What is ham radio all about?

I tend to stay away from saying “talking to people around the world” afraid of that “Good buddy” response as an explanation to satisfy the question ….

It’s a license to experiment with electronics, to transmit legally, to get legal access to satellite systems and even to contact the space station (If they have the time).

It’s an opportunity to mix radio, computers and the Internet.

Yes it can be used too in times of need where all other infrastructures have failed … even the Internet.

It’s an exciting field of science for those that were inpired by donald duck and mad scientists with control panels and big switches.

It’s a knowledge of morse code that alludes all but those that have the will to learn it, the fascination of a language that bridges time …..

First contact with ZS100MPX

Douw, ZS1DGK operating as ZS100MPX was on 7095 kHz tonight at the scheduled time of 18:45 CAT. He was using a “Klaus mast” with vertical wire within. Douw said it takes only a few minutes to deploy.

I put up a new linked (40m / 80m) inverted vee today specifically to support Douw’s initiative and come onto frequency each night to monitor status and position. I made contact with Douw for the first time as ZS100MPX at 18:56 on today’s date 15th of September 2012.

Other stations that were also on frequency were Bob ZS1BOB and Klaus ZS1QO. All station were running between 59 + 15 and + 20 db on my FT902DM’s S Meter.

Douw gave his position as S 28 31.586 and E 16 55.295 He will re-photograph and document two mountain passes during the next day or two.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Rapid Deployment Amateur radio

Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio

Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio, often referred to by its acronym RaDAR, is 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.


  • Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR)
    • What is RaDAR?
    • The evolution of RaDAR
    • What constitutes a “True RaDAR” Station?
    • It is desirable that the RaDAR operator is able to
    • RaDAR Contests
  • References
  • External links


Radio amateurs from South Africa, came up with a concept (one used for many years by the military and others) 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.

Subsequently it was decided to include the SiaS in one of the South African Radio League Mobile HF Radio competitions. Some simple ground rules were laid and off everyone went to build and set up a station to operate /ss or portable /p. The first team of “Shack in a Sack” hams who took part were: Deon ZS1AFU/ss, Johan ZS2CX/ss, Eddie ZS6BNE/ss, Kevin ZS6KMD/ss, John ZS5J/ss, Tienie ZS6MHH/ss, Stephen ZU6ET/ss, Nico ZS6SNH/ss , Charles ZR5CBT/ss, Doug ZS1DUG/ss, Club operator ZS1WRC/ss, Hennie ZS1HR/ss and Renier ZU1RDU/ss.

August 2008 – Submitted logos uploaded to ZS6BNE’s QSL.Net website. Special SiaS photograph submissions by Deon ZS1AFU/ss, John ZS5J/ss and Kevin ZS6KMD/ss.

September 2008 – SiaS Operators also took part in the “Blockhouse project” organized by ZS4SRK, the Sasolburg Amateur Radio Club.

August 2009 – RaDAR – “Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio” initiative was launched. SiaS was a concept and needed a name. Unfortunately all the discussions that took place via the SARL Forum on SiaS, no longer exist.

August 2009 – The launch of the RaDAR business card. Subdivisions, “On foot”, “Mobile” and “Fixed”. The RaDAR station can carry a business card with his callsign and RaDAR subdivision logo. Good for Amateur Radio public relations.

August 2009 – First query on RaDAR from outside South Africa from Jack VK4JRC in Australia.

November 2009 – Deon ZS1AFU’s historic SiaS photo published on the front page of Radio ZS and article included discussing the RaDAR concept and how the name evolved. (Radio ZS September – October 2009)

April 2010 – 1st SARL RaDAR Contest (Winter). Over a 100 individual stations were logged during the April 2010 RaDAR contest. Most stations took part for fun.

May 2010 – Dutch radio amateurs take RaDAR to the next level. The Lowlands 5×5 RaDAR group was formed by two Dutch radio amateurs , Elmar PD3EM and Peter PD1AJJ.

September 2010 – French radio amateurs take RaDAR to the next level.

November 2010 – 2nd SARL RaDAR Contest (Summer).

As from January 2011,  official SARL RaDAR contests held every year in April (Winter) and November (Summer).

April 2012 – The introduction of an official contest logbook specifically designed for the RaDAR contests. It can be downloaded at http://www.nwinternet.za.org/zs6bne/RaDAR/files/RaDARContestLog07April2012.doc

April 2012 – Proposal by ZS6BNE to practice rapid re-deployment. The concept of “One contact per kilometer moved”. GPS coordinate information to be passed together with signal reports.

September 2012 – The first experimental excercise for the concept of “One contact per kilometer moved”.

September 2012 – Proposal by ZS6BNE that 10 digit grid locators be used. It provides much better accuracy than 6 digit grid locators.

Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR)

What is RaDAR?

RaDAR is a concept. RaDAR is not an organization nor does it compete with any organization. RaDAR is a way of setting up an amateur radio station quickly and having fun. RaDAR is a “mindset” or a “methodology” about being flexible to enable operations under difficult conditions without external resources. RaDAR neither has nor needs a command and control structure.

