A retired ham’s life

The fruits of my labour

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.

Amateur radio – From high school to retirement

A signaller – Me


Amateur radio – From high school to retirement

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 …..

The new RaDAR

Updated : 2021-10-30 (Draft)

The “Evaluator”

The RaDAR Challenges / RaDAR Sport Sprint

1. Aim

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

1.2 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.

1.3 The introduction of various categories starting from November 2021 (Test phase).

Category A – A FULL twenty four hour RaDAR Challenge.

Category B – The standard RaDAR challenge. It’s up to each individual to plan his / her MAXIMUM, SINGLE PERIOD, FOUR HOUR ops.

Category C – A 2 hour RaDAR Sport sprint, starting time 14:00 LOCAL TIME. This is a physically demanding challenge.

Category D – A RaDAR Chaser station. Without these stations RaDAR operators will find difficulty in maintaining quick QSO’s per deployment.

Please ensure that you mark your category correctly when entering or editing your logs in the online logbook.

Once a challenge is completed by a RaDAR Challenge participant, there is no harm in becoming a Category D Chaser station. Monitoring the online logbook in real time will provide clues to where to find the activity worldwide.

All logs are to be recorded using the unique online logbook. A PIN is required for access and must be arranged a week ahead of the challenges. Ideally every RaDAR operator should be possesion of his own PIN to be able to log online. Contact Eddie, ZS6BNE via email on edleighton@gmail.com. The online logbook can be found at :

http://www.radarops.co.za/radarsport/RaDAR_Sport.html

As in the past one point was allocated for each of the five QSO’s per deployment. Now if the log is matched on the system with another then both stations get credit for the QSO otherwise the logged QSO only has a one point value. As this concept will grow so will the accurate logging from all stations become a reality. This has been proven during the development and testing of the online community logbook.

2. Dates and Times

2.1 RaDAR operators define their own categories.. He / she should consider propagation with the ultimate goal of inter-continental RaDAR to RaDAR communications in mind.

2.2 00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 3 April 2021

2.3 00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 10 July 2021

2.4 00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 6 November 2021.

3. Bands and Modes

3.1 All amateur bands are allowed including cross band contacts via amateur radio satellites. Modes – CW, SSB, FM or any legal amateur radio digital mode (Except modes like FT8, preferably keyboard to keyboard modes like PSK31 where the operator is directly responsible for the information exchange).

The WARC bands are INCLUDED – The RaDAR Challenge is not considered to be a contest but an individual challenge with a low QSO count and a simulation of emergency situations. 17m is a popular band to use.

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

4. Suggested (Non WARC) HF calling frequencies

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

5. Exchange

5.1 The RaDAR challenge requires more than a minimalistic information exchange. Accurate information exchange is considered more important than a large QSO count. Callsign, 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). If the other station is unable or unwilling to give a grid location then the name of his town will suffice.

6. Scoring

One point per QSO. Individual QSOs could be per band, per satellite, per grid location. If the other station also logs the contact accurately on the online logbook, it is then considered to be a RaDAR to RaDAR contact and the bonus points then come into play.

The online logbook has a facility for evaluating the accuracy of logs. For RaDAR even the grid exchanges need to be exact. If the times are within five minutes, date, frequency and grids match then two bonus points are awarded to both stations. This is done by the RaDAR Challenge online Evaluator.

It can be found at http://www.radarops.co.za/radarsport/evaluate_Sprint.html

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 chasers determine whether it is possible for a new contact with a previously worked moving RaDAR station.

The number of transitions that took place will be considered a multiplier for the total scores achieved through the five contacts per deployment point.

7. RaDAR transisiton options and multipliers

7.1 The following multipliers are applicable to determine the final score. If the mode of transport changes were made during the challenge, then calculations take place accordingly. Ensure your mode of transport is correctly selected when entering your log into the online logbook.

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.

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

Vehicles, motorcycles and motorboats (motorized transport) – 6 km.

