RaDAR News – The basic requirements for RaDAR

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.

RaDAR – Amateur radio’s special forces

I tried to take part as a RaDAR operator this weekend, an on foot field day station. This is a category built into South Africa’s field day rules. I took it on as a challenge to myself having only a QRP morse code transceiver, my HB1A. I primarily used 40m which is rather difficult to use lately for short distance communications but good for a few hundred kilometer distances.

In ZS there are a few CW operators, a good bunch of guys that promote the mode whenever they can but being in the far west I’m usually skip to most of them during the day.

My only other options were to try and do some cross mode QSO’s with the guys on SSB. Some of them had powerful signals but impossible to know what power they were using even as field stations. It was shocking to say the least, I’d respond to CQ’s but it felt as if I was being ignored. I know from experience that even my 3 Watt signals could be heard well over a few hundred kilometers.

I made ZERO QSO’s!

” What has ham radio become? The new CB? I’m a morse code only station trying to take part in the local field day challenge. The CW guys are skip to me, too near I can only just hear them. Then I try to call very strong SSB stations. I know they can hear me. No acknowledgement of at least a signal. At least just say you can’t read morse code and I’ll be happy but these guys just ignore a CW station ….. “

I have experenced the fact that some SSB stations don’t even recognize morse code! My friend Marinus ZS6MAW made a valid statement that explains all this. “The CW requirement for an amateur radio licence was dropped”. I guess that answers my concerns and maybe confirms my statement above ….. ” What has ham radio become? The new CB? “

RaDAR operators are different and should be. We are capable of communicating in different ways, even cross mode SSB/CW like in the old days. We are the “Special forces” of ham radio communicators.

There’s nothing wrong with mixed mode QSO’s. I know even at 3W I’ll be getting through with a pretty good signal. Maybe I could have been someone lost in the fish river canyon with a broken ankle and my only chance of getting a message through were through the powerful contest stations actually practicing emergency communications????

ZS6BKW / G0GSF parts