Firstly I would like to thank Greg Lane, N4KGL for continuing with the RaDAR Challenge in the form of the RaDAR Rally in the USA. Thanks too go to the many supporters around the world that continue supporting the ideas of RaDAR.
It is now time to take RaDAR Sport into the future. Things may look a little different to the old challenge. Firstly, RaDAR Sport is not a fixture on any calendar and can be played at any date and time on which the team of participants decides.
Each individual chooses his own kit with no limits on power, transceiver or antennas. Each individual will move, on foot, and travel 500 meters where he / she will deploy his / her station, determine an accurate 10 digit grid square and make communications on a predetermined set of HF frequencies preferably on 40m. The modes used can be either CW or SSB. Grid references will be exchanged between the two stations in contact and logged on the Online Community Logbook. Speed and accuracy are equally important in order to achieve a high score. After logging the contact, the participant moves to the next location 500 meters away. In other words, one contact per deployment.
Ideally the whole operation should be completed within an hour (Much like a sprint) but practice runs can be allowed up to two hours, nothing more. RaDAR Sport is physically challenging. Movements can be done at one’s own pace by either walking, jogging or running.
Online evaluations can be requested after the activity and after all logs are completed or uploaded. The OCL caters for ADIF uploads in the event of using a third party logging program. A point will be awarded if the log entries correspond (Times within five minutes and accurate frequency specification) and if the grid reference exchanges match perfectly. Any discrepancy will produce zero points for the contact.
Access to the online log and evaluator can be obtained at any time through the following URL https://radarops.co.za/
Permission and an access PIN to use the system must be obtained through an email request to Eddie ZS6BNE the designer and administrator of the Online Community Logbook and Evaluator. Eddie’s email address can be obtained at qrz.com
Fixed stations can be on standby at the participant’s request listening out for calls from the field. Contacts should be handled on a first come first served basis and operators should show discipline in initiating their QSO’s.
Have fun, build your team, decide on a date and time, get fixed stations to listen out for your calls on predetermined frequencies and have fun. May the best man / lady win! There will always be another game to play …..
The seeds of RaDAR were sown thirty years before it’s birth. It lived for fifteen years. During it’s lifetime seeds were sown throughout the world and there may still be life elsewhere…..
RaDAR was designed to build good communicators through ham radio fun. The online community log was designed to bring such operators together to motivate each other. Through ignorance from the majority of Hams this initiative failed and died a slow death. Now there are only a relative few that fly the flag and stumble through the battle field…..
I was browsing the WhatsApp amateur radio chat group and Dennis ZS4BS was looking for a two and a half page essay for Radio ZS. Well it reminded me that I haven’t written the RaDAR Column yet but I’m really not sure if anyone ever reads it? Now that we have the online community log and evaluator any RaDAR participant uploading / entering his logs online can do his own evaluations of how he or she compared to anyone else at any time. Usually it’s fair to allow one week for everyone to get their admin up to date that the Evaulator is able to produce a reasonable report. So really from a contest / challenge organiser’s point of view there is nothing more to do. The results are online and for as long as the radarops.co.za website is operational. I renewed the hosting and domain registration last month and all good for another year.
My XYL started a little library. We renovated an old pump house and it looks pretty good. I’ve already taken out my second book to read. It was a place for many to dump their books taking up space in their homes but the concept works. I even donated some technical books but my XYL says no one would want to read my books. I kept a few which have some nostalgic value for me. The book I’m reading at the moment is written by David Bullard who was a journalist for the Sunday Times. An old book with stories from around 2005. It is most interesting and a reminder how South Africa was then. I like his brutal honesty. I think one must feel quite free having the freedom of expression. Like I’d like to say now, “Who in their right mind would want to promote Xeigu radios!”
Many years ago and today still, radio hams share pictures of their shacks and in some cases they show their faces too. You need to know who you’re talking to, right? You kind of get a bad feeling if you can’t find the call on qrz.com but then again not every ham registers his callsign there and whatever he or she would like to share online. Now I wonder, in the old days it made sense to show pictures of the shack. It could very well be homebrew or at least a beautiful view of antique radios. Show your latest and greatest 100k radio plus many others is no big deal for me. Well I guess it’s better than talking on a handheld unless you’re accessing something drifting around in space. Not sure if anyone is active spacewise anymore. Where then are the spokes people?
