RaDAR Challenge – Summary for SARL News

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Sid ZS5AYC

It’s not the first time I’ve heard such a statement, “I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun!!!”, the words from Julian OH8STN.

Looking at his profile on qrz.com Julian writes, “My belief is all too often we rely on the comfort of fixed locations, the stability of a home or other grid tied shelter as operating locations for our radio communications. In contrast, learning to operate off-grid, out of a backpack, temporarily setup next to your car, from a hotel room, getting there with skis, bicycle, or hiking up the side of the mountain to setup your tent or shelter, that’s a challenge, and also that’s what it’s all about for me. Operating QRP portable from unusual places provides an opportunity to learn about yourself, and your gear”. Julian could not have said it better!

Not everyone submits a log after a contest or in this case, a challenge. That is quite the norm. Logs that were received for the April 2nd RaDAR challenge are :

Eddie ZS6BNE, Tienie ZS6MHH, Johan ZS4DZ, Sid ZS5AYC and Greg N4KGL. Julian OH8STN described his RaDAR ops on the Google+ RaDAR group.

ZS6BNE and N4KGL took on the RaDAR Challenge as on foot operators which is by far the most challenging as everything needs to be carried. The operator needs to dismantle his station and antennas, pack up, move and redeploy at least a kilometer away each time.

ZS4DZ operated from a fixed location and these stations are necessary. They keep the band alive with RaDAR activity.

ZS6MHH operated “portable” from his vehicle parked at the top of Klapperkop in Pretoria.

ZS5AYC and OH8STN both operated from vehicles moving to the next destination six or more kilometers away after every five QSO’s. If more than five QSO’s were made from a particular deployment position the excess did not count for points. Sometimes propagation is not favourable so some stations move to the next destination with less than five QSO’s.

Sid ZS5AYC, his wife Adele ZS5AYL, and a few friends made it a team effort and all had much fun. Sid’s overall score was the highest which makes him the overall champion. Well done Sid and team!

Ideas exchanged and a forever changing RaDAR landscape will see the following changes for future challenges.

A suggestion has been made that the 24 hour period remain but it’s up to each individual to plan his / her maximum, single period, four hour ops. He / she would take propagation into account with the ultimate goal of inter continental RaDAR to RaDAR communications in mind. (10 bonus points!)

Pre planning and making specific skeds beforehand is an acceptable practice. The only requirement is that the QSO take place via radio with the necessary information exchange.

See www.radarops.co.za for future challenge dates.

RaDAR Challenges – Logs received

Not everyone likes to submit a log and that’s OK. I have however received a few and will show a few highlights here.

I was quite surprised to hear from my good friend Tienie ZS6MHH. He ran a mobile / field station from fort Klapperkop in Pretoria. He was using his home brew 40m mobile vertical.

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Tienie made 13 QSO’s one of which was a DX station in C91 (Mozambique). That gave him 18 points (13 QSO’s + 5 bonus points for the first DX QSO) His category multiplier was x2 which gave him a total of 36 points. You can see Tienie had some really good fun!

I received a log from my good friend Johan van Zijl in Ficksburg. Johan made 49 QSO’s. Two on 80m and the rest on 40m. Johan kept the band alive with RaDAR activity. He operated a fixed station from grid KG31WC59TT. His category multiplier was x1 which gives him a total of 49 points. RaDAR fixed stations are always good to have active on the bands.

I received a log from Greg N4KGL. According to Greg’s log, he operated a field station from grid EL79IT25SI and made 5 QSO’s with a multiplier of x2 = 10 points. He then went to the next location EL79IT34LP on foot and from there made 5 QSO’s with a multiplier of x3 = 15 points.

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Greg again walked back to EL79IT25SI and made a further 5 QSO’s giving him an additional 15 points. In total Greg earned 40 points. Suzy, Greg’s dog, is a true friend and accompanies Greg on all of his RaDAR escapades.

Speaking as the third person, Eddie ZS6BNE submitted a log of his RaDAR Challenge activities. He walked to the first deployment point at grid KG34ac18px. Eddie made 6 QSO’s of which only 5 could count for points which gave him 15 points. Eddie needed to move back to the fixed location for a sked with Kieth ZS6TW via satellite.

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Although Eddie walked a kilometer back to the fixed location, he did not physically carry the satellite gear so further communications could only warrant a category multiplier of x1. Eddie however had two successful satellite QSO’s (Via SO-50 (FM) and FO-29 (SSB)) the first earning him a bonus of 5 points and a total of (2 + 5) x 1 = 7 points.

After lunch, the plan was to this time actually carry all the satellite gear to the next location at grid KG34c19pa which he did. A successful contact via AO-7 was not possible and DX QSO’s neither. He did however have a local QSO with Sid ZS5AYC which earned him at least 1 point multiplied by the category multiplier of x 3 = total of 3 points. The grand total for the day’s RaDAR ops was 25 points.

I received Sid ZS5AYC’s log too. Sid was doing moving RaDAR as a mobile station down the south coast with his wife Adele and some friends. Sid’s first deployment point was at KF59EE81JI from which he made 9 QSO’s only 5 of which could count for points. (RaDAR rule. Note: Moving RaDAR stations can move at any time but are required to move to the next destination after five contacts have been made from the present location. The move needs to cover the required distance before further contacts can be made). Sid’s points for the first location was 15.

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Sid moved to grid KF59ED41FE where he worked another 5 stations one of which was a RaDAR station Johan ZS4DZ giving him a bonus of 5 points. Total for this grid (5 + 5) x 3 = 30 points.

Sid’s third deployment grid was from KF59EC02DG. From here he made 6 QSO’s giving him another 15 points. Then a new grid KF59ED10BE and another 5 QSO’s and another 15 points. He moved to grid KF59DC71NE from which he worked 8 stations including Eddie ZS6BNE but no bonus points for working another RaDAR station. Total points for this grid 15.

They moved to grid KF58CW08HW from which Sid worked another 5 stations and earned another 15 points! Very, very well done. Sid and his wife Adele (Also a radio ham) are well known as SOTA activators and enjoy ham radio to the full.

Sid’s total points for his RaDAR excursions were 15 + 30 + 15 + 15 + 15 + 15 = 105 points!

Sid was running 10 Watts into a dipole. He was recorded by Eddie ZS6BNE. The recording can be heard here .

 

 

 

RaDAR – and the Internet

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Let’s face it, the Internet brought us all together via forums, Facebook, Google+ and EMail.

Facilities such as RaDAR membership registration, RaDAR Ops planning and RaDAR Chat have been written and are available for use. I’m contemplating writing an online logbook facility in the same format as the suggested written log. Lots of other ideas can be implemented from the data accumulated from the logbook entries.

There is one thing that concerns me though and that is the reliability of the Internet or access to the Internet while out practicing RaDAR. In just about every instance, access is gained via an over congested cell phone network. It has failed me many times and Saturday was no exception. I even went out and registered with a new service provider this week and moved from MTN to Cell C seeing my XYL was happy with Cell C. In my opinion they are equally …. bad!

I tried using the RaDAR chat facility during the RaDAR challenge on Saturday. I couldn’t get the message through. I’m sure many of us experience the same. Is it a problem? No, RaDAR should function without the Internet or any other infrastructure. We should train for a complete collapse of technology as the world knows it. RaDAR Operators should survive still within these circumstances.

RaDAR Challenge – The logbook says it all

I uploaded my log to qrz.com and various other online logbooks this morning using the Android app, HamLog. I only had nine entries but the logbook tells a story which I will share with you here.

The 2nd of April 2016 and the long awaited RaDAR Challenge date arrived. The challenge is different to any other ham radio activity or contest and puts the participant under pressure other than just communicating via radio and doing a limited exchange of information.

My grandson woke me up on the Saturday morning a little later than I wanted to but I had comfort in knowing my kit was ready and initial deployment plans were achievable. We had breakfast, young Eduan excited to join his granddad on the voyage to the first deployment area …… He was the “captain” and I his signaller. I “walked the mile” to grid KG34ac18px and he idled along next to me on his size 24 mountain bike.

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I set up the communications infrastructure deploying my ZS6BKW open wire fed multiband dipole, my two painters poles serving as a lightweight mast an excellent and proven configuration for any field deployment. I set up the camera tripod which served as a convenient “table” for my rig …. the battery lay on the ground and power cables in between ….. not an ideal setup from a RaDAR perspective but it’s something I wanted to try. Excellent of course for any standard way of operating a ham radio from the field or doing SOTA / GMA operations.

2016 - 2

I tuned up on 40m, the antenna was resonating well without the need of the LDG z817 ATU. I browsed the band and called on the SSB and CW calling frequencies ….. nothing! I placed messages on Facebook and Whatsapp to make my presence known ….. nothing! Then I went up to 7.140 MHz and broke into the Antique Wireless Association’s net ZS0AWA, operated by Rad ZS6RAD. Signals were good and Rad gave me a 57 and he was 59. He was acting as the net control station. After an exchange of one or two “overs” I assumed there was no opportunity to exchange information with others on the net so I thanked Rad for my first QSO and QSY’d down the band ….. I needed another four contacts.

Back to Facebook …. Jaco ZR6CMG said he’d give me a call in 10 minutes time. I waited and then heard him call. We exchanged information and then there was a bonus, his son Christopher ZU6CC also gave me a contact! I now had three! Max ZS5MAX called and we had a QSO but lost each other along the way. I later heard from him via Facebook that I had faded into the noise ….. could I count the contact or not , a dilemma? Then I tuned down to the CW portion of the band and heard my friend Monk ZS4SF calling CQ. We had a QSO exchanging grids – we were both 599. Then on 7.090 MHz I heard the faithful RaDAR / QRP supporter, Johan ZS4DZ working from grid KG31wc59tt. I was impressed with his 10 digit grid locator! I think Johan was working from a fixed location but certainly his cheery voice was keeping the band alive with RaDAR activity!

I could move, or needed to move after 5 (or possibly 6) contacts. I walked back “home” alone, my “captain” had become bored with his radio operator concentrating solely on the task at hand (*smile). I had a sked with Kieth ZS6TW for two satellite passes. An exact science and exact times too!

New grid KG34ac19fi and I set up the Arrow antenna on the tripod. I set up the THD7A(g) talkie for SO-50 SatComms and checked all the frequency settings. I also set up the FT-817ND too for FO-29 SSB SatComms and checked the split frequency options and correct sidebands for the uplink and downlink. My “captain” / cameraman was there to record the event. This time I strapped the battery to the tripod with cable ties.

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Right on time but Kieth just making sked on SO-50 as he had a fire problem with his car earlier and let me know via Facebook. I was battling to activate the satellite but I’m sure Kieth was the one who got it right. We had an excellent QSO which I recorded and can be heard here exchanging grids and signal reports. A few minutes later after the SO-50 pass, we had a successful QSO via the FO-29 SSB satellite. Fortunately Kieth is a good satellite operator as I was working “half duplex” (unable to hear the downlink) and using a fixed uplink frequency while tuning the downlink for doppler. It takes a little practice but one can do RaDAR SatComms this way.

I had lunch with Elrika and Eduan. The plan was to move to a new grid afterwards and prepare for an AO-7 satellite contact and a possible R2R with Greg N4KGL at 15:00 local time on 24.906 MHz CW. AO-7’s pass was more or less the same time and I wanted to achieve success with both. I “walked the mile” to grid KG34c19pa and set up station there for RaDAR SatComms and HF the same as before. It was a load of baggage having to carry the standard kit, Arrow antenna, tripod and painters poles …… not ideal from a RaDAR perspective but it’s what was needed to achieve the goals.

2016 - 4

AO-7 was a little late or so I thought? I heard a faint beacon on the 2m downlink. I called Kieth ….. nothing. According to reports it would be on Mode B. Then I heard some activity and tuned in the SSB signals. Kieth had found an unexpected DX station on the satellite, FR4OO and they were battling. The satellite audio was unstable but I could hear both of them. It was not an ideal situation for SSB, half duplex, RaDAR SatComms and I was alternating between 12m and the satellite frequencies. Just 3 kHz below 24.906 MHz there was a rare station working the world, listening DN. The band was wide open and powerful DX stations could be heard calling. No one was on 24.906 MHz CW. All this trouble and not one contact made ….. I went to 40m and was pleasantly surprised.

There was Sid ZS5AYC doing mobile RaDAR down the south coast with his XYL Adele (who is also a ham) with a few friends Jan and Louie. Sid was operating from KF59dc71ne …. also a 10 digit grid locator! Sid’s signals were good and I made a recording using the MP3 recorder which I carried in the RaDAR kit. The recording can be heard here

That was pretty much it for me, I packed up and went home. Elrika and Eduan were already preparing supper on the braai (Barbeque). There were still a few hours left for the challenge but I’d done enough for the day ….

Incorporating too many options has it’s pro’s and cons. I’d say for the next challenge I will concentrate on a specific method of communications, being it digital, satellites or CW / SSB. With each challenge I learn new things. It’s different to doing standard amateur radio activities.

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

 

 

RaDAROPS Planning – 2016 April the 2nd

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My ops planning is guided by suitable satellite passes. After doing tests with SO-50 the past weekend I’d really like SatComms to be part of the challenge again, it’s been a while. Unfortunately not many other hams in range are satellite active anymore. Kieth, ZS6TW may be able to save the day.

Local times in South Africa are UTC + 2

06:00 – 08:00 Get ready for the ops, breakfast etc.

08:00 – 12:00 Field moving operations.

12:00 – 13:30 Lunch, operations from fixed location.

12:17 – SO-50 S ==> N (E)

12:34 – FO-29 S ==> N (E)

13:30 – 16:00 Field moving operations.

14:19 – FO-29 S==> N(W)

14:56 – AO-7  S ==> N (E)

16:00 – 17:30 Supper, operations from fixed location.

16:47 – AO7   S ==> N(W)

17:30 – 19:00 Field portable (Not moving) operations (Digital).

19:00 – Pack up and move back to fixed location.

 

RaDAR – The ultimate goal

Greg, N4KGL published his plans for the long weekend and we’d made a sked for Saturday afternoon to attempt a R2R QSO on 12m.

I took all my gear along with me for the weekend to assemble an acceptable kit for the RaDAR challenge on the 2nd of April, main items being the FT817ND, z817 ATU, mic, paddle and ZS6BKW antenna.

On the Saturday, Greg let us know by email that he had very bad lightning storms and won’t be able to make sked but I let him know I was going to go for a walk anyway to test the kit. Like most passionate hams would do, Greg decided to use his magnetic loop antenna from beneath a shelter. Indeed it was our destiny to actually hold a conversation on 24.906 MHz CW and to have a inter continental RaDAR to RaDAR QSO – the ultimate goal!

Greg used the RaDAR chat facility to confirm – I’d forgotten all about it!

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I used my two painters poles to hold the ZS6BKW around  four meters above the ground. I had to trim the antenna so it would resonate nicely on 12m without a tuner. I had the tuner switched in though so I later found out.

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The “trimming mechanism”.

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After the QSO, I packed up the radio leaving the antenna behind, I was already late for supper and jogged slowly back home with the backpack strapped firmly to my back.

I went back later to fetch the ZS6BKW and found two young boys there who were most interested in what was hanging in the air. They pounded me with questions and I found myself presenting “RAE lectures” at a very fast pace ….. I was exhausted but happy!

RaDAR – The Rossi jump starter pack

For many years, battery supply was a challenge for me and I found the most reliable and practical to use, was the SLAB, a 7 A / Hr Gel cell. They are heavy though!

Well, that was until I found the Rossi jump starter battery at a gadget shop while visiting the capital city, Pretoria.

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The jump starter pack has chargers for charging from the 220 v a.c. mains or any 12 volt d.c. outlet. It serves as an emergency light / torch and has a few special supply points for charging a cell phone or even a laptop! I found while using these supply points, there was a pulsing sound on the radio though, probably due to some switched mode circuit inside.

I built a DC, fused, distribution system and plug directly into the high current output of the Rossi – the supply point that can be used to start a car! My FT-817ND has never been happier.

The few opportunities I had to get out recently proved the battery to be a reliable addition to the RaDAR pack. I keep it in the waterproof area too, I wouldn’t want to see it get soaking wet.

I will be using this battery during the first 24 hour RaDAR challenge for the year on the 2nd of April 2016.