RaDAR – An 2022 evaluation from the perspective of the designer

RaDAR has come a long way from being something very similar to other ham radio activities to something increasingly unique although staying very much the same as any other ham radio activity. RaDAR once was seen as “Daring to be different” and it became a slogan proudly displayed.

Lucy M6ECG

The slogan was created by Lucy M6ECG who was once very active doing RaDAR Challenges. The RaDAR idea spread reasonably quickly to other parts of the world especially to the USA and the UK including other countries in Europe.

As RaDAR grew increasingly unique like having to move and redeploy, which in essence is what RaDAR is, participation in these activities were left to a select few. The use of “Military” terms like “ops” and “special forces” of ham radio seemed to distract many hams. RaDAR is seen as special as more is required of the radio amateur to participate. The knowledge of Morse code is high on the list, a certain level of fitness and preparedness is also welcomed. Communication accuracy of information is also considered to be very important.

Only just recently, RaDAR Sport was introduced which is a two hour long sprint but has not yet attracted the attention of the vast majority of outdoor hams. The four hour challenge still appears to be more popular with an odd few opting for a twenty four hour challenge. So the willingness of radio amateurs prepared to make physical activity much part of ham radio is still there.

The future of RaDAR, like many other ham radio activities, lies in the participation of not only the “activators” but the “chasers” as well. It has been widely publicised that RaDAR operators doing challenges need the support of chasers (Ordinary hams working from home or anywhere else) who look out for them but this has seldom been forthcoming – support provided again only by a select few..

An online community log, a unique idea within ham radio circles, was created to promote accurate logging and evaluation of the accuracy of logs. Again only a select few support this. It has been proved to be a reliable system and open for all to see. It was created initially to support the RaDAR Sport initiative but can be used for any ham radio activity.

Online community logbook

The system is very user friendly with lots of facilities to make logging a pleasure for all. Yet many hams shy away from it? It can be seen as a QSL system where each logger acknowledges his QSO with the other station, information accuracy is confirmed and everyone is happy. Ideal for simple contest logging and evaluations too.

RaDAR was designed so that any ham can take part from anywhere using any equipment at any power level. Why then is it not that popular compared to activities like SOTA, POTA, HOTA, BOTA, IOTA or any other similar activity?

I often look at the very popular activity known as SOTA, or summits on the air. The only times I ever activated a summit or two cost me a pretty penny in transport, accommodation and entrance fees. RaDAR has no cost other than if a ham would like to operate RaDAR from some exotic location.

SOTA requires that activators and chasers log their contacts on a central database, RaDAR has the online community logbook. SOTA has awards, RaDAR has no particular award and maybe that is what hams are after? Recognition for their efforts. RaDAR operators are quite satisfied in knowing he / she was able to set up and communicate with others under strenuous conditions. It can be fun too.

Here in South Africa we have two very active SOTA activators namely Sid ZS5AYC and Adele ZS5APT. They travel all over the country, arranging access to summits wherever they go. They are not young hams but very active for their age. They need to physically access the summits on foot and set up communications from the summits. Much like RaDAR? Many hams follow their activities on a regular basis, the chasers and obviously logging the contacts on the SOTA database.

Why does RaDAR not get that kind of support? It takes effort to create something, to nurture it for years and when it matures it should be able to continue on its own. The time for nurturing RaDAR is coming to an end. It may see its demise or it may grow. My hope is that it continues to grow. The online community log is at its centre. Without the support of chasers like those that support SOTA the chances of it dying is a shocking reality.

The RaDAR online community log can be accessed here – http://www.radarops.co.za/zsportal/

The SOTA database can be accessed here – https://www.sota.org.uk/

The RaDAR Challenge – In preparation of …

Because the RaDAR Challenge can be planned for beforehand, a suitable environment can be chosen, a park, a beach or anywhere where one can feel safe practising RaDAR. Not only the environmental’s but equipment and power choices need to be made too. There is no advantage in choosing a specific range of output powers. Higher power means more weight, as simple as that.

RaDAR Operators need to move, that is the uniqueness of RaDAR but RaDAR allows for portable and fixed stations too. These stations as I have said many times before are the stations that fill the gaps moving stations leave behind and are welcomed with open arms.

