RaDAR News – December 2018

Dennis Green ZS4BS, the editor for Radio ZS, and secretary for the SARL recently sent out the advertisement, “Radio ZS has vacancies for the following columns – Youth Activities; the YL Column; VHF,UHF and Microwave News; Satellite News; SOTA,POTA, IOTA, RaDAR News; Club News and Activities; Homebrew. It can be a monthly or bi-monthly column”. This is the first of the RaDAR News column which I will write on a monthly basis.

In recent months I’ve been struggling with my own morale as far as ham radio is concerned. Conditions are up and down and QSO counts averaging around two QSO’s per weekend. Granted I’m always QRP and always operating from the field. I’ve set up my link dipole about 100m from home in the veld using my yellow painters pole mast. It stays there for weekend operations.

I have resigned from Facebook. I was active there for over a decade. Before the end of December everything I ever participated in will be erased as if I was never there. I’m still active on various WhatsApp groups though. Most members of such groups are active and this our only means of alerts other than ham radio.

I asked my grandson Eduan how he felt about amateur radio. He loved imitating his grandfather when he was younger. He’s just turned thirteen, now a teenager with wisdom. He said ham radio did not interest him, it is simply communicating with someone, WhatsApp is communication too and he’s quite happy with that. Of course very true, I could not argue.

I was talking to a friend involved in neighbourhood watch, doing patrols at night keeping residents safe from criminal activities. They work closely with a police colonel. The radio’s they now use are GSM radios with built in GPS’s and can be used tactically much like our very own APRS. APRS is nothing “special” or a ham only facility anymore. There is no need for high sites and repeater systems but they do rely on the cell network. He did say the batteries are sometimes stolen at cell phone tower installations which cause problems. They have backup standard VHF radio systems in the event of a total cell network blackout something close to science fiction but not impossible.

So to improve my own morale I think back to things that inspired me to take on this journey. It started at a science faire at the Johannesburg city hall in the early 1970’s. I wonder if the hall is still a hall and if anyone ever goes into the centre of Johannesburg anymore. I really don’t know! There were radios sitting on a table behind a counter. The sounds of morse code, not AM or SSB, and the comments from hams manning the station is what triggered my interest. Nothing has changed, this is the very basic thing that has kept me going for forty three years. CW defines ham radio!

Then there is RaDAR, I’m too far away from anything to do with SOTA or GMA or IOTA but I can do RaDAR. In fact it’s RaDAR that allows me the freedom to practice ham radio in its most basic form.

RaDAR movements is the only thing that makes RaDAR different from similar activities. Now that I’m over sixty I find movements also a little challenging. Still, to keep practicing such activities gives purpose to my way of being an active ham.

I still love those old radios that sit on a desk. There is nothing more beautiful than radio equipment that is antique. Linears and digital modes like FT8 don’t attract my attention at all. In fact I think FT8 is killing ham radio!!! Well that’s my opinion, others will certainly differ.

Even satellite activites bore me now, same exchange with the same people from the same grid on every new satellite pass and reports are always 59. But, there are new satellites been launched and need to be worked. Satellites can be used for SOTA activations and RaDAR too. Disheartening though is that I have never achieved five QSO’s during a RaDAR challenge! Always a maximum of three in an otherwise busy environment? I wonder why ….

Recognition for RaDAR in ZS is certainly there and it’s value acknowledged but participation is at an all time low. It’s that way for most other activities as well. Fortunately the interest in CW is growing and that gives me hope. Imagine SOTA activations using CW, RaDAR challenges using CW – sure that happens in other parts of the world but very rare in ZS. Let’s hope 2019 sees these dreams become reality.

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CW – It’s what defines ham radio

I was browsing an old backup and found a CW proficiency certificate issued to my son Edwill when he was a young boy. (He’s now 36) He became ZU6AAI but has since lost interest as many young people do.

My friend Mike ZS6ARU (SK) and I were the examiners officially assigned by the South African Radio League (SARL) for the Northwest.

Since CW is no longer compulsory this is no longer seen. It would be great if just some acknowledgement could be given for those few who still show interest in CW!!!

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

South Africa – The generators are running again

A helpless situation. Load shedding has been implemented again. Power supplies are cut, government institutions lie in darkness as are retail outlets. As I leave home to get back to work after lunch I turn into a refuse riddled main street. There is no shamefulness in litter here.

Actually I didn’t have lunch, the food could not be cooked and I settled for a bowl of bran and cold milk and a tablespoon of sugar for taste. I felt tired and slept for  twenty minutes. Not much else to do.

My Internet was down, no power to the router. No water either as I rely on an electric pump to pump water from my resovoir – there because for close on a half a decade the municipal water supply is mostly off. Switched on only to maybe keep my 2,500 litre resevoir filled, two or three hours a day! Everyone has a resovoir, you can’t live without one and this is the modern world?

Back at work, the generator is running. The main UPS failed twice recently sending IT systems into oblivion which takes days to fully recover. Risky business and no business at all. It is extremely costly to run a diesel engine at high revs for hours on end.

Books have been written about state capture, there are ongoing inquiries and court cases, no one yet has been brought to book. South Africa is dying and the corruption continues, the perpetrators walk free. A book to read which explains this quite well is Jaques Pauw’s “The presidents keepers”. It’s mind boggling stuff and it’s happening right here in South Africa. It’s horrifying.

My drivers licence needs to be renewed, it needs to be done every five years. I’ve been there three times, people hanging around and it appears there is no direction. The second time the place was empty, the machine used for eye tests and fingerprinting had broken. I suspect they are also now closed due to load shedding and so the queue gets longer ….

Nowhere to cry out, it’s going to get worse. The potholes in the road get bigger, drains either blocked or destroyed, electrical distribution boards stand open as citizens walk past daily.

Nobody cares …. 

RaDAR – Equipment and purpose

Once again my amateur radio equipment has been refined keeping the purpose of minimalistic RaDAR in mind. I now only have a few rigs – each with a purpose.

B25 Ex-Military HF only radio – I use this radio at home running off batteries. It can easily be packed and transported to an alternative QTH. Although it was initially designed as a manpack for the military, it’s pretty heavy to carry. I use two 7 A/Hr SLABS wired in parallel as a power supply.

Smart Charger – Needed to charge sealed lead acid batteries (SLAB’s). No other charger is suitable. This charger ensures a decent charge without damaging the batteries.

HB1A CW Only 40m/30m/20m QRP radio – This tiny radio works well and although it was designed to be trail friendly I use it at home for ad hoc CW contacts from home. I use it with various hand keys depending on my mood or a Bencher BY-1 paddle for faster speeds. This radio always impresses me for it’s simplicity and what it can do. It has excellent audio!

40m End fed tuner and 20.2m long wire – My antenna of choice for 40m communications from home. Pretty slealthy too so it doesn’t attract any complaints and works extremely well. The tuner is fixed outside and fed with ten meters of LMR400 coax (It’s what I had).

TH-D7A(g) dualbander – This is the radio I use for duplex FM satellite communications and APRS. I use the plug in mic and headphones. APRS isn’t that popular in South Africa so it is seldom used. I power the rig externally using 12 x NiMH rechargable penlights which is a cheap and reliable solution.

Garmin Legend GPS – Used occasionally with the TH-D7A(g) for APRS or carried in the backpack for reliable navigation in unknown areas.

Philips MP3 recorder – Used together with the TH-D7A(g) for recording the fast exchanges while doing RaDAR SatComms.

YOTA 2018 Dualband yagi – Used for RaDAR SatComms while in the field. It’s compact and very lightweight. Designed and built in South Africa.

Arrow dualband satellite antenna with built in diplexer – Used on a tripod for fixed station RaDAR SatComms

Xiegu X5105 Multimode HF only QRP radio – This radio is a compact solution for RaDAR operations in the field. It excels here but only in the outdoors. It has a built in rechargeable battery and ATU. It has a built in microphone so the plug in microphone always stays at home. The audio quality of this radio leaves a lot to be desired but not quite that noticeable in the field where the wind mostly blows and the sounds of nature take preference. The communications audio with either SSB or CW is quite acceptable. Headphones CANNOT be used with this radio unfortunately the audio quality demoralises the operator!!!

40m to 10m link dipole fed with RG58cu coax and dual painter pole mast – My antenna of choice in the field. Quick and easy to deploy and strong enough to hande moderate winds using bungi’s as shock absorbers.

That pretty much wraps up my amateur radio kit. I am QRP only but from experience there is not much difference between 5W and a 100W if conditions are good. They should be good anyway if any effective communications need to be made.

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – Feedback on the November 3rd challenge

Satellite passes formed the basis for my time line. I left home, on foot, at 11:00 CAT.

From experience I have learned not to rely too heavily on the satellites for RaDAR contacts during the challenge. Today was no different. As I got to my first destination I put up my link dipole barely two meters above the ground at the apex hanging from a tree branch. I also setup the satellite gear for a pass of SO-50 for 11:29 CAT.

In the meantime I browsed the 40m band and heard Kobus, ZS6BOS on 7.090 MHz calling from SOTA summit ZS/GP-016 at 11:22 CAT. We were both 59, NVIS comms looked very promising for a change! His grid was KG33VV and mine KG34AC18LQ. After browsing again I heard ZS3VDK/P6 also on 7.090 MHz operated by Kobus. I confirmed that I could log both call signs for RaDAR and SOTA. I used the internal microphone of the Xiegu X5105 which worked pretty well! It is no longer nescessary to carry a microphone. One plus point for RaDAR.

SO-50 was about to come over the horizon. I waited, sitting on the ground, my ISS Detector app giving me precise direction and elevation information. It was coming in from the north. I sent the activate tone while it was barely at 5 degrees and amazingly SO-50 came to life. I called CQ for the duration of the pass with no replies. The satellite signal was excellent. I was using my YOTA 2018 satellite antenna and it worked perfectly for RaDAR. Pity there were no QSO’s ….. but I expected that so it was not too much of a dissapointment!!!

Then I went to 7.020 and called CQ using the morse code (CW). Daryl ZS6DLL came back to me at 11:52. I was 559 and he 599 from grid KG44BC. Sean ZS6SR called me at 11:58. He was 599 too. He gave me a 579 from grid KG33GV. At 12:04 CAT I was called by Tom ZS6OMT. He was also 599. He gave me a 589 from KG33NG in Potchefstroom. Forty meters was in excellent condition! This day I felt proud to be a radio ham. Interest in CW amongst quite a few ZS’s was picking up.

Having the required number of QSO’s it was time to move to my next location. I thought I’d pass by and say Hi to my XYL. I shouldn’t have done that, my neighbours were visiting and half way through a cup of coffee and rusks. Trying not to be rude I set up my SatComms equipment under a tree in the garden and excused myself for a few minutes.

AO-91 was coming in from the south at 12:44 and I listened for it’s carrier. Christi ZS4CGR called from grid KG20KF75FF and my new grid was KG34AC19FJ we were both 59 (FM). Tom ZR6TG called from KG33WG, both 59. I heard later that it was his goal to work my RaDAR station so I’m glad that was a success! Then Andre ZS2ZA called from KF26SB. By this time the satellite’s signal was very strong. Then the sat went past the equator and picked up the usual QRM from central Africa and no further QSO’s were possible. Actually I don’t think there was anyone else around anyway.

I joined my neighbours for coffee and rusks. I showed them a video a friend made of my “RaDAR Playground” before we were interrupted by another neighbour. So we sat talking for a while until they left and went back home. I bid them farewell.

So, having only three satellite QSO’s I needed another two. I set up the link dipole in the garden hanging from a tree branch. I called in on the AWA net (Antique Wireless Association) at 14:08 and got reports from Barrie ZS6AJY 559, Andy ZS6ADY 559 and Tom ZS6OMT again (I was in a new grid). The net is a weekly ragchew net not conducive to the rapid style of RaDAR but Barrie asked in CW if I would require individual info or run off. I didn’t want to bother them any further and I had no time to hang around listening to two minute-plus overs. I greeted all and bowed out.

I packed up the antenna having five, plus one QSO’s. In the meantime the XYL had started working in the garden and needed some plants to be planted. I felt guilty and opted to give her a hand. After all there was only another forty five minutes to go and I still needed to walk a kilometer and deploy with the hope of working someone. I’d already seen my friends Sid ZS5AYC and Adele ZS5APT were very weak. Usually forty meters was short skip and a channel into division five but not today.

All in all my RaDAR ops was a success I think. My kit worked and I have proved my decision to sell all my Yaesu equipment, the 897d and 817ND and all the rest for a Xiegu X5105 was the right thing to do. The X5105 performed very well in a RaDAR context.

CW was KING today – I liked that!!!!

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

My Logbook  – Attached

 

RaDAR – Ammended rules for 2019 and beyond

RaDAR Challenge – 2019 and beyond

1. Aim

The RaDAR “Challenge” is a unique event aimed at promoting the use of Rapidly Deployable Amateur Radio stations. Categories (Fixed / Field / Moving) may be changed at any time during the challenge. The points system is so structured as to encourage portable RaDAR operations especially moveable RaDAR stations.

RaDAR operators are encouraged to be self-sufficient during each challenge, with not only power supply and communications equipment but food, water, protective clothing and shelter.

2. Date and Time

RaDAR operators define their own operating time schedule. It’s up to each individual to plan his / her MAXIMUM, SINGLE PERIOD, FOUR HOUR ops. He / she should consider propagation with the ultimate goal of inter-continental RaDAR to RaDAR communications in mind. Share your plans with others to try and coordinate times.

00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 6 April 2019, Saturday 13 July 2019 and on Saturday 2 November 2019. Twenty four hours will give equal opportunity to the international community of RaDAR operators.

3. Bands and Modes

All amateur bands are allowed including cross band contacts via amateur radio satellites. Modes – CW, SSB, FM or any legal amateur radio digital mode. As from 2019 the WARC bands will be INCLUDED. The RaDAR Challenge is not a “contest” as such, it’s an individual challenge.

QSOs via terrestrial FM repeaters should preferably not be used for the purpose of the challenge.

4. Suggested HF calling frequencies

See https://zs6bne.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/radar-calling-frequencies/ for the RaDAR Calling channels, the latest suggested international list of calling frequencies

5. Exchange

The RaDAR challenge requires more than a minimalistic information exchange. Accurate information exchange is considered more important than a large QSO count. Call sign, name, RS (T) report and grid locator. The grid locator of six characters is acceptable but should preferably be accurate to 8 or 10 characters for higher position accuracy (especially for moving RaDAR stations). Various smartphone apps are used for this or pre-planning using maps is an alternative.

6. Scoring (For determining your own success rate)

1 point per QSO. Individual QSOs could be per mode, per band, per satellite, per grid location. If the moving RaDAR station has moved the required distance contact can be made with a previously worked station, again. Suggestions have been made to call CQ including grid location, for example CQ RaDAR from grid KG34acXXyy, to help callers determine whether it is possible for a new contact with a previously worked moving RaDAR station.

7. Categories and multipliers

The following multipliers are applicable to determine the final score. If category / mode of transport changes were made during the challenge, than calculate accordingly.

X 1 – RaDAR Fixed station (in a building away from home)

X 2 – RaDAR Field station (camping)

X 3 – Moving RaDAR station – see modes of transport below.

Modes of transport and required movement distances (moving RaDAR stations only)

Vehicles, motorcycles and motorboats (motorised transport) – 6 km

Bicycles – 2 km

On foot and paddle canoes – 1 km

Wheelchairs – 500 m

Aeronautical mobile stations are considered moving stations and can communicate at any convenient time.

Note : Moving RaDAR stations need to make five QSO’s before moving to the next deployment point, thereafter they are required to move to their next destination. The move needs to cover the required distance before further contacts can be made. This requirement tests the ability to rapidly and successfully re-deploy your amateur radio station. In the case of satellite communications, plans need to be made carefully to ensure you are at your new position before the satellite comes over the horison. This adds to the fun of RaDAR.

If it be gentlemanly to make further QSOs before moving then please feel free to do so but the QSOs in excess of five per deployment point can not be counted for points. Your extra QSO’s may well help others to achieve their QSO count. Help your fellow ham to achieve his / her goals if the opportunity presents itself.

9. Bonus points (All categories)

Five (5) points for a minimum of one satellite OR digital modes QSO involving a computer, smart phone or digital modes device. (For clarity thereafter 1 point per Satellite / Digital modes QSO).

Five (5) points for the first successful same continent RaDAR to RaDAR QSO.

Five (5) points for the first intercontinental (DX) QSO

Ten (10) points for the first successful inter-continental (DX) RaDAR to RaDAR QSO.

10. Log Sheets

Log sheets must be submitted by 13 April 2019, 20 July 2019 and 16 November 2019 and sent by e-mail to edleighton@gmail.com Note: A photo of the station should accompany every log entry including each new location that moveable RaDAR stations visit. The results and photos are used to promote RaDAR and amateur radio.

RaDAR – The Xiegu X5105 internal battery

How low can you go?

I’ve been recycling the battery. Apparently it gets better every time. I found listening to AM broadcasts kind of achieves the goal of draining the battery pretty well. A reasonably strong AM station sounds good on the internal speaker. If I do a lot of shortwave listening I’d use an external D.C. power supply. The internal battery is for communications in the field.

Plugging in a 13.8 volt D.C. supply and setting >CHG in the menu, allows charging. It’s now ready for the weekend in case I want to get out and play radio!

This morning, I took note of the voltages after charging :

That’s it. Those are the figures.