RaDAR – Travelling light

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Going out into the field to practice RaDAR, generally for a short period of time, requires a lightweight, proven kit that is always ready. I’ve tried many packs sometimes increasing the size and weight but I always return to the smaller and lighter packs. It’s just too easy to pack more and more stuff into a larger pack sometimes defeating the object of RaDAR.

I’m forever changing what goes into the pack and what does not. Rigs like the FT817ND offer many facilities sometimes all of them can be useful. Just recently I chose to put in all the wires I can to access all these facilites at the back of the rig without the need to remove it from the pack and route all the wires to various areas in the pack sometimes having to make holes between the pack compartments. I’m still not happy with the results but getting there, slowly.

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Digital communications are coming more and more into the limelight especially on smart devices which are inherently powerful and lightweight. It is no longer needed to carry a small (and relatively heavy) power hungry laptop anymore.

My only concern is the heat dissipation withing the pack as I like to protect the rig against any damage whatsoever. It is the nucleus of the RaDAR pack!

Antennas need to be light, efficient and be able to withstand abuse through bad weather or windy conditions. I’m still working on solutions for this, it’s an ongoing trial.

RaDAR – Digital radio Android and the Signalink USB

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I only recently discovered Androids USB OTG through Julian OH8STN although the technology is a decade and a half old!

Last night I tried a USB wireless mouse adapter and in no time at all I could navigate my Sony Xperia C4 Android smartphone using the wireless mouse!

This morning I sat looking at my earphone / mic that was part of my old Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone and pondered on where to cut the lead to make a digital modes interface between my FT-817ND and a smartphone using the four pole earphone jack – luckily I put it back where I normally store it. I had a cable once, I put it in a very safe place, so safe I can’t remember where?

I’ve tested before but wanted to try again, the clock was ticking but I went outside and connected my 847’s Signalink USB to the smartphone. Using AndFLmsg and pressing “Tune” the Signalink’s PTT reacted!!!! Nothing on the receive waterfall though ….

Then I routed the cables through a powered USB hub (Otherwise the smartphone needs to power the Signalink!) and used DroidPSK to test. I switched on the 847 and DroidPSK’s waterfall came alive, on TX it transmitted too!!!!

No need to build a digimodes interface for Android, my Signalink USB infrastructure can now be used with Windows, Linux or Android!!!

I was late for work but it was worth it!

RaDAR – Discovering AndFLMsg

I edited one of the predefined message forms using it as an example and called it radar.html Then I copied the HTML file to the “NBEMS files” folder’s subfolders – “DisplayForms” and “EntryForms”.

The form was available for data entry on starting AndFLMsg on my Sony C4 Android smartphone. After “sending” I could display the “sent” message. The message is sent 10 times over using the selected digital mode (Data ONLY) on the specified audio offset frequency (1500 Hz).

This is what the example message looked like. I will make another tomorrow where one can enter all required RaDAR QSO info like grid locator etc. It would be great if a few of us could test the viability of this system for use in RaDAR on one of the chosen DX bands.

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RaDAR – Installing FL-Digi on an Android device

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I was browsing the Net to find out how I can use my Android smartphone with my Signalink USB sound interface to the FT-817ND. I believe Android version 5 has better support for sound devices than previous versions.

Then my thoughts turned to the very successful FL-Digi. I thought, what if FL-Digi could run on Android? I found a website where the APK can be downloaded and it can be acccessed on http://www.w1hkj.com/vk2eta/

You will have to tell your phone that it can install a program from the local SD card but switch it back again once you’re finished for safety’s sake! The APK is safe.

Somewhere in the back of my mind things look familiar and I recall John VK2ETA being involved with porting PSKMail to Android also using FL-Digi as the modem …..

Now to get my Signalink USB talking via my OTG USB adapter!

RaDAR Challenge – Summary for SARL News

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Sid ZS5AYC

It’s not the first time I’ve heard such a statement, “I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun!!!”, the words from Julian OH8STN.

