RaDAR – South African CW Operators

A recent introduction of RaDAR into the Parks On The Air awards by the Americans (See http://radarops.co.za/index.php/2017/02/20/radar-wwff-kff-radar-award-idea/ ) sparked an inititive to attract new CW operators which are few in South Africa. Something that needs to be done in order to enjoy the outdoors and have a means of achieving similar goals that the rest of the world enjoy. DX is difficult from South Africa if conditions are not that favourable.

The idea is to present CW Proficiency badges to those that fit the criteria which can be worn at get togethers and swop meets etc. promoting the art of morse code.

A few guys got together on Facebook and had a discussion on the topic. Morse Runner came out tops as the testing medium. Note the goal here is to test the operators ability to read morse code in a contest style environment with no real radio parameters which are simply too variable to test.

The guidelines for the CW proficiency badges are :

Morse runner screen shot using “Single call” for 15 minutes allowing only 1 mistake (preferably none) No radio conditions settings, simply pure morse code. Level 1 12 wpm, Level 2 20 wpm, Level 3 25 wpm, Level 4 35 wpm and Level 5 anything above 45 wpm. Of course an acceptable QSO / Hr rate should be achieved at that speed.

A good guideline was submitted by Pierre ZS6A. A good average in my opinion is around 150 QSO’s per hour at an average speed which translates to around 1400 points. That’s an acceptable rate which may, or may not increase at higher wpm rates.


Typical values from test runs done:

12 wpm 096 Q’s / Hr 0529 Points
20 wpm 144 Q’s / Hr 1368 Points
25 wpm 168 Q’s / Hr 1890 Points


It is impossible to achieve this rate at lower speeds and suitable scores need to be determined for lower wpm rates like 12 wpm, the entry level. They are the important group of CW operators, the newcomers to this ancient “digital mode”.


“Real world” QSO’s.

Level 1 10 QSO’s, Level 2 30 QSO’s, Level 3 50 QSO’s, Level 4 100 QSO’s and Level 5 200 QSO’s (They normally can do that in an hour !) The QSO’s will be log entries so style is not important and immeasurable anyway.

The proficiency badge will have an icon and level indicator as suggested by Stephen ZS6SVJ.

Tortoise (<1mph)… interested / unaccredited member / no level yet
Elephant (24mph) Level 1
Giraffe (32mph) Level 2
Rhino (35mph) Level 3
Lion (45mph) Level 4

Cheetah (70mph) Level 5

Now to get the initiative accepted by the South African Radio League that it becomes official and to get sponsorship for the badges. We’re looking at training up at least 40 new operators or even more. The system can work.

Many thanks to all participants in the initial design of this initiative and is highly appreciated!!!

Dates start from the date of acceptance of this initiative by the SARL. It has already seen favourable response.

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE


RaDAR – QRP Satcomms and a road through the twilight zone

Saturday was a special day.

It started with portable QRP communications from the stadium in a nearby town called Ottosdal, famous for the one and only night marathon in South Africa.


Conditions were not good on 40m but I managed a few QSO’s, three of them morse code, my favourite mode. Ottosdal lies on the border between grids KG33 and KG23 and part of my plan was to activate KG23 via satellite, a grid my friend Andre, ZS2BK needed.

I’d done a recce beforehand to find a safe spot to deploy for RaDAR SatComms and packed up and left, planning to return after the QSO’s.

It was next to some grain silos with an awesome dam across the road. Strangely there was no one there unlike the rest of the town. As per usual, finding true north is a requirement before any satellite communications are possible. You need to know where to point the antennas!


I had a successful QSO with Andre, Christi ZS4CGR and Rickus ZS4A who was demonstrating RaDAR SatComms to two other hams in Bethlehem in the Free state.


I returned to the stadium, I’d already entered for the night’s half marathon. 18:30 local time is when the gun is fired.

Here are a few pictures I took en route, a most awesome run / jog / walk on a road with miles and miles of diesel filled lanterns.

The starting line.


As darkness set in.


Almost halfway for the half marathoners and almost a quarter of the way for the marathoners, an out and back route.


The half marathon turning point. 10.5 km back to the stadium from here. A spectacular race!!!


Good training for RaDAR.

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – Now a stable environment

Close on a decade later, RaDAR has become what it is, a little different to anything else but a compliment to any amateur radio activity. The slight changes made to last years rule base is the final thumbprint of RaDAR. Here are screen snapshots from the “Blue book” regarding the RaDAR challenge held three times a year, internationally. The support base can only grow from here …..

Have fun!

73’s de Eddie ZS6BNE





RaDAR – Automating field SatComms


I’ve always promoted SatComms for use in RaDAR. It certainly has its place there.

Recently there has been renewed interest in the satellites in South Africa and we are starting to use the relatively new cubesats and the CAMSATS. The CAMSATS prompted this article as I have some new questions that need answers. The CAMSATS are amazing satellites and they fly in “Formation” requiring a lot of attention from the satellite user switching in the appropriate frequencies as each flies from horizon to horizon in quick succession!

Working “half duplex” is fine when there are two people on the satellite at one time but when there are three or more it becomes quite challenging with great risk of interfering with possible other QSO’s taking place within the pass band of the transponders.

It’s still good practice to do things by hand and should be practiced but once mastered it’s more convenient to utilize a little computer assistance. I used to use SatPC32 which worked well with the 847 I used to have. CAT control of dual VFO rigs for satellites works but it has its problems! While the VFO’s are updated and you press the PTT at the wrong time it’s possible that you may transmit using the wrong VFO, especially with the 817. The 897 seems to be a little more “tolerant”. If you are monitoring the downlink on another radio it’s possible then that you transmit on the downlink frequency blasting your headphoned ears with strong audio! This is the problem I have and I need to devise a means of working RaDAR SatComms in the best possible way. It also needs to be done to protect the receiver radio!

The proposal.

Just this weekend I rebuilt my HP 210 NetBook computer to control the FT-897d via CAT only to initially set up the uplink and downlink frequencies on the dual VFO’s (Working SPLit). The receive VFO frequency will then indicate what frequency the FT-817nd should be set for the downlink. From there on it’s manual tuning of the higher frequency being it the uplink (u/v) or downlink (v/u) working full duplex and able to listen to your own signal through the transponder and of course others. The process of “Netting” is used to get onto another stations frequency.

Note, each radio has a direct coax connection to the 2m or 70cm yagi of the Arrow antenna. I use the more flexible (but lossy) RG58cu coax but it works acceptably well.

There is still quite a measure of manual control but better than working “blind” and of course keeps the RaDAR operator sharp and focused without the need to look up written or printed frequencies on paper (usually in the dark). Of course this relies on the computer.

I have found too, that tracking the satellite by hand is easier while standing so the rigs should be arranged such that they are easily accessible even while standing.

I use the 817’s shoulder strap and hang it over my Arrow’s tripod but still need to find a way to do something similar with the FT-897d. I power both radios off a 7 A/Hr SLAB that usually sits on the ground.

RaDAR – Flag wars

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

Flag Wars


Eddie and Eduan Leighton



Own water and backpack.

Protective headgear or cap.

Sun protection.

Trail shoes.

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

Experience needed:

Danger awareness.

Trail running.

General fitness.

Possible dangers:

Twisting an ankle

Flesh wounds caused by thorn bushes / trees.

Unseen holes

Tripping over rocks

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


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

A call is made to start the game.

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

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

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

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

Experiencing the game:

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


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


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


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

RaDAR – 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!!!

dsc_0034                dsc_0035

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