In order to practice RaDAR or Rapid Deployment Amateur radio you need a radio. The radio needs to be reliable and be able to do all modes. Having a simple radio that can only do CW isn’t going to get you anywhere. The problem is that even when you may be in dire need of communications you are not necessarily going to be able to communicate with anyone for few have interest or know morse code at all. It is no longer a requirement for an amateur radio licence. So really you need a radio that can at least do SSB.
So talking about radios. Radios are not cheap to buy especially when buying new. Then most important is how are we able to see a new generation of hams coming into the hobby if the cost is so high? The second hand market is there but many hams are holding onto their radios because replacing them may even be impossible. There is the occasional opportunity to find a good second hand radio but they are rare!
For over a decade I used a FT-817ND for RaDAR. It was the most practical solution that I know of but sadly I sold mine and it was a mission to find another! I was very, very fortunate to find a good one including accessories for a reasonable price. But, many hoping to practice RaDAR are unable to do so because of the cost. This is a very real situation.
Then one looks at the cell phone market. Every second cell phone user has a contract of sorts and a reasonable level of smartphone for use in their daily lives. Money doesn’t seem to be an issue here? Many are quite happy to spend hundreds of rands per month so they can share pictures, videos and comments on social networks. Let’s face it how would us hams keep sked without WhatsApp or Facebook? Does amateur radio really have a place amongst the technology available to anyone on the street. They don’t require technical ability or even a licence? They don’t have to write exams?
Personally I think making it easy to enter the ranks of amateur radio just to keep up the numbers has been detrimental to the hobby for it appears ham radio has become a toy for those able to afford the latest technologies and equipment but simply used to chat on a radio. Amateur radio has become the new citizen band. In the past CB operators that really did many experiments radio and antenna wise became good radio hams. They usually started at QRP levels too. Hams nowadays that can afford the latest radios and linears and antennas will have powerful stations that they can use to work DX but what about the basic things that radio amateurs became famous for, being able to communicate when other options were no longer available.
WhatsApp is a very effective way of keeping in touch. Groups are created for various reasions. Even emergency groups. We often hear of cell phone tower batteries being stolen. If the cell networks go down the whole social media network goes down too. If the criminals in our midst realized this, maybe they do, they could cripple any communication medium reliant on cell networks and the Internet.
That’s where the RaDAR operator comes in. He / she has practiced this over and over whenever communications are done on amateur radio networks. RaDAR operators should be proficient in morse code too. At least they can understand each other using the mode. HF conditions are not always favorable but CW will get through at low power levels. SSB requires a little more but not much.
So how do we take the new generation forward that amateur radio is used for what it was originally there for. Experimentation, being there when nothing else is. Let that be food for thought.