Looking at his profile on qrz.com Julian writes, “My belief is all too often we rely on the comfort of fixed locations, the stability of a home or other grid tied shelter as operating locations for our radio communications. In contrast, learning to operate off-grid, out of a backpack, temporarily setup next to your car, from a hotel room, getting there with skis, bicycle, or hiking up the side of the mountain to setup your tent or shelter, that’s a challenge, and also that’s what it’s all about for me. Operating QRP portable from unusual places provides an opportunity to learn about yourself, and your gear”. Julian could not have said it better!

Not everyone submits a log after a contest or in this case, a challenge. That is quite the norm. Logs that were received for the April 2nd RaDAR challenge are :

Eddie ZS6BNE, Tienie ZS6MHH, Johan ZS4DZ, Sid ZS5AYC and Greg N4KGL. Julian OH8STN described his RaDAR ops on the Google+ RaDAR group.

ZS6BNE and N4KGL took on the RaDAR Challenge as on foot operators which is by far the most challenging as everything needs to be carried. The operator needs to dismantle his station and antennas, pack up, move and redeploy at least a kilometer away each time.

ZS4DZ operated from a fixed location and these stations are necessary. They keep the band alive with RaDAR activity.

ZS6MHH operated “portable” from his vehicle parked at the top of Klapperkop in Pretoria.

ZS5AYC and OH8STN both operated from vehicles moving to the next destination six or more kilometers away after every five QSO’s. If more than five QSO’s were made from a particular deployment position the excess did not count for points. Sometimes propagation is not favourable so some stations move to the next destination with less than five QSO’s.

Sid ZS5AYC, his wife Adele ZS5AYL, and a few friends made it a team effort and all had much fun. Sid’s overall score was the highest which makes him the overall champion. Well done Sid and team!

Ideas exchanged and a forever changing RaDAR landscape will see the following changes for future challenges.

A suggestion has been made that the 24 hour period remain but it’s up to each individual to plan his / her maximum, single period, four hour ops. He / she would take propagation into account with the ultimate goal of inter continental RaDAR to RaDAR communications in mind. (10 bonus points!)

Pre planning and making specific skeds beforehand is an acceptable practice. The only requirement is that the QSO take place via radio with the necessary information exchange.

See www.radarops.co.za for future challenge dates.

RaDAR – ZS4 One hour sprint

An hour to go, time to make my way into the field.

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This was an ideal opportunity to test the kit with in pack battery supply, the Rossi. I store it at the base of the pack with a sponge between it and the rig’s camera bag to absorb shock while traveling.

Not too far from home, around 100 meters in fact (Endomondo logged 3.5 kilometers getting there), I put up the ZS6BKW open wire fed dipole using my painters poles for the mast.

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Deployment times were fast but I think it’s time to start building my magnetic loop – my next project.

The pack is very compact, it’s a good thing forcing the weight down. I have to make a plan with all those cables though!

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I made a few contacts and always great to do some in CW too!

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RaDAR – A reality check

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This was the lightest configuration I have used for RaDAR to date.

RaDAR is about rapid deployment and in the case of moving stations, rapid movements too. The distances for various methods of transport are different to more or less equal the playing field.

Successful rapid deployments come from practicing RaDAR on a regular basis. Doing too many things at once can slow down the process too. Planning is also an effective means of increasing the rapidness of deployments. Not only is the physical deployment important but successful communications too. They go hand in hand.

Julian OH8STN demonstrated the effectiveness of digital radio (PSK63) during the recent RaDAR Challenge using Android Apps interfaced to a low power radio, the FT-817. Sid ZS5AYC demonstrated the effectiveness of using the mobile to move from point to point but also the possibility of a team effort in getting an effective station deployed quickly and ready to make contacts.

On foot RaDAR operations seem to be the most challenging. The fact that the operator needs to move quickly means he / she needs to be relatively fit. The gear needs to be compact and also easily deployable. Physical activity requires a well fed and well hydrated radio operator.

Experience has shown that a lot of time can be saved with ready to use systems within the backpack. Antennas should be easily deployable and the use of reels to roll up antenna wire is essential for speed. The antenna also needs to be effective and the losses in UNUN fed end feds, although they are quick to deploy, make them not good enough for decent communications.

The on foot operator needs to travel as light as possible and that is a challenge in itself. By no means should a water bottle be left behind.

Back to the drawing board for me.

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE