radio …..

It’s a real radio too, to be honest, I’m old school, I haven’t really taken the SDR thing to heart.

The 7200 can be CAT controlled through the USB port and together with that there is a digimodes sound card interface built in! No need for a CT17 CIV interface and no need for a very expensive Signalink interface either. The Signalink alone cost a fifth of what I paid for the rig. I do have a Signalink though, I gave it to my grandson together with the FT-817ND (Hope he’ll become a ham some day).

I’ve been QRP for many of my recent years practicing ham radio. I welcome the option of 100W again! The 7200 can do QRP, even lower than 2W if need be.

Sure, the radio is biggish and heavyish but even a 817 is heavyish!

I would have liked back lit buttons for the dark but I’ve more or less learnt to feel my way around in the dark and only occasionally I press the wrong button.

I’m tired of tuners. I just make sure the antenna is working correctly.

Digimodes is so part of the 7200. WSJT-X talks nicely to the radio. I hate FT8 but just for fun I made a FT8 QSO recently, actually my PC did, I just clicked on the station’s call sign and the computer did the rest. I mean, compare that to working CW?

Nothing wrong with SSB either. The mic works better than many other rigs I have owned.

The receiver audio quality is absolutely superb. Turning the volume right down the audio is absolutely quiet. Not even an audio amp “hiss”!

It’s still pretty cold here in South Africa, nothing compared to other parts of the world in winter / spring though. Some time soon, this radio is going RaDAR!!!

 

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – Not quite in the field

Icom IC-7200

Yesterday I took part in the SARL CW Contest, a three hour contest on 80m, 40m and 20m.

I had to quickly build and tune a section for my link dipole for 80m. I’d already added a 60m section so it was simply a case of adding seven meters of wire on each end and tuning for low SWR. Within a half hour I had a working 80m antenna, quite RaDAR’ish I might add.

I sat in the back room which is only two meters from my RaDAR Playground in the bush. Just recently I installed AC power but no lighting yet.

What a comfortable way of working a contest other than sitting on the ground in the cold winter fields running QRP! This was an absolute pleasure. I was heard on every call running between 60 and 90 W from the icom IC-7200. What an awesome radio!!!

I had bought some cheap headphones which sounded Hi Fidelity and I could not help myself but to compare it to the Xeigu X5105 I once had. It was absolutely AWFUL using headphones even when I turned the audio right down it still sounded like a ships engine room. The Icom was quiet!!!

I made more contacts in one session than I have done in quite a while.
40m – ZS2DL, ZR2A, ZS2AL, ZS5PG, ZS1C, ZS2NF, ZS5XT, ZS5EL, ZS5DUV, ZS2U, ZS6KR, ZS3CM, V51YJ, ZS1SA
80m – ZS2DL, ZS5EL, ZS6AZP, ZS6OMT, ZS6S, ZS6KR, ZS4JAN, ZS2NF, ZS5XT, ZS5DUV

As darkness and cold set in I packed up early not trying 20m. I still want to get my 20m end fed vertical up again. Maybe a goal for this week. I need to have something to do being an early pensioner (Hate that word!!! 🙂 )

RaDAR News – September

There is a new challenge being created abbreviated as the Fox Mike Hotel POC, the “Portable Operations Challenge” designed by Frank K4FMH. Frank and I share a little history which involves Xeigu but not Xeigu themselves. Frank and I met up through a Xeigu Facebook group controlled by a UK ham. Both Frank and I were banned from this group for petty reasons and so I started my own Xeigu X5105 group that was more “balanced” than the other Xeigu group which also became known as “Wayne’s world”. When frustration took it’s final toll and having me “giving” my X5105 away I left the Facebook group I had created in the capable hands of Frank and Jonathan ZS1ARB. I’d had enough of the politics! Frank took an interest in RaDAR and already then he had an idea of promoting his POC. Many interactions with the rest of the world have taken place since although I took a back seat with this one but it does sound promising. I’d suggest you read about it on Frank’s website at https://foxmikehotel.com/challenge/

Another very interesting RaDAR enhancement is the mixing of RaDAR within POTA (Parks on the air) activations promoted by Geg Lane N4KGL and Jason Johnston W3AAX. Andy Wragg G1AW / 2E0UAW / M6UAW is also actively involved promoting the idea within other countries. Dennis Green ZS4BS is the POTA administrator for South Africa and is in contact via email with the above mentioned gentlemen. Certainly combining RaDAR with POTA can only be lots of fun. Awards are available for successful operations. I’d suggest you browse the POTA website at https://parksontheair.com/pota-awards/

This would be great if we could do the same here in ZS. I will become the administrator and awards manager for ZS. Dennis Green, ZS4BS is the administrator for POTA in ZS. I’m back with renewed energy to take Jason and Greg’s initiative and promote it here in South Africa. They are presently busy taking it to countries like Chile, Argentina and Russia.

Rethinking RaDAR

IC-7200

My quest for “Minimalistic RaDAR” came to a dead end through bad decisions. I still believe it’s possible though but using radios like the KX2 or KX3. But, they come at a price.

I was very fortunate to find an Icom IC-7200 in absolute mint condition at a very good price and from a very trustworthy seller. In my 46th year as a radio amateur I feel quite fortunate to be able to continue my hobby again.

The radio came with the optional carry handles. Not a sign of dust or scratches. I’m almost afraid to take it for a walk! Tonight I applied power, it switched on nicely and the the speech facility worked too reading back the frequency and mode.

I gave my “RX Only” FT-817ND and Signalink USB to my grandson, together with a book on “First steps to amateur radio”. One of his school subjects soon will be electrical technology. With the COVID-19 outbreak we’ve enrolled him in online schooling. He was quite positive about the idea of learning electronics / electricity.

So, I’m no longer a minimalistic RaDAR operator unless I go satellite hunting using my TH-D7A duplex handheld but FM sats only.

The IC-7200 can be backpacked but will require bigger batteries and a bigger pack. I did try this with the FT-897d I once had but lost it to a Xiegu X5105 trying to go “Minimalistic RaDAR”. Although heavy, it was possible to backpack the 897d. At least I’m back to 100W capability! Sometimes higher power helps. QRP only with recent conditions were quite a challenge!

My friend Andries ZS6VL asked what was I to do with all the Watts? I’ve been mainly QRP only for well over a decade.

Looking forward to getting some calls back in the log, at 100W it will make my life a lot easier. At least I still have the RaDAR playground and it has been developed as a nature trail. I maintain it myself using standard garden machines like a bush cutter, petrol lawn mower (Modified to take on the dense bush) and a petrol chainsaw.

So my outlook on RaDAR has changed. The movements make it special and different to anything else and very challenging. Now that I’m on my way to 63 years of age, the physical challenge gets more difficult. I never thought it would happen so quickly.

Have fun!!!

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

Python on the Pi – My trail camera

My old Pi – Too slow as a desktop PC

I’ve had this old Pi for quite a few years now. It’s so slow that it can’t be used for much other than playing around with it but it’s ideal for the purpose of being a trail camera. I fitted the PiCam module and also a WiFi adapter. This model, unlike the latest models, was pretty much a bare bones computer.

So I did a little Python programming to talk to the camera module and just recently included a facility to send me a mail whenever a photo was taken.

In this case too, I use an external infrared movement detector which has a normally closed contact. The contact is wired between ground and pin 17 on the GPIO port. Contact bounce has been handled within the Python program. A simple solution with exciting possibilities.

Here is my latest Python code.

from picamera import PiCamera
from pygame import *

screen = display.set_mode ((640, 128))
display.set_caption ('Eds trail camera INITILIZED  - Press q to Quit')

import smtplib
import time
import RPi.GPIO as GPIO

GPIO.setmode(GPIO.BCM)
GPIO.setup(17, GPIO.IN, GPIO.PUD_UP)

camera = PiCamera()

stop = False
counter = 0

def my_callback(channel):
    snaptime = time.strftime('%A %d %b %Y %H:%M:%S')

    smtpUser = 'yourmailaddress@gmail.com'
    smtpPass = 'yourpassword'

    toAdd = 'yourdestinationaddress@gmail.com'
    fromAdd = smtpUser

    subject = snaptime
    header = 'To: ' + toAdd + '\n' + 'From: ' + fromAdd + '\n'+ 'Subject: '  + subject
    body = 'Eds trail camera was triggered through movement detection. '

    print header + '\n' + body

    s = smtplib.SMTP('smtp.gmail.com', 587)

    s.ehlo()
    s.starttls()
    s.ehlo()

    s.login(smtpUser,smtpPass)
    s.sendmail(fromAdd, toAdd, header + '\n\n' + body)

    global counter

    # DEBOUNCE Code

    if (counter >= 10):
        counter = 0

        camera.annotate_text_size = 30
        camera.annotate_text = snaptime

        time.sleep(0.1)	    # Allow 100 ms for IR LED's to switch on (At night)
        camera.capture('/home/pi/snapshot_' + snaptime + '.jpg')

        print ('Camera was tiggered on ' + snaptime)

camera.rotation = 180

#camera.start_preview()

GPIO.add_event_detect(17, GPIO.RISING, callback = my_callback)

while (stop == False) :

   time.sleep(0.1)
   counter = counter + 1    # Allow for trigger contact bounce

   for e in event.get():
       if e.type == KEYDOWN:
           if (e.key == K_q):
               print ('Trail camera stopped')
               stop = True
           else:
               print('Press q to Quit')

#camera.stop_preview()