Note: Motorized transport is only allowed for the twenty four and four hour challenges and not for the two hour RaDAR Sport sprint. The RaDAR Sport sprint is more of a physical challenge.

Bicycles – 2 km.

On foot and paddle canoes – 1 km.

Wheelchairs – 500 m (The four hour challenge only).

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

7.4 Moving RaDAR stations need to make five QSOs 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. 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 cannot be counted for points. For simplicity, log only the five required contacts per deployment point. It will make it easier to follow the activity of moving stations in real time.

8. Log Sheets

8.1 Log sheets must be entered online or uploaded to the online log using ADIF. Logs should preferably entered directly after each QSO (See Note). End of QSO times are also the most accurate to log. If ADIF uploads are done after using a logging program it will be necessary to do final edits of the uploaded logs as ADIF does not cater for all RaDAR related fields. It is no longer necessary to submit a log as it already exists in a database behind the online logbook. This is what makes the online logbook quite unique.

Note: Ideally the logs should be entered as quickly as possible that activity can be monitored in real time but it is understandable if this is not possible. Some deployments may be out of range for Internet access. In this case enter or upload your logs at your earliest convenience preferably not later than one week after the challenge. An online evaluation can be done at any time.

RaDAR – A new radio sport

Through the QSO Today virtual expo I introduced the idea of RaDAR Sport. Since then I have done much to contribute towards the idea, in ZS at least. The RaDAR Challenge has been with us for many years, unusual ham radio fun. It was designed to cover a whole twenty four hours with the hope of international RaDAR to RaDAR communications. It was mostly touch and go with no defined times, modes or frequencies and usually local groups made arrangements to meet somewhere, somehow on the bands.

I want to take RaDAR to the next step starting in November as a trial run for future years. The three dates per year will remain but the times will become shorter and planned using UTC as a reference time. My suggestion is that the RaDAR Sport Challenges start at 14:00 local time in whatever time zone you live and the end time16:00 local. That gives a full two hours to make as many deployments as possible. The requirement is still five QSO’s per deployment point.

Individuals or teams of individuals will line up at the start time. No motorised transport, you are either on your feet, on a bicycle or in a canoe. Travel distances for on foot and canoes, as always, one kilometer and two kilometers if travelling by bicycle. This allows us to compare apples with apples.

During the past few weeks I have been developing the online RaDAR Sport log and has been tested mainly by the CW guys in ZS. It caters for RaDAR Grid exchanges. This online system will need to be used during the RaDAR Sport challenges. It will allow the world to see the activities taking place throughout the world and chasers can now have better opportunities to work RaDAR Sport participants and they will have a general idea where the stations are active having international access to the online logbook.

I have also built an Evaluator so each period can be evaluated separately or an evaluation of the international 24 hour period can be done in literally, seconds. The Evaluator has been tested and has become very popular. An option to do the RaDAR Sport evaluations still needs to be written but the infrastructure is now there to evaluate just about any type of contest. In the case of RaDAR, accurate grid exchanges are critical. No points for unmatched grids or incorrect times.

Keeps these ideas in mind and try to do the November challenge according to these rules.

The online logbook can be accessed on http://www.radarops.co.za/radarsport/RaDAR_Sport.html

The Evaluator can be accessed on http://www.radarops.co.za/radarsport/evaluate_Sprint.html

System access is controlled via registered PIN’s so RaDAR Sport participants can request a PIN from Eddie ZS6BNE in time for the RaDAR Sport challenge. This is there to limit any abuse of the system.

Hope to see your callsigns in the log! 73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – The April 2021 challenge

Quite a bit of organising took place before this challenge. The idea was to have a support system in the way of monitor stations distributed throughout ZS on CW and SSB. The monitor stations were designated unique calling frequencies on 40m.

The final list of monitor stations

The idea of monitor stations stemmed from a suggestion I made during the recent QSO Today virtual expo so the concept for RaDAR Sport was successfully tested within this RaDAR Challenge.

For quite a few days I used WSPR to estimate a suitable time of day for the challenge and we decided on 14:00 to 18:00 local time (CAT). Not all stations took part in this particular time frame which of course is still quite acceptable within RaDAR. 40m can change within minutes I have found but it was there for us that afternoon. Propagation conditions were quite suitable.

Using Libre Office to draw propagation graphs from WSPR Data.

A log sent in by Christi ZS4CGR who was a SSB monitot station. Moving stations could easily make contact with these station to make up their required five QSO’s so they could move to their next location. Ludwig ZS5CN and Rudi ZS2M were also there on every call. Great to he Frank ZS6FN too. CW certainly shined here in South Africa this day.

ZS4CGR’s RaDAR Log

This was my log, my ADIF Data uploaded to qrz dot com. It was undoubtedly the best RaDAR Challeng to date!

ZS6BNE’s log uploaded to QRZ dot Com

I carried my Icom IC-7200 just so I was able to do SSB and push a little more power than five Watts – Just in case. I had a newly built dipole which wasn’t field tested yet and I paid dearly for that and had to do field repairs on two occasions. I also carried two 7 A/Hr SLABS in parallel as a D.C. power source.

On foot RaDAR – ZS6BNE
ZS6BNE’s last deployment – Just before the sun set in the west.

Sid ZS5AYC and Adele ZS5APT, our regular SOTA activators and RaDAR Challenge participants too part in the challenge again too.

Sid ZS5AYC
Anthony ZS6ARW’s log

RaDAR – The QSO Today virtual expo 2021

In South Africa we are experiencing a lot of load shedding, two and a half hours at a time sometimes twice a day! It so happened too when I was supposed to join in via Airmeet on my pre submitted RaDAR presentation hosted by QSO Today’s virtual expo.

In between these power failures I really battled to navigate the website and once I got reasonably familiar with the layout I was unable to get my video and microphone to work so it wouldn’t have helped to even implement emergency power and get online.

Ed DD5LP was the host for the session and he sent me a mail later that he was able to successfully broadcast the presentation. In effect, Ed saved the day. Thank you Ed! Ed sent me some Q&A’s which I will try to reply to here on my blog and can be distributed easily.

Ralph KR6AI from what I’ve seen it depends on the environment and the target area. I’ve seen hams’s using Alex loops, verticals near salt water and end feds. I prefer end feds as it is easy to deploy and here in South Africa we are many hops away from DX so I usually concentrate on NVIS communications.

Theodore KD2TGO the official RaDAR website is one I maintain and can be accessed at http://www.radarops.co.za however RaDAR is an experience and many use social media platforms to share experiences and many videos are available on You Tube. The more we become RaDAR active internationally the more we can see the experience of others and also share our own experiences in the same way.

Usually low power equipment like a KX2 / KX3 / FT-817 and even the new QRP Labs QCX Mini. Antennas are usually made of wire. For satellite communications I use a TH-D7A(g) which has a duplex facility. Antennas for satellite communications can be home brewed very easily or you can use the popular makes like those from Arrow antennas.

Jim N7RCS I would love to write an article. I would need some contact information and guidelines.

Dennis KD9KMK I did one challenge in a canoe. It was quite challenging but one can row to a point, climb out and deploy your station after moving a kilometer. Unfortunately our river dried up for reasons beyond our control so my canoe is no longer used. It was a fun exercise though!

Bruce W1EJC the band of choice would be the one giving the best propagation at the time. I usually spend my four hours on 40m and occasionally do satellite deployments too.

If I had my way I’d do all my contacts on CW. Here in South Africa we have only a few CW operators and around ten regulars. Much of the action is on SSB which limits the usability of the radios like the QCX mini which is CW only. Our CW group is growing much through the driving force from Mike ZS6MSW so hopefully in the future we may see a CW only four hour challenge. That would be awesome!

Much work went into the QSO Today virtual expo, the many presenters and the organisers must have had a heavy weight on their shoulders this past weekend. The technology I think was really awesome but complicated. I think there were many teething problems but let’s continue to support Eric 4Z1UG in ironing out the problems that the next expo be more familiar. I felt lost at times and I come from an IT background!

Have fun and spread the word of RaDAR.

Kind regards and 73 de

Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – Ham radio sport

From a South African perspective.

Imagine each division in ZS will have a dedicated RTS (RaDAR Traffic station) for the four hour duration of a RaDAR Challenge. Let’s say HF only, 40m. A moving RaDAR station will call on a dedicated RTS frequency,
say for ZS1 7.085 MHz, “ZS1RTS ZS6BNE RaDAR Traffic”. No answer,
switch to 7.090 for ZS5. “ZS5RTS ZS6BNE RaDAR Traffic”.
ZS5 RTS station will reply, “ZS6BNE ZS5RTS Send”.
“ZS5RTS ZS6BNE Name Echo Delta Delta India Echo Grid Kilo Golf Three Four Alpha Charlie One Niner Foxtrot India”.
“ZS6BNE ZS5RTS Confirm grid Kilo Golf Three Four Alpha Charlie One Niner Foxtrot India”
If all OK, “ZS6BNE” (To sign out). In this case there is no two way exchange as the fixed RTS station operators and Grids are known. Once the moving RaDAR operator has five successful QSO’s he / she can move for redeployment elsewhere. There can however be a dedicated watering hole frequency for R2R (RaDAR to RaDAR) QSO’s if there is such a chance of a successful TWO way exchange between RaDAR operators. The first QSO having five bonus points. A QSO with a fixed RTS station counts as one point. …….. and so on.

Imagine country wide about forty hams taking part in the RADIO SPORT of RaDAR. Each chooses his own method vs distance of transport but he / she is free to change the method of transport at any time during the challenge – walk, bicycle, canoe, quad, SUV. They each have their individual routes planned, their tactic. Propagation will have minimal effect with the RTS stations distributed amongst each province / division. At the end of the four hour challenge period the logs are submitted to a website where the results are computed online giving the results. Prizes could be a year’s free SARL membership for the top contender etc. Naturally each contender has his / her own individual plan. Like Sid last weekend could have walked 1km faster than he could drive 6 km in his vehicle after the SOTA activation. Walking in that case could have been a better choice.

I was thinking it would be a little tough but really if out of the five QSO’s , one was incorrect then that whole deployment section of 5 contacts become NULL because only four out of the five could be counted ….. It actually makes sense to be that strict because in RaDAR, accuracy is worth more than a high QSO count. In my example way above where the RTS station confirms the grid it is quite important that he does that both stations do a final check for accuracy before continuing …..

Something to think about and any country in the world could take part in a similar way, anytime!

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

My RaDAR Challenge – November 2020

I heard my friends Sid ZS5AYC and Adele ZS5APT were going to activate a SOTA summit and at the same time start their RaDAR Challenge as it was going to be a hot day. I was glad really as I wanted to support their SOTA effort but also wanted save my batteries and energy for the RaDAR Challenge we would have started later. I grabbed my kit and walked a circular route on my “E-Trail” deploying at grid KG34ac19fo.

I took the Icom IC-7200 for it’s first walk in the outdoors and I am its third owner! I was a little concerned but the weight was not really that bad in my back pack. I carried a Waeco battery pack in my hand. The pack contained two 7 A/Hr Gel Cells wired in parallel. I set up on the top of a rock.

I’m very happy with this radio. I usually get an answer to practically every call I make with it! I made five contacts from this location, two SSB and three CW. CW activity is on the rise in ZS and that is such good news!

I had an antenna breakage on one of my link insulators. Why it had to happen now was just another test. It’s my link antenna I use all the time and it has seen some rough storms in its lifetime and by the way all the bullet connectors are crimped and not soldered. Nothing wrong with a crimped connection by the looks of things. I had to walk back home to make a new insulator out of a piece of plastic sheeting.

I packed up and walked the circular route back to the starting point at my QTH and set up the antenna again making another five QSO’s. That was another three CW and two SSB QSO’s. That was all in all five R2R QSO’s!

Because there is a lot more CW activity in the RSA I opted to only do HF this time round and no satellite communications. I have found doing both can become quite distracting.

My friend Mike ZS6MSW, the driving force behind CW in ZS, made a video of his first RaDAR Challenge. Our R2R QSO and quick information exchange serves as a good example how RaDAR Challenge QSO’s should take place.

Thank you Mike ZS6MSW!

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR and the Icom IC-7200

I’ve had the radio for a few weeks now and although it’s an “old” radio and discontinued, it’s a new radio to me. This one still looks brand new.

I was asked to try 60m and a standard 7200 will not be able to do that but then I discovered, mine is wide open and apparently was opened by the first owner. I’m the third. Working 60m was a simple case of dialling in the frequency and with the right antenna I was ready to go!

While tuning my linked inverted vee for 60m I found the SWR protection to be quick and very effective. The heat sinks just show what a workhorse this radio is. My kind of radio …..

It’s a real radio too, to be honest, I’m old school, I haven’t really taken the SDR thing to heart.

The 7200 can be CAT controlled through the USB port and together with that there is a digimodes sound card interface built in! No need for a CT17 CIV interface and no need for a very expensive Signalink interface either. The Signalink alone cost a fifth of what I paid for the rig. I do have a Signalink though, I gave it to my grandson together with the FT-817ND (Hope he’ll become a ham some day).

I’ve been QRP for many of my recent years practicing ham radio. I welcome the option of 100W again! The 7200 can do QRP, even lower than 2W if need be.

Sure, the radio is biggish and heavyish but even a 817 is heavyish!

I would have liked back lit buttons for the dark but I’ve more or less learnt to feel my way around in the dark and only occasionally I press the wrong button.

I’m tired of tuners. I just make sure the antenna is working correctly.

Digimodes is so part of the 7200. WSJT-X talks nicely to the radio. I hate FT8 but just for fun I made a FT8 QSO recently, actually my PC did, I just clicked on the station’s call sign and the computer did the rest. I mean, compare that to working CW?

Nothing wrong with SSB either. The mic works better than many other rigs I have owned.

The receiver audio quality is absolutely superb. Turning the volume right down the audio is absolutely quiet. Not even an audio amp “hiss”!

It’s still pretty cold here in South Africa, nothing compared to other parts of the world in winter / spring though. Some time soon, this radio is going RaDAR!!!

 

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – Not quite in the field

Icom IC-7200

Yesterday I took part in the SARL CW Contest, a three hour contest on 80m, 40m and 20m.

I had to quickly build and tune a section for my link dipole for 80m. I’d already added a 60m section so it was simply a case of adding seven meters of wire on each end and tuning for low SWR. Within a half hour I had a working 80m antenna, quite RaDAR’ish I might add.

I sat in the back room which is only two meters from my RaDAR Playground in the bush. Just recently I installed AC power but no lighting yet.

What a comfortable way of working a contest other than sitting on the ground in the cold winter fields running QRP! This was an absolute pleasure. I was heard on every call running between 60 and 90 W from the icom IC-7200. What an awesome radio!!!

I had bought some cheap headphones which sounded Hi Fidelity and I could not help myself but to compare it to the Xeigu X5105 I once had. It was absolutely AWFUL using headphones even when I turned the audio right down it still sounded like a ships engine room. The Icom was quiet!!!

I made more contacts in one session than I have done in quite a while.
40m – ZS2DL, ZR2A, ZS2AL, ZS5PG, ZS1C, ZS2NF, ZS5XT, ZS5EL, ZS5DUV, ZS2U, ZS6KR, ZS3CM, V51YJ, ZS1SA
80m – ZS2DL, ZS5EL, ZS6AZP, ZS6OMT, ZS6S, ZS6KR, ZS4JAN, ZS2NF, ZS5XT, ZS5DUV

As darkness and cold set in I packed up early not trying 20m. I still want to get my 20m end fed vertical up again. Maybe a goal for this week. I need to have something to do being an early pensioner (Hate that word!!! 🙂 )