The past few weeks I’ve organised some activities for the local community. First was canoe races but there were only three canoes. So we made three teams of two rowers each to fetch three groups of three painted 20mm PVC conduits planted downstream. It was fun. My teammate was my grandson Eduan now in grade 11. Well he created a lead in the beginning and oupa lost it along the way. I tried ….
I still want to take my QCX along in the canoe and operate from the wetland. Apparently you need to be on salt water to make it count as “Maritime mobile”. There are so many “On The Air’s” this is another COTA, “Canoes on the air”. Or WOTA, “Wetlands on the air”. I must just GET on the air! Of course it will be most likely CW as I’m certainly not taking my “beloved” 7200 in the canoe. It isn’t my first love though my first was my 817nd and my second was my 897d, together we developed RaDAR.
Just today I went upstream again and getting stuck in some dense overgrowth and had to climb out to push the canoe from behind, sinking into the mud like quicksand but keeping my floating buddy nearby. The mud was caused by the burning wetland a few years ago. Some peat islands were left behind.
So every time I get the need to do some ham radio I feel my time would be better spent picking up the Wolf bush cutter and cutting a path or reeds or anything that looks like it would be nice to look a little more finished. I use a pertol lawnmower for the finishing touches and if a tree falls down I grab the chainsaw and clear that up. Of course I sometimes come inside, start up Morse runner and do a five minute session. Well that only happens when the family are out of the house. DiDiDiDah’s may not sound like Gosh Groban to everyone or Heart or Pink Floyd or Metallica or Black Sabbath not to mention Led Zeppalin.
So I cut a path, another one and created a nice 3km route for joggers or walkers to join me on Saturday mornings at 09:00 sharp. Then the next week I changed the route a little. Not an excuse not to do ham radio but if I go to the trouble of setting up will there be someone on the other side? Will conditions be good? Conditions on Morse Runner are almost always good. Imagine that program is not even a Megabyte in size, written years ago. It’s the only game I play, well besides chess. Young Eduan is pretty good at chess and often gives me a good go. I lose sometimes too, mostly, almost like losing the lead in the canoe race! He still needs to learn the lessons of life that losing is a good thing. Without losing how can you ever get better …..
Tomorrow is my “day off”, Eduan goes to school for the day and the XYL is going into town. That’s about the only travelling we do nowadays. Maybe I should make the effort to do some real ham radio and go and sit in my tent with the 7200. Maybe the static may be broken by the sounds of music …. Morse Code.
How amateur radio is introduced to anyone who may be interested may come in many forms. Some are lucky and for others the opportunity may pass never to be presented again. I had had an interest in electricity and chemistry from a young age and in primary school had built a crystal set which worked. That must have been somewhere in the late 1960’s.
We moved to Alberton early 70’s. My uncle had given me an old valve shortwave receiver which I set up in my dad’s garage. Early one Sunday morning I was tuning around the shortwave bands and picked up a strong AM transmission. It was the SARL’s news bulletin. This was my first introduction to amateur radio. How ever else was I to find out about such things? I wrote to them and became a listening member ZS6-102 my certificate signed by A.H. v.d. Merwe ZS1AZ Dated in Cape Town 1st January 1974. My official start date with this really awesome hobby.
In 1974 I enrolled with Alberton High School in standard eight. It was the highest standard being a new school and each year thereafter till matric in 1976. I belonged to an electronics club hosted by Pam Barnes who was the mother of Paul Barnes also a high school student there. Paul’s dad was Reg Barnes also a radio amateur. I visited their home once and their impressive radio room. Many of my school friends were also members of the electronics club but never became radio amateurs.
Classes for the RAE were offered and presented at St. John’s College in Houghton and for many weeks my dad would drive through in the evenings and drop me off that I could attend. I was probably the youngest in the class. I recall a headmaster who was also attending and he paid for a cup of coffee for me which cost five cents. I didn’t have five cents with me to pay for it. We wrote the exam, technical and regulations in November of 1974. I passed fortunately!
I can’t recall exactly when but my dad had taken me to a hobbies faire hosted in the Johannesburg town hall. Very near to the entrance was a counter, behind it a few radio guys and someone on the radio listening and decoding Morse code telling the other guys what he had just received. If that didn’t attract me to amateur radio then nothing else would. I was hooked! To this day I truly believe that Morse code is the heart of amateur radio. Anyone can talk using a radio mic or telephone or cell phone, anyone can type on a computer or send emails or WhatsApp messages but only radio hams can send and receive the Morse code. (Not to mention ex navy / military / commercial Morse code operators). I was rather disgusted when I called a SSB station only a few years ago using Morse code and he mentioned hearing some digital mode after numerous calls. In the early days I regularly joined SSB nets on Morse code and there was almost always someone who could decode for the group. My first year as a ZS radio amateur had to be Morse code only and only after that year was I allowed to go onto SSB. It was a good thing!
I had learned the Morse code in completely the wrong way. Me and my younger brother out of a book. Remembering the dots and dashes and not ever thinking that the sounds were the key. I later bought some long playing records that had Morse code lessons on them and could be played at different turntable speeds 33, 45 and 78. That maybe helped a little and I only just passed the twelve word per minute Morse code test at the Johannesburg post office. Because of the wrong way of learning the Morse code I was pretty much stuck at this speed for many years, well until I discovered “Morse runner” an interactive virtual reality program written many years ago. Using this program improved my speed up to thirty words per minute in five minute sessions. Higher speeds makes the reading of Morse code so much easier. The speed barrier just needs to be overcome and “Morse runner” does this for you.
I got my licence in February 1975, called up onto the stage one morning by the headmaster congratulating me on getting my amateur radio licence in front of the whole school. Wow, what an honour. My dad helped me to buy my first transmitter the Yaesu FLDX400 from Hamrad in Johannesburg and a second hand receiver which I think was a KW77. So I had to start my communications career using separate receiver and transmitter and impossible to link the two. It was difficult but I managed somehow.
During my matric year in 1976 I had to pack my radios away. I did, into a cupboard but everything was connected. I still made regular QSO’s even if I had to do it secretly. At the end of 1976 I had a going away braai and invited John, then ZS6BNS, and Gary ZS6YI. I was to report for duty in January 1977 at Wits command where I was taken by train to Kimberly for basic training. The army didn’t care much that I’d make a good signaller and I didn’t care much for the army and after basic training I was sent to 91 ammunition depot where I spent my days loading ammunition boxes.
I had my FT101EE there on top of the hill and one weekend made contact with Brian Austin ZS6BKW. He was a signals captain and within a week I was transferred to Wits Command signals where I spent the last eighteen months of my national service (It was increased by a year). I was given the rank of lance corporal which I carried into the citizen force at 71 Brigade’s signals. I did many camps mostly at Tempe, Lohatla and White river and just existed as a radio operator. I used ham radio to hear how things were at home, either via other hams willing to make a phone call, or directly with my XYL Elrika which wasn’t all that legal to do but we got the message through.
Not much happened for many years while building a career and raising a family. My son Edwill showed interest in ham radio and computers, learned Morse code at five words per minute in a week, passed his RAE and becam ZU1AAI, later changed to ZU6AAI. We did packet radio together. He lost interest as he discovered new and modern things.
Fourteen years down the line from initial national service I volunteered for a troop seargents course in Heidelburg. It was my last camp but meant more to me than any other military related activity I was required to participate in. For one thing I was in the heart of signals. It taught me skills I could one day use in the commercial world and to promote amateur radio, the ability to stand in front of many people and do presentations on interesting subjects.
I’d go as far as to say that the SARL’s RTA’s (Radio Technology in Action) were the best thing the SARL could have ever introduced. It certainly opened up a whole new world for me. I had also eventually invested in something more modern than a Yaesu FT101EE. I bought an Icom ic706mkiig. This radio allowed me to participate in digital modes, meteor scatter and satellite communications. I was introduced to satellite communications at the very first RTA that I attended. What a journey! I built my own satellite antennas and it wasn’t the rocket science that I was afraid to face. It was quite achievable.
I was interested in field communications and through the years aquired a FT-817ND (QRP Radio) and eventually a FT-897d too. From my experience these were some of the best radios ever made. If you own either or both don’t ever think of getting rid of them no matter whatever replacement you may be convinced in making. You already have the best. These radios are well suited to portable operating and are pretty good with battery power too. They allowed me to develop the concept of RaDAR, a very unique way of practising amateur radio.