The evolution of RaDAR

RaDAR has somewhat changed a little expanding from an “On foot” operator to include other stations but emphasizing rapidly deployed, easily movable (objects), Amateur Radio stations.

What constitutes a “True RaDAR” Station?

To be considered as a true RaDAR station, the entire station equipment, radios, batteries, mast, antennas and refreshments must be easily portable and hence the need to carry the equipment for at least 1 km prior to setting up.

It is desirable that the RaDAR operator is able to

Operate an amateur radio station away from any building or vehicle although this is not a prerequisite.

Carry equipment , radios, antennas, masts, food, water and shelter to the final destination, in a vehicle , on foot or wheelchair.

Determine accurate position and grid square to 6 digits.

Provide power without relying on any third party.

Communicate in a professional, accurate and effective manner.

Be self sufficient.

RaDAR Contests

The RaDAR contest operates under the rules of the SARL.


  1. ZS6KMD (2008). “SiaS”
  2. Radio ZS, September – October 2009
  3. Netherlands radio amateurs (2010). “Lowlands 5×5”
  4. French radio amateurs (2010). “France 5×5”
  5. South African Radio League (2011). “Contest information”

External links

RaDAR 5 Point Challenge – Feedback

I learnt again not to rely on cell networks for anything data related. I used APRSdroid (http://aprsdroid.org/) to broadcast position but only a few points were recorded. See http://aprs.fi/#!mt=hybrid&z=16&call=a%2FZS6BNE-7&timerange=3600

The Garmin GPS Track.

Here you see the route to KG24 (Specifically KG24xd90qm) and back to give Lukas ZS6LH, a rare grid contact on QRP SSB. See http://connect.garmin.com/player/220755889 Choose aerial view and press the “Play” button to see movement info.

Most hams use 4 to 6 character grid locators quite regularly. Technology is available for more accurate grid locators. Further promotion for 8 to 10 character locators needs to be done. It has tremendous advantages for radio amateurs.

This excercise proved that dedicated calling frequencies need to be used. Even a 10 kHz wide range of frequencies could not have worked. Lukas ZS6LH, suggested using 7090 kHz LSB which worked very effectively. I called on 7020 kHz CW with no replies …..

A RaDAR – “Mast”

A dome tent collapsible brace used to hold the middle of the 40m End Fed Half Wave Antenna about 1.5 meters above the ground in the absence of trees. (Test case) Only used at the first deployment point. At the other deployment points I used a tree because they were available.

Note the nylon rope holding the two “legs” in place.

Yes certainly. Lukas ZS6LH being on the SSB “calling” frequency, 7090 kHz, helped me get through all my points. We’d need to have a “control station” or a few in various areas to cater for skip conditions. This was an experiment. I certainly, once again, learnt a lot.

The final destination point …. a short video clip. Lukas ZS6LH and Johnny ZS6JSE can be heard here.


and ….. last but not least, the paperwork …. slightly modified. The idea was one contact per deployment point but many more QSO’s were possible.


Although ham radio operators operate as individuals, it still is a team “sport”. We need each other to make anything a success.

It is done …..

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE
SARL member. Radio ZS Contributor. Licenced since 1975
Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio

RaDAR 5 Point Challenge – The vision

At 13:00 UTC on Sunday 9th September 2012, most stations should be set up and ready, each contester taking part in his / her category. (Note these can be mixed!) This is an ideal time and maybe the only opportunity to take photos of your deployment ideas, antennas and radio installations to share with others later.

Most important is to download the Excel speadsheet logbook and to study it carefully. The score card begins at 0.

Mobile stations will be /m, Mountain bikes /bm and the guys and gals on foot will be /p. Note, mobile stations could also be “fixed radio stations” that have been put into the boot of a car to be driven to the destination points.

Some will browse the band, others will CQ and the activity will only then determine the playing field. Participation could be national or even international!

Station efficiency will be tested here especially at the 10 Watt limit. Mobile stations may need to use an alternative antenna other than the mobile antenna and maybe not!

All stations need to gather information, their present grid, preferably at 10 digits accuracy. This information needs to be passed to the other station quickly but accurately! This will test communication ability be it verbal or using morse code.

Inevitably one or two stations may be “left behind” unable to make a contact. The problems then need to be determined and fixed which will test the contester’s ability to do fault finding – in the field.

The mobile stations have the ability to move fast but can only access a limited area, mountain bikes a little slower but can move along footpaths. Those on foot will take around 15 minutes + to get to their next deployment point depending on the terrain. This will test the ability to measure the distance moved and fitness of the contester’s on MTB or on foot.

The different categories will quite possibly arrive and deploy out of sync which could hold mobile stations back somewhat leveling the playing field unless there are many mobile stations.

The chances that mobile stations make the 5 points relatively quickly, are good but that does not mean the game is over. Provision has been made to then make contact with stations without the need to move again. This will assist in increasing the score count for mobile stations finishing quickly leveling the scores. The idea is to provide contact possibilites for the stations on mountain bikes and on foot and in the end to bring the rest of the contesters out in the field, back home. (They can’t move if no QSO has been made)