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!!! 🙂 )

RaDAR News – September

There is a new challenge being created abbreviated as the Fox Mike Hotel POC, the “Portable Operations Challenge” designed by Frank K4FMH. Frank and I share a little history which involves Xeigu but not Xeigu themselves. Frank and I met up through a Xeigu Facebook group controlled by a UK ham. Both Frank and I were banned from this group for petty reasons and so I started my own Xeigu X5105 group that was more “balanced” than the other Xeigu group which also became known as “Wayne’s world”. When frustration took it’s final toll and having me “giving” my X5105 away I left the Facebook group I had created in the capable hands of Frank and Jonathan ZS1ARB. I’d had enough of the politics! Frank took an interest in RaDAR and already then he had an idea of promoting his POC. Many interactions with the rest of the world have taken place since although I took a back seat with this one but it does sound promising. I’d suggest you read about it on Frank’s website at https://foxmikehotel.com/challenge/

Another very interesting RaDAR enhancement is the mixing of RaDAR within POTA (Parks on the air) activations promoted by Geg Lane N4KGL and Jason Johnston W3AAX. Andy Wragg G1AW / 2E0UAW / M6UAW is also actively involved promoting the idea within other countries. Dennis Green ZS4BS is the POTA administrator for South Africa and is in contact via email with the above mentioned gentlemen. Certainly combining RaDAR with POTA can only be lots of fun. Awards are available for successful operations. I’d suggest you browse the POTA website at https://parksontheair.com/pota-awards/

This would be great if we could do the same here in ZS. I will become the administrator and awards manager for ZS. Dennis Green, ZS4BS is the administrator for POTA in ZS. I’m back with renewed energy to take Jason and Greg’s initiative and promote it here in South Africa. They are presently busy taking it to countries like Chile, Argentina and Russia.

April 2020 RaDAR Challenge done and dusted

With the world in lock down over the COVID-19 virus outbreak it must have been difficult for most radio amateurs to take part in yesterday’s challenge. For me it was one of my most successful RaDAR Challenges to date!

I used Facebook to record my activities in real time. I was limited to the FM Satellites no longer having any working HF gear at my disposal. I do however still have a Kenwood TH-D7A(g) handheld and Arrow dual band antenna and they both work extremely well together.

My plan was simple and could be planned a few days ahead. I chose the suitable pass times of the AO-92 and AO-91 Cubesats. They are so easy to work and are popular with the locals.

To alert others for possible activity I posted on Facebook, “Satellite pass times today, I will be sharing an 8 character grid locator and my present SARAH code. I’d love to get yours too 👍😇 Presently 96% humidity here and everything is wet”.

The table and chair I have left in the field for my grandson to set up his telescope at night to look at the planets. It was an ideal place to do my first deployment.

First RaDAR SatComms deployment at KG34ac19fn. Worked Andre ZS2ZA, Sid ZS5AYC grid KF59ee36na, Barney Fourie ZS5TU grid KF59, ZS5APT grid KF59ee36na, heard Pravin ZS5LT and Christi ZS4CGR grid KG20kf75eg he also gave me a SARAH code 

I used HamGPS to determine my eight character grid square. A smartphone is a very handy device to carry with you on the RaDAR Challenge. For satellite predictions I use ISS detector with the amateur radio plugin. Both excellent software for Android!

Because the satellite times were far apart I walked back to base for the wait, doing my Facebook feedback during the quiet times. Facebook works well for me and I have many amateur radio friends there.

For the second deployment, I took my folding chair with me. The TH-D7A is mounted on the tripod and I use an external plug in mic and my headphones plug into that. There is a lot of quick writing to do during fast exchanges on a satellite pass, especially more than FIVE NINE !

RaDAR SatComms via the AO-91 Cubesat. Worked Tom ZS1TA grid JF95fx, Dave ZS2DH grid KF26sb plus SARAH code  , Andre ZS2ZA, Matthys ZS1TBP/m grid KF06cc and Alan ZS1LS grid JF96fd

So I managed to achieve five QSO’s on both passes via the satellites and that is a first for me. It just proves it can be done! Later in the afternoon I made contacts via SO-50 but that was outside the RaDAR Challenge four hour time frame. It also went well!

The SO-50 amateur radio satellite was in good condition, worked Woody ZS3WL and Alan ZS1LS.

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