For a few years now I have enjoyed early retirement. I always thought that I would have lots of time for amateur radio when I no longer had to spend my time serving the dreams of corporations. Not so, I’d rather spend my time being productive. Being productive gives a sense of achievement where amateur radio really feels like a waste of time. Amateur radio is constantly on my mind though. I run a WSPR transmitter 24/7 on 40m as my interest is NVIS. I have spent many hours writing online systems for NVIS reporting and of course last but not least the online community logbook and evaluator. I still drive the concept of RaDAR as that was my brainchild over a decade ago.
To me amateur radio should serve a purpose. Sure it can be used as a pastime too just for fun. I now have an Icom 7200 as a 100 Watt rig but it is rarely used. I’d much rather go outside and do some Morse code using a simple 40m QCX radio as that gives me all the sense of achievment I need now and then.
Just the other afternoon I was sitting down by the local river at a jetty I’d done some hard labour to create a few days before, making contact with Eric A2/ZS5EL/m touring through Botswana and getting a situation report and GPS position from him. Also ensuring all is OK. Two guys approached me, a guy and his son both having the same name, Pieter. They saw and heard my CW coming from an extension speaker as I sent Morse code on my straight key and the QCX sending five Watts into an end fed half wave wire. They too may have been inspired like I was at the hobbies faire in Johannesburg almost a half century ago. I gathered a few books for them, they want to become radio amateurs …..
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.
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.
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.
Because the RaDAR Challenge can be planned for beforehand, a suitable environment can be chosen, a park, a beach or anywhere where one can feel safe practising RaDAR. Not only the environmental’s but equipment and power choices need to be made too. There is no advantage in choosing a specific range of output powers. Higher power means more weight, as simple as that.
RaDAR Operators need to move, that is the uniqueness of RaDAR but RaDAR allows for portable and fixed stations too. These stations as I have said many times before are the stations that fill the gaps moving stations leave behind and are welcomed with open arms.
The categories are individually evaluated. Please refer to my previous articles on logging and evaluating the RaDAR Challenges. In less than a week we will see the first RaDAR Challenge of the year 2022. The new law allow you to remove your Covid masks while outdoors, at least in the case of South Africa. We are returning to normality!
I have been preparing the environment here in KG34ac for weeks now but with all the rain we have been receiving I often need to go back and cut the field grass again that literally grows overnight! I have the WSPR NVIS Detector running again after doing some improvements to the online software but will need to shut it down again for a while as I am in the process of moving QTH.
I will be taking part in the two hour on foot RaDAR Sport category (Starting 12:00 UTC) again but will also listen out for other stations as a chaser station outside the RaDAR Sport timeframe.
The logging process is important. Logs can be uploaded via ADIF if you log your QSO’s using a different logging program but you will still need to edit RaDAR related fields online.
As with any QSO log these are the standard fields that need to be logged. The frequency should be to the nearest kHz and the times in UTC and usually the time at the end of the QSO to be most accurate. This is important. RaDAR evaluations allow a maximum of five minutes difference in time. RST’s, Comments and Power are just additional information and not that critical as far as RaDAR evaluations go. Just good to know information.
The RaDAR Related fields are most important. With any RaDAR Challenge deployment only five contacts are needed for every deployment done. Some hams however make more than the required five contacts. Here you have a choice to mark the five QSO’s you consider to be the most important per deployment.
Also very important, mark which category your RaDAR Chellenge is participating in. See the RaDAR rules for more info on these various categories. Evaluations are done online according to these various categories after the challenge. There is no need to submit a log, it is already online!
Your deployment grid locator and the other station grid are most important and important that they are accurate. Ideally both stations should be logging on the system as that validates the QSO and the exchange accuracy. This allows for bonus points to be generated during the evaluation process.
Of course, your method of transport, if any, is important too. Fixed, field stations and moving stations have different multipliers. Make sure that you specify these criteria correctly.
I was busy refining the Evaluator to cater for all the RaDAR Challenge rules. I had to edit just about all the logs, not the QSO or Grid detail but adding “Power” which means nothing here really and adding the x / 5 markers estimating which QSO’s were most valid.
The overall result (Category X) November the sixth 2021 from 00:00 to 23:59 UTC
The graph shows all participants that actually logged their QSO’s online. Queries can be further done to determine the scores for the Categories A, B, C and D (Chasers).
Category D operator can be active at any time on the day of the RaDAR Challenge. They are the chasers and the guys the moving RaDAR stations really need. They are usually fixed stations and possibly connected to the grid too.
There is however something I need to look into. I calculate the number of deployments by deviding the number of (Selected) contacts by 5 and rounding up. The number of contacts that chaser stations make are calculated in the same way although not seen as deployments but certainly can be seen as a multiplier for the many contacts the chaser station could make making himself available.
The categories are calculated separately so this should not present a problem, the multiplier for category D just needs a name and has not been mentioned to date.
In the year 2021 RaDAR Sport was introduced and practical experiments done during the last of three challenges on November the sixth. Much development and updates were done to accommodate the situations which may arise during a RaDAR Challenge.
New fields were introduced into the online logger to cater for these situations and here presented as a test case and to explain how the online community logger and evaluator are used to evaluate any of the RaDAR Challenges.
The new columns introduced are Power and x / 5, where Category existed on the day of the challenge already. Here ZS3DR took part as a category B (SINGLE PERIOD, FOUR HOUR ops) RaDAR station, moving by vehicle (Vehicles, motorcycles and motorboats (motorized transport) – move 6 km every five contacts).
If more contacts were made than the required five per deployment, the best five QSO’s can be selected for evaluation. The best options are where a valid grid check took place (Bonus points) and second at least where QSO information has been validated by other operator log submissions. Good choices could be those where the operator is also taking part in the RaDAR challenges.
So in effect, after the RaDAR challenge has taken place the operator can come back to the online log and make these decisions and also correcting any mistakes that may have crept in during the logging process. Certainly after an ADIF upload this will be required as ADIF files only carry the most basic information. Once the logs have been submitted and refined by all participants then an evaluation can be done online.
Here again a test case for ZS3DR. Tjaart only operated two hours but category B runs for four hours unlike the RaDAR Sprint category C which is two hours but no motorised vehicles allowed.
Tjaart’s operating times and category were selected for the test case evaluation for the 6th of November 2021. Fortunately all the guys that logged their RaDAR Challenge logs have provided valuable data to refine the system for this year 2022 and years to come.
On clicking the submit button, all the magic happens, within seconds. Concentrate here just on the results for ZS3DR.
Here we can see from the selections Tjaart made (Edited by ZS6BNE) to his logs that he made 10 official RaDAR contacts (Even though he had more QSO’s than the required five per deployment). His mode of transport / movement was a vehicle and moving stations have a multiplier of 3. That gives a score of 30. From the logs he had selected 2 were validated by other RaDAR operator logs right up to the grid exchange which gave him in total 4 bonus points. A subtotal was then calculated to be 34. The number of deployments (Five contacts per deployment) then come into play as a multiplier. Those stations that do multiple deployments within the time frame enjoy a higher score than other stations doing fewer deployments.
Once all the other call signs are correctly marked and refined by each participant (Here I will use that data to edit and test) then the graph will be quite representative of all the results.
Ensure you have your assigned PIN which is related to your call sign. The first RaDAR Challenge for 2022 is just around the corner, in April!
I’ve just finished watching the latest South African Survivor series on Showmax hence the heading and “Building alliances”. I’d also transferred my logs from the Online Community Logbook to other Internet based logs using the ADIF download facility. It works like clockwork and yet another facility built into the online logbook.
One doesn’t have to look very much further than the Mode column to see where our alliances lie. Certainly the growing CW community has taken to this facility and using it on a regular basis, yet sadly not ALL CW operators do. Maybe those belong to another alliance much like the SSB alliance and maybe the FT8 alliance too. I say that with “tongue in cheek” but that really appears to be the case.
Certainly as far as RaDAR is concerned the online logbook is a prerequisite for any participation within future challenges. How else would evaluations be done if the data is not readily available? It should be regularly used in order to practice for those upcoming challenges. Tom G0SBW certainly does that. He has found it an easy to use facility for logging his pedestrian mobile activities. Many, like Frank ZS6FN, have commented on how streamlined the sharing of logs are using the system.
We are nearing the end of 2021 and how I wish the world could once again return to normal……