RaDAR – Pack dilemmas

The RaDAR challenges for 2016 are done and dusted, that besides occasional fun deployments, each time learning new things and discovering new ideas.

A while ago I made cutouts between my mid sized pack’s compartments to route cables or whatever was appropriate. This weekend my XYL Elrika, added some finishing touches in the form of curtain rings. It’s the answer!!!

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My minimalistic pack had surpringly good results but it is what it is, minimalistic and not intended for a lengthy amount of operating time and also QRP is the highlight even preferably less than 5W.

My favourite pack was always this mid sized pack but I have thought about storing some of the goodies in different places. At the base, as always, the car wash sponge for shock absorbtion for the rig etc. or possibly place for a 7 A/Hr SLAB stored in a plastic container. Then a 5 litre plastic container with it’s top removed to hold the Rossi / flashlight / battery, 817’s mic, morse key (Straight or a paddle), compass, dedicated smartphone for digimodes then the Yaesu FT-817ND and LDG z817 ATU.

A “shelter” and logbook accompany the latter. Then there is the Garmin Legend backup GPS with built in maps. It can also be used for APRS if the need arises.

Antenna hardware in the side pockets be it an end fed or link dipole and coax leads. A tool kit in the back compartment, also a place to carry food, water and a windbreaker.

If doing RaDAR Satcomms (Something that has become the highlight in South Africa the past two weeks) there should be a special place for my 4 x AA cell powered Kenwood TH-D7A handheld, a full duplex solution for amateur radio satellites like SO-50. An Arrow antenna can be carried in one hand, reasonably lightweight and easy to handle if carried in the centre.

Time to pack and test the new configuration! Somehow having the radio powered within the pack allows faster deployment times. Maybe time to return to that school of thought ….

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – The last challenge for 2016

I chose my four hours of twenty four to coincide with returning from a nearby town where we took young Eduan to meet an old primary school friend for his birthday. After a hearty breakfast, they watched a kiddies movie together while Elrika and I did some window shopping at the mall.

We got to the RaDAR playground (just) in time and my first deployment was for SatComms on SO-50. Many of us in South Africa have the experience but are rusty. Using my TH-D7A(g) (Running on four AA alkaline cells) and Arrow antenna, I was able to have a QSO with Rickus ZS4A before the bird went over the horizon. I even forgot to tune for doppler!!! I was lucky …..

That earned me my first RaDAR contact and five bonus points for the first satellite QSO, counting my movement to the first position as travelling by car even though the travelling distance from the mall was close on 150 km, a little more than the requirement 🙂

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The app I use for satellite pass predictions is “ISS Detector” for Android. It works very well for the purpose of RaDAR and always accurate. A reliable tool!

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I had my minimalistic RaDAR kit packed and ready. It includes the FT-817nd with eight AA internal batteries, straight key, mic and 40m end fed with coupler. I moved out, on foot to the next deployment point.

I use the Android app “Ham GPS” to determine my grid square to 10 character accuracy. Also a great tool for RaDAR!!! An ideal website for displaying these grids can be seen here.

2016-2

It was quick to get the end fed deployed using a tree branch and nylon rope to raise the middle section of the end fed as high as possible, in this case around four meters above the ground. Perfect NVIS configuration for 40m.

2016-3

As with all my field antennas, I build in a bungi shock system to protect the antenna from the wind or tripping over the wire. I quickly got the rig deployed and started to look for contacts.

2016-4

I managed to work ZS5HAC, ZS3VDK and ZS4A all on 7.090 SSB. Signals were reasonable especially ZS3VDK who was very strong. I took a video which I will later edit for You Tube upload. There was no CW activity on the band …..

It was time to get back home where I’d left the satellite equipment. SO-50 had just gone around the world and coming over the horizon again. I quickly packed up and walked / jogged back home.

This time round it would be classified as fixed station RaDAR. I got everything ready and made contact with Andre ZS2BK and I remembered to tune for doppler! Unfortunately no other signals could be heard on that pass.

The next part of the plan was to take the QRO kit for a walk ……. it started to rain.

I deployed on the patio, the FT-897d and battery supply. I lifted the link dipole into the tree in the garden and set the links for 20m. All I could hear was an obliterating noise, 59+ which made communications impossible. I tried switching off the power to the house but the noise stayed. It was coming from somewhere else.

I called it a day ……

Lessons learnt. Certainly the minimalistic RaDAR setup excelled in it’s purpose. Very light weight and easy to move quickly. An effective communications method. Satellite communications were reliable within the footprint of SO-50. I even managed to activate the transponder myself as it came into view (74.4 Hz CTCSS).

Till next year!

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

 

RaDAR – The awesome end fed

In my minimalistic RaDAR kit, I carry a 40m half wave end fed antenna and manual tuner / coupler / impedance matcher – it’s actually all that, as simple as that. A parallel tuned circuit made of a few turns of enamelled wire wound around a tiny red coloured TO50-2 toroid and a varicap. Lightweight and the size of a matchbox, and it’s a matchbox!

I found some images I’d saved from the Internet a while back which are really excellent in showing the versatility of the end fed!

Many thanks to KC8AON for the these images!

 

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Hope to hear you on the air some day …… 73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

 

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RaDAR – A meeting with Eric 4Z1UG

Eric 4Z1UG is well known for the “QSO Today” podcasts he does each week talking to interesting people (hams) throughout the world. I had an opportunity to talk to him about RaDAR in July 2015. The podcast can be accessed on Eric’s website at http://www.qsotoday.com/podcasts/zs6bne

Eric was visiting South Africa for two weeks, his wife also came to accept her PHD in education from UNISA a distance learning university in South Africa. I had the honor of meeting her too. This was an ideal opportunity to meet them in person.

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I had taken my minimalistic RaDAR kit along and we were able do a RaDAR deployment and to have a QSO on 40m with Koos ZS5KDK in Afrikaans. The end fed I was using had a loose connection and I needed to hold the wires together so it could work. We needed to open the tiny box and although I have tool kits in my standard and QRO RaDAR packs there was not one in the minimalistic kit! I borrowed Eric’s penknife ……

After a successful QSO, I was putting everything back together and Eric said I should keep the penknife. It will be a treasured gift I will keep in my minimalistic kit from now on.

Thank you Eric!

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We had lunch together and a most interesting discussion on ham radio, technology and politics till late in the afternoon when I had to leave to make my way back home!

 

RaDAR – ZS6BNE November challenge plan

This Saturday will see the third and last RaDAR challenge for the year 2016.

A good friend, Rickus ZS4A may be able to make a FM SO-50 satellite contact with me and I’ve used two reasonable passes to determine where my four hour RaDAR activity should take place. It is also later in the day making DX QSO’s possible.

Another important point is that there is an unusually high percentage of snake sightings these past few weeks in my RaDAR playground with my wife and grandson almost tramping on a puff adder just after dark the other evening, a highly venomous snake!

There are also harmless snakes like this spotted grass snake but it’s not worth taking a chance. A very dangerous snake, the boomslang, looks very similar and they have been seen there too. I regard all snakes as dangerous and keep my distance but in the dark they are not always that visible!

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Starting at 15:00 local time or CAT  (13:00 UTC) and ending at 19:00 CAT (17:00 UTC)

15:00 local (1)

15:03 to 15:15 – SO-50 Satellite

Minimalistic RaDAR (40m – end fed)

16:00 local (2)

Lightweight RaDAR (40m / 20m – two band linked dipole)

16:42 to 16:55 – SO-50 Satellite

17:00 local (3)

QRO (Higher power) RaDAR (All suitable HF bands – Seven band linked dipole)

18:00 local (4)

QRO RaDAR Digital modes   (All suitable HF bands – Seven band linked dipole)

19:00

Return home before dark ………..

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”.

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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 – Final challenge for 2016

2016 saw important changes to the RaDAR challenge again ensuring that the rapid side of RaDAR stays key. The last challenge for the year takes place on Saturday the 5th of November 2016. You define your own four hour challenge within the time frame of twenty four hours. If you wish to include DX contacts then you’ll need to take into account the time of day and best choice of band to suit your needs. It’s all about planning and that’s a good thing.

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RaDAR is not limited to any amount of power to the antenna or even the antenna itself. You make your own choices. You also don’t have to move around if you prefer to work from a fixed location. If you choose a specific moving category, you choose how you would choose to move. It can be your microlight, car, motorcycle, bicycle, canoe or even a wheelchair. These methods can be interchanged during the challenge. All you need to do is to take into account the distance you need to move after every five QSO’s depending on your type of transport. The various distances are there to make the challenge fair amongst the various ways of moving. The most basic movement is on foot which is generally the preferred method and the distance to move, one kilometer.

The challenge is really there to challenge yourself within a not so perfect world. The four hour challenge will put some pressure on you and that’s good. If you have practised RaDAR before you will know what you need and how effective your station can be. Of course propagation can be your friend or enemy but we still have the choice of where and how.

You can use SSB, morse code, any legal digital mode, in fact your first digital mode QSO could get you five bonus points! You may be even lucky enough to have a satellite QSO and that will give you five bonus points for the first QSO too. Satellites are easy to plan for but challenging to carry a reliable infrastructure with you. But, it still remains your choice.

Four hours is not a long time but ensure you stay hydrated on a hot day, take some snacks along with you and in general stay safe out there. Choose a safe environment and note, at least in South Africa, the snakes are already out there …..

See http://www.radarops.co.za for more detail.