The categories are individually evaluated. Please refer to my previous articles on logging and evaluating the RaDAR Challenges. In less than a week we will see the first RaDAR Challenge of the year 2022. The new law allow you to remove your Covid masks while outdoors, at least in the case of South Africa. We are returning to normality!

I have been preparing the environment here in KG34ac for weeks now but with all the rain we have been receiving I often need to go back and cut the field grass again that literally grows overnight! I have the WSPR NVIS Detector running again after doing some improvements to the online software but will need to shut it down again for a while as I am in the process of moving QTH.

Cleared areas for quick antenna deployments

I will be taking part in the two hour on foot RaDAR Sport category (Starting 12:00 UTC) again but will also listen out for other stations as a chaser station outside the RaDAR Sport timeframe.

Have fun!!!

The RaDAR Challenge – How to

The first RaDAR Challenge takes place from 00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 2 April 2022. Contest details can be seen on http://radarops.co.za/index.php/radar-rules/

The RaDAR Challenge is for everyone. All logs however have to be logged online at http://www.radarops.co.za/radarsport/RaDAR_Sport.html In order to log online you will need a PIN which relates to your own call sign and can be obtained by contacting Eddie ZS6BNE at edleighton@gmail.com

The logging process is important. Logs can be uploaded via ADIF if you log your QSO’s using a different logging program but you will still need to edit RaDAR related fields online.

New log

As with any QSO log these are the standard fields that need to be logged. The frequency should be to the nearest kHz and the times in UTC and usually the time at the end of the QSO to be most accurate. This is important. RaDAR evaluations allow a maximum of five minutes difference in time. RST’s, Comments and Power are just additional information and not that critical as far as RaDAR evaluations go. Just good to know information.

RaDAR Related fields

The RaDAR Related fields are most important. With any RaDAR Challenge deployment only five contacts are needed for every deployment done. Some hams however make more than the required five contacts. Here you have a choice to mark the five QSO’s you consider to be the most important per deployment.

Category

Also very important, mark which category your RaDAR Chellenge is participating in. See the RaDAR rules for more info on these various categories. Evaluations are done online according to these various categories after the challenge. There is no need to submit a log, it is already online!

Your deployment grid locator and the other station grid are most important and important that they are accurate. Ideally both stations should be logging on the system as that validates the QSO and the exchange accuracy. This allows for bonus points to be generated during the evaluation process.

Mode of transport (If any)

Of course, your method of transport, if any, is important too. Fixed, field stations and moving stations have different multipliers. Make sure that you specify these criteria correctly.

Evaluations can be done online at any time by anyone. The evaluator can be accessed at http://www.radarops.co.za/radarsport/evaluate_Sprint.html

The goal of RaDAR

The QSO between Bob KK4DIV and Greg N4KGL is the goal we try to achieve during the RaDAR Challenges. Good luck and have fun!

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – November 2021 “Official” results

I was busy refining the Evaluator to cater for all the RaDAR Challenge rules. I had to edit just about all the logs, not the QSO or Grid detail but adding “Power” which means nothing here really and adding the x / 5 markers estimating which QSO’s were most valid.

The overall result (Category X) November the sixth 2021 from 00:00 to 23:59 UTC

The graph shows all participants that actually logged their QSO’s online. Queries can be further done to determine the scores for the Categories A, B, C and D (Chasers).

Category A (24 Hour challenge)
Category B (Standard four hour challenge)
Category C (Two hour RaDAR Sprint)
Category D (RaDAR Chaser stations)

Category D operator can be active at any time on the day of the RaDAR Challenge. They are the chasers and the guys the moving RaDAR stations really need. They are usually fixed stations and possibly connected to the grid too.

There is however something I need to look into. I calculate the number of deployments by deviding the number of (Selected) contacts by 5 and rounding up. The number of contacts that chaser stations make are calculated in the same way although not seen as deployments but certainly can be seen as a multiplier for the many contacts the chaser station could make making himself available.

The categories are calculated separately so this should not present a problem, the multiplier for category D just needs a name and has not been mentioned to date.

RaDAR Sport – ZS3DR Test case

In the year 2021 RaDAR Sport was introduced and practical experiments done during the last of three challenges on November the sixth. Much development and updates were done to accommodate the situations which may arise during a RaDAR Challenge.

New fields were introduced into the online logger to cater for these situations and here presented as a test case and to explain how the online community logger and evaluator are used to evaluate any of the RaDAR Challenges.

Please refer to the RaDAR rules at http://radarops.co.za/index.php/radar-rules/

Page 1

The new columns introduced are Power and x / 5, where Category existed on the day of the challenge already. Here ZS3DR took part as a category B (SINGLE PERIOD, FOUR HOUR ops) RaDAR station, moving by vehicle (Vehicles, motorcycles and motorboats (motorized transport) – move 6 km every five contacts).

If more contacts were made than the required five per deployment, the best five QSO’s can be selected for evaluation. The best options are where a valid grid check took place (Bonus points) and second at least where QSO information has been validated by other operator log submissions. Good choices could be those where the operator is also taking part in the RaDAR challenges.

So in effect, after the RaDAR challenge has taken place the operator can come back to the online log and make these decisions and also correcting any mistakes that may have crept in during the logging process. Certainly after an ADIF upload this will be required as ADIF files only carry the most basic information. Once the logs have been submitted and refined by all participants then an evaluation can be done online.

Here again a test case for ZS3DR. Tjaart only operated two hours but category B runs for four hours unlike the RaDAR Sprint category C which is two hours but no motorised vehicles allowed.

Date, time and category selection

Tjaart’s operating times and category were selected for the test case evaluation for the 6th of November 2021. Fortunately all the guys that logged their RaDAR Challenge logs have provided valuable data to refine the system for this year 2022 and years to come.

On clicking the submit button, all the magic happens, within seconds. Concentrate here just on the results for ZS3DR.

ZS3DR’s Final result

Here we can see from the selections Tjaart made (Edited by ZS6BNE) to his logs that he made 10 official RaDAR contacts (Even though he had more QSO’s than the required five per deployment). His mode of transport / movement was a vehicle and moving stations have a multiplier of 3. That gives a score of 30. From the logs he had selected 2 were validated by other RaDAR operator logs right up to the grid exchange which gave him in total 4 bonus points. A subtotal was then calculated to be 34. The number of deployments (Five contacts per deployment) then come into play as a multiplier. Those stations that do multiple deployments within the time frame enjoy a higher score than other stations doing fewer deployments.

Each participants score presented graphically.

Once all the other call signs are correctly marked and refined by each participant (Here I will use that data to edit and test) then the graph will be quite representative of all the results.

Ensure you have your assigned PIN which is related to your call sign. The first RaDAR Challenge for 2022 is just around the corner, in April!

73’s de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – Building alliances

ADIF Downloads

I’ve just finished watching the latest South African Survivor series on Showmax hence the heading and “Building alliances”. I’d also transferred my logs from the Online Community Logbook to other Internet based logs using the ADIF download facility. It works like clockwork and yet another facility built into the online logbook.

One doesn’t have to look very much further than the Mode column to see where our alliances lie. Certainly the growing CW community has taken to this facility and using it on a regular basis, yet sadly not ALL CW operators do. Maybe those belong to another alliance much like the SSB alliance and maybe the FT8 alliance too. I say that with “tongue in cheek” but that really appears to be the case.

Certainly as far as RaDAR is concerned the online logbook is a prerequisite for any participation within future challenges. How else would evaluations be done if the data is not readily available? It should be regularly used in order to practice for those upcoming challenges. Tom G0SBW certainly does that. He has found it an easy to use facility for logging his pedestrian mobile activities. Many, like Frank ZS6FN, have commented on how streamlined the sharing of logs are using the system.

We are nearing the end of 2021 and how I wish the world could once again return to normal……

RaDAR – Taking orders

Mike ZS6MSW came up with a brilliant idea that kind of falls in line with the requirements of accurate logging much like RaDAR.

His idea was to make CW QSO’s fun and to expand on the standard exchanges a little into short purposeful QSO’s. We