RaDAR – An 2022 evaluation from the perspective of the designer

RaDAR has come a long way from being something very similar to other ham radio activities to something increasingly unique although staying very much the same as any other ham radio activity. RaDAR once was seen as “Daring to be different” and it became a slogan proudly displayed.

Lucy M6ECG

The slogan was created by Lucy M6ECG who was once very active doing RaDAR Challenges. The RaDAR idea spread reasonably quickly to other parts of the world especially to the USA and the UK including other countries in Europe.

As RaDAR grew increasingly unique like having to move and redeploy, which in essence is what RaDAR is, participation in these activities were left to a select few. The use of “Military” terms like “ops” and “special forces” of ham radio seemed to distract many hams. RaDAR is seen as special as more is required of the radio amateur to participate. The knowledge of Morse code is high on the list, a certain level of fitness and preparedness is also welcomed. Communication accuracy of information is also considered to be very important.

Only just recently, RaDAR Sport was introduced which is a two hour long sprint but has not yet attracted the attention of the vast majority of outdoor hams. The four hour challenge still appears to be more popular with an odd few opting for a twenty four hour challenge. So the willingness of radio amateurs prepared to make physical activity much part of ham radio is still there.

The future of RaDAR, like many other ham radio activities, lies in the participation of not only the “activators” but the “chasers” as well. It has been widely publicised that RaDAR operators doing challenges need the support of chasers (Ordinary hams working from home or anywhere else) who look out for them but this has seldom been forthcoming – support provided again only by a select few..

An online community log, a unique idea within ham radio circles, was created to promote accurate logging and evaluation of the accuracy of logs. Again only a select few support this. It has been proved to be a reliable system and open for all to see. It was created initially to support the RaDAR Sport initiative but can be used for any ham radio activity.

Online community logbook

The system is very user friendly with lots of facilities to make logging a pleasure for all. Yet many hams shy away from it? It can be seen as a QSL system where each logger acknowledges his QSO with the other station, information accuracy is confirmed and everyone is happy. Ideal for simple contest logging and evaluations too.

RaDAR was designed so that any ham can take part from anywhere using any equipment at any power level. Why then is it not that popular compared to activities like SOTA, POTA, HOTA, BOTA, IOTA or any other similar activity?

I often look at the very popular activity known as SOTA, or summits on the air. The only times I ever activated a summit or two cost me a pretty penny in transport, accommodation and entrance fees. RaDAR has no cost other than if a ham would like to operate RaDAR from some exotic location.

SOTA requires that activators and chasers log their contacts on a central database, RaDAR has the online community logbook. SOTA has awards, RaDAR has no particular award and maybe that is what hams are after? Recognition for their efforts. RaDAR operators are quite satisfied in knowing he / she was able to set up and communicate with others under strenuous conditions. It can be fun too.

Here in South Africa we have two very active SOTA activators namely Sid ZS5AYC and Adele ZS5APT. They travel all over the country, arranging access to summits wherever they go. They are not young hams but very active for their age. They need to physically access the summits on foot and set up communications from the summits. Much like RaDAR? Many hams follow their activities on a regular basis, the chasers and obviously logging the contacts on the SOTA database.

Why does RaDAR not get that kind of support? It takes effort to create something, to nurture it for years and when it matures it should be able to continue on its own. The time for nurturing RaDAR is coming to an end. It may see its demise or it may grow. My hope is that it continues to grow. The online community log is at its centre. Without the support of chasers like those that support SOTA the chances of it dying is a shocking reality.

The RaDAR online community log can be accessed here – http://www.radarops.co.za/zsportal/

The SOTA database can be accessed here – https://www.sota.org.uk/