RaDAR – Flag wars

My grandson (11) and I (58) developed this awesome game this weekend. Lots of fun and good RaDAR physical training too! Next to our little house “down by the burning river” we have a four hectare area with rocks and many bushes.

Flag Wars


Eddie and Eduan Leighton



Own water and backpack.

Protective headgear or cap.

Sun protection.

Trail shoes.

A general recce to be done by all competitors before the games begin.

Experience needed:

Danger awareness.

Trail running.

General fitness.

Possible dangers:

Twisting an ankle

Flesh wounds caused by thorn bushes / trees.

Unseen holes

Tripping over rocks

Snake bites but the chances are very minimal (it needs to be mentioned).


Each competitor places his flag pole on his side of the “operational area”.

A call is made to start the game.

Each competitor moves out to find the other’s flag trying not to be seen.

On finding the opponent’s flag, move back to your flag (Hopefully knowing where it is!).

Once back home with the opponents flag, you have immunity and thus win the game.

If you are caught by the opponent while carrying the opponent’s flag you are taken prisoner and the opponent wins the game.

Experiencing the game:

My route back to “camp” running back with Eduan’s flag. He saw me and gave chase, pretty fast kid I know, and he was close on my heels! I jumped the rocks entering the “desert area”, swung left and bolted for my flag hidden among the bushes, seconds from being “caught” and held “prisoner” and losing the game.


In desperation to get away from him I ran through thorn bushes, the same just touching his forehead. Next time he must wear a cap, at least.


Eduan won the first round, he sneaked back with my flag before I even found his!  He can also track you, quietly without being seen! He’s a natural!


He said, it’s the best game he’d ever played against his granddad!!!

RaDAR – A little history from way back then

I was asked to write a CV of my amateur radio career in less than 500 words so here goes, I hope I can remember the important details! Maybe I should write it as “the third person”.


Eddie Leighton took interest in amateur radio way back in 1974 and, after many weekly night classes, wrote the November written technical and regulation RAE. Morse code was required for an unrestricted ZS licence and, although largely self taught, Eddie managed to pass the 12 w.p.m. test. Eddie was issued with the call sign ZS6BNE in February 1975. He was still in high school until he matriculated at the end of 1976.

Eddie was called up to do national service in 1977. It was not until basic training was completed was he transferred to Wits command signal unit in the middle of 1977 where he spent another 18 months as a signaller also manning the Hamnet military station ZS6VT. On clearing out at the end of 1978 Eddie joined the Post Office as a pupil telecommunications technician. He was married in 1980.

Eddie was for many years the chairman for the Lichtenburg amateur radio club. On a few occasions he presented the RAE and morse classes in Lichtenburg where he stayed. When his own son was old enough he also became a ham and was issued with the call sign ZU6AAI. Eddie spent many hours in the “shack” with his son which proved quite beneficial in later years.

From the year 2000 Eddie actively wrote articles for the SARL’s publication, Radio ZS. This included general stories and later articles on digital modes, satellite communications and Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio.

Since attending the first “Radio technology in action” presentations of the SARL, Eddie decided to give something back in the form of touring South Africa firstly giving satellite communications presentations and the following year presentations on RaDAR which has become his passion from the year 2007 till now.

In 2010, Eddie earned the radio amateur of the year award.This award recognises someone who has made a major contribution to promoting activities and technical excellence. Eddie received the award on two counts. He promotes amateur radio satellite operation through articles in the South African Radio League’s publication Radio ZS. His second project is the development of Rapid Deployment of Amateur Radio (RaDAR).

RaDAR was recently presented and accepted at the IARU region 1 meeting. Eddie continues to promote amateur radio and especially the rather unusual concept of RaDAR in the form of short promotional video content and Blogs. He is in constant contact with interested hams via the various social media.


RaDAR – My RaDAR Playground history

What a harsh reminder of early beginnings, these pictures I discovered here. Fond memories actually …..

Molopo 50

I dreamed I could do it all myself!

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Fortunately there were contractors willing to help!

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Foundations were dug

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and filled with reinforced concrete designed to take the load of a double height building.

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A deep hole was dug amongst the natural rock.

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It would become a french drain serving two households.

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with a second compartment for soapy water drainage,

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Then floor height walls were built on the foundations and filled with gravel.

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and time to lay the underground electrical conduits ….

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Section for section the concrete slabs were laid.

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Until the floor was complete, a rough finish.

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and so it stood this way ….. for a very long time.

We planted trees, in the meantime.


RaDAR – Surviving in the new South Africa

I got home from work for lunch this afternoon and like every other day there was no water, not that there is none but service delivery in South Africa is just two words! I feel like a rat in a cage where water is supplied only certain times of the day. Just before work and just after work. Sometimes at midday it may go on. Many residents have fitted water tanks and high pressure pumps at their homes to alleviate the problem but it comes at great expense!

Elrika, my wife, battles to get the washing done and the dishes washed at home during the day. Flushing a toilet can become problematic so we store water in buckets and water bottles just to have continuity! Fortunately I have an almost two decade old swimming pool – that’s our water buffer!

Beautiful nature parks and dams have been destroyed, the game that once roamed there, no longer do! Since the dams have disappeared, underground peat fires ignite and burn. The dams were built specifically to stop the process by the so called national party government the world so hated.


It’s not just a water issue, our power has been cut five times the past week (load shedding) that lasted for four hours at a time! I don’t want to make this a political thing but I’ve heard that where diplomats stay they have not been off for a minute! My friend Rudi, ZS6DX stays in the same area.

Candles are fire hazards so my wife had a great idea of using solar charged garden lamps in place of candles! She has bought a few extras like a solar panel, battery and lamps also at great expense. All these things are imported from China. The Chinese and our new government are friends ….. I can’t help but to imagine that our countries disasters are certainly benefiting Chinese sales!!! I heard a few more generators nearby last night. Noise pollution now too!


I’ve heard of the same at informal settlements also not being cut. They have been known to go on the rampage, burning tyres and throwing rocks! This happened to my colleague last year, the rock narrowly missing his young son! The marks on the roads caused by burning tyres are still there.

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Roads and infrastructure are not maintained but some of the locals do what they can by filling the potholes  also on the outskirts of my home town which was one of the most beautiful places in South Africa 20 years ago!


So what has this to do with RaDAR? RaDAR training and innovation to survive is the only thing that will get us through these times. They will not get any better …..


RaDAR – A visit to the other side of SOTA

I have a lot of respect for those that are able and do take part in the SOTA challenges. I don’t have many defined summits near to where I stay but I did try to access two of them. I did it in conjunction with my salt mine activities trying to expand on our wireless network.

The summits in question were ZS/NW-008 and ZS/NW-004.


My colleague Jaco and I left early Friday morning for the Marico area traveling mostly on gravel roads. I’ve traveled these roads a few times over the years one of which was used for final training for the Comrades marathon a few years ago. Rough, with steep uphills and downhills and it brought back some fond memories.

The first recce was to NW-008. This summit was on top of one of the biggest mountains in the area. What lay between us and it was miles and miles of eight foot game fencing and private property. No contact numbers on the many gates that we passed.


We continued down the road towards Groot Marico, the mountains became hills and the hills became flatter. It was time to turn around and that’s what we did. It was starting to get warmer and I climbed out of the car and took off my jacket. A farmer that was cutting feed in a field for his cattle came towards us and we introduced each other. After a discussion about looking for hills and places to expand our radio network he asked us to follow him home and he’d show us the top of a mountain on his farm and so as he drove past on his tractor we followed him.

What a kind gentleman, he took us through his hilly farmlands to the top of one of the highest hills (BERGG) in his Mahindra bakkie. He said we are most welcome to install whatever we need on the hill. It was not as high as NW-008 though.

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I took a few measurements while we were up there and then we returned to the farmers farmhouse, bid our farewells and thanks. I wrote down his contact information if needed for the future.

We continued back down the road with the intention of going to NW-004. We passed NW-008 on our left and there was a farmer and farmhands working with a bull whose horns had gone septic. I stopped and Jaco and I introduced ourselves to him. “How can I help you?”, the gentleman asked and so I explained again what we were looking for. He said he’d take us to the top of a mountain on his farm. In fact he had three farms adjacent to one another all with mountains on them! Jaco mentioned NW-008 and the farmer said we can’t go there and I didn’t push the matter any further. He was kind enough to take us to another hill and I accepted his hospitality.

I had to use my own car this time, a Nissan X-Trail. It has 4×4 capability but not a fully fledged 4×4. So we climbed up embankments, through gates, and steep shale covered pathways. I had doubts in my mind that the car would be able to climb the mountain. In first gear, the car in 4×4 mode with hill assist the X-Trail climbed faithfully up the hill. It certainly surprised me! The farmer agreeing to take it slowly and then I found out he was 77 years old, as fit as a fiddle and very open minded, an interesting man!

I took measurements at the top of BERGJ and we traveled down the steep hill again. The 2.5 liter X-Trail handled that very well too. Jaco and I said our goodbyes and our thanks for his hospitality too. I also took his contact details.

We drove off to NW-004 stopping for coffee and sandwiches alongside the road. To prove to Jaco I could make contact with someone via shortwave while we were in a valley amongst the rocky hillside I did a quick RaDAR deployment with my FT817 and end fed antenna and had a short SSB QSO with Flip ZS6PJK. We packed up and continued to NW-004.


A final realization.

I could not access any of the two defined SOTA summits. There were thousands of other places from where to operate. Later while trying to get access to NW-004 I did another RaDAR deployment on a ridge and made two CW QSO’s with Barrie ZS6AJY and John ZS6JBJ. We had to move because a number of cattle on their way home for the night looked unsettled with what they saw and so I packed up and we moved off to the cellphone tower (CELLT), Tafelkop (TFK) and eventually back home (NWK) changing a flat wheel on the way where a sharp rock had cut a hole through the back tyre just before leaving the gravel road.

I traveled a little over 300 km’s for the day, over 200 km’s were gravel roads. No summits could be activated but RaDAR deployments were effective and successful.


RaDAR – The Hamnet winter exercise


Busy building my check list that nothing gets left behind on Saturday!



Five man Tent (Able to stand)

Fold up table

Fold up chair

Fold up stretcher

Fold up mattress

Sleeping bag

Gas bottle – Sufficient gas!

Gas lantern attachment


Cooler bag – Food and water / cool drink (for two days)

GPS and Compass (Optional)


Warm clothing!

Warm Jacket

Track suit




Spare clothing

Easy sleep – anti mosquito!


Power and lighting

2 x LED Headlamps – New batteries

Waeco (18 A/Hr SLAB) – Charged

2 x 7 A/Hr SLAB’s – Charged

Homebrew FT-817ND power cable with crocodile clips (Beware polarity)

1 x 7 A/Hr SLAB (for backpack) – Charged

Rechargeable penlights – Charged


Blogging and ops reporting (Spare time, if any, blogging)

Netbook  – Charged

Spare netbook battery – Charged

Wireless mouse – New AAA battery

Smartphone (Spare time internet gateway) – Charged

PAYG Data bundle

Camera – New battery!


Masts and antenna supports

Eskom mast

3 x Guy ropes + carbiners (for Eskom mast)

3 x “7” shaped Tent pegs (for Eskom mast)

10m Qick deployment fibreglass RaDAR mast

2 x Heavy duty bungies (for fibreglass mast)

2 x Paint roller handles (serves as a 4.5m mast / two hiking poles)

Joining tube (for paint roller handle mast)

Optional short guy ropes (for paint roller handle mast)

Rope (serves as a third guy wire for quick inverted vee format antenna deployments with the paint roller mast)

Bungi’s (shock absorption to protect wire antennas where needed)

Spare small carbiners

Small pulleys (Optional)



Webb FST 400 including mast mountable balun http://webb.co.za/pdf/Fst%204004R-25R%20S3.pdf

Open wire fed W3EDP

Open wire fed (300 ohm) random length dipole

LDG 4:1 Balun (for above antenna and W3EDP)

Coax (PL259’s both ends)

Various Coax fly leads

Various coax adapters

Shortend 9:1 UNUN fed, multiband end fed

Trap dipole 40m / 80m

Trap dipole 30m / 20m / 10m + fixed coax

Roll up wire 10m J-Pole

Various tie ropes

Extra wire (for possible 160m deployments)

Terminal blocks (joining wires)

Tent pegs (securing antennas in the absence of natural tie down facilities)


Radio equipment

FT817ND Multiband QRP radio

LDG z817 comapnion auto ATU – With 4 x spare AA penlight batteries

Hand mic


Heil Traveler headset + boom mic (Optional)

MP3 recorder

Headphone jack splitter



Programmed frequencies (HF channels)

2 x Operations log (RaDAR / Portable)

2 x Message lists (RaDAR / Portable)

5 x GOOD Pens


Watch – accurately timed


 Tools and testers




Measuring tape

Shifting spanner

Flat screwdriver




The Future Ham


On a chilly winters Saturday morning, Eduan sat on a chair, the warm sunlight shining through the dining room window bringing comfort from the cold. He was startled by the sudden question, “Hi uncle Eduan, what are you doing?”, asked the little boy from across the street. He was visiting young Sam, Eduan’s son. “Hello Juandre, I’m paging through some old magazines that my grandfather stored in cardboard boxes many years ago. He said they would become quite valuable one day. I guess he was right, no one prints magazines anymore”.

Wow, uncle Eduan, I’ve never seen one, a magazine? Why are some big and some of them small?”. Juandre had many questions, quite an inquisitive little boy and Eduan thought to himself, “How interesting young kids are, so willing to learn but nothing is as it was anymore. How lucky I was to experience many of the things these young children will never see”.

Juandre, go and call Sam and I will explain to you both”, said Eduan. Juandre ran around the house calling, “Sam, Sam come quickly, your dad wants to show some zines he found in a box”, they raced to get back to Eduan. “Why are you crying dad?”, asked little Sam and Eduan quickly wiped away the tear that ran down his cheek and swallowed, deeply. “Not crying, son, it must be the dust from these old boxes” explained Eduan but realized his son had witnessed his tender side.

Juandre, Sam’s great grandfather and my grandfather, was a radio ham”, explained Eduan, “right from before I could walk he used to let me play with his ham radio things like a big morse code key, the buttons and the dials on his big radio’s ….”, Eduan noticed the vague looks on the two little boy’s faces, they had no idea what he was talking about.

Dad, you’ve lost us”, Sam said in an alarming way. “Please explain what a morse code thing is and what is a radio? Is it like dad’s glasses?”. Eduan thought to himself, “I have a lot of explaining to do, much has changed since I was their age”.

Come and sit next to me and let’s page through a few of these old magazines”, said Eduan. The two young boys looked in awe, and both shouted out excitedly and in stereo, “dad!”, “uncle Eduan!”, “all the zines have the same name, R a de e oh Zed Ess !”. Eduan knew then the boys would not be stopped in their quest for knowledge. It was his responsibility to spread the word.

Eduan was alerted to a message flashing within the glasses he wore, a message from his friend in Hawaii – Noise levels non existent on 15 an 20 metres, put out calls…….nothing. Terrain is like Mars and has extremely high iron oxide content, I can’t to stay too long, in case of altitude sickness.

Eduan looked at his son, “Sam, your great granddad was a radio ham for over a half a century. That is a long time. He made sure I took part in radio youth activities when I was your age. I got two book prizes, one for his radio club and one for myself. He loved browsing through my book, it was all about low power radios. Grandpa loved nature and practicing ham radio in the field. He loved jogging too, he wasn’t a champion in any way but always believed if he could take on the challenge it would be possible for others too”.

Eduan further explained to the two boys, “Much has changed since I was your age. Grandpa had old radios which he sold to some friends much older than him, they were collectors items. He had other radios too. He spoke of APRS short for Automatic Position Reporting System and TNC’s which is short for Terminal Node Controllers and also said there used to be packet radio that used the same protocol, or way to communicate between radio stations. It was used to send short messages all over the world. It worked very well and he received replies to questions within a day or two. That was pretty quick considering people used to write letters to each other then that took two weeks on average to get to the addressed person”. The two boys sat and listened carefully as if they understood. “We’d be pretty lost if messages took that long to get”, said Sam. Eduan smiled and was proud of his son’s response.

Sam, messaging became faster through what they called SMS, short for Short Messenging Service, then. When handheld telephone devices could connect to the Internet then other cheaper services became available. You could even do APRS on such telephone devices that it could be used without a radio, you did not even need a GPS it’s built in just like your comms unit. Not many people use a radio now”, explained Eduan.

Sam got all excited, “Dad! Where are granddad’s radios now? We’d really like to see them!”. Eduan replied, “I still have grandpa’s radios. I have permission from the governement to have them on display but they have been sealed that they cannot be switched on”. “Cannot be switched on?”. Little Sam was quite disapointed. “Why?”.

Eduan explained in his way, “Goverments of the world were told by scientists that they have received intelligent messages from space. Five short tones followed by two long and short tones. For decades radio hams taking part in senseless contests weekend after weekend constantly sent the morse code “DiDiDiDiDit DahDit DahDit”, faster than normal, a sort of common denominator and it appears that life from other planets received these signals somehow and have become aware of our existence on earth. There was a need for radio silence…..” Eduan distinctly remembered listening to his grandfathers CD’s, The War of The Worlds …..

Awesome!”, Shouted Sam and Juandre, “just like our XXXBox virtual reality games”. The children did not realize the graveness of their passion.

Around ten years after the turn of the century, BYOD, or short for Bring You Own Device, became quite popular. People used them to connect to the Internet to share electronic mail and to talk to each other. They could even use the devices to see each other no matter where they were in the world! Radio repeater systems could be accessed using these handheld devices and it was no longer any use to have a radio. If you really wanted to, you could listen to someone else’s radio over the Internet but that became expensive especially if you wanted to use it to communicate with other radio stations. It was the beginning where radios became just too expensive to own and lost sales stopped production lines for radio’s but the BYOD unit’s continued to improve and everyone had one.” – Eduan just gave a history lesson in a few short words.

Every connection the the Internet is identified by what they call an IP address. The world was united because it made no sense to be separate. Like the magazine’s name ZS, ham radio call signs were replaced with an IP address number as it uniquely identifies the user. Everyone had their own IP address! The GPS is always switched on so your immediate position is always known. For our own safety the national government says. Boys don’t be too concerned it is how we live now. It was different when I was your age.”, said Eduan, he’d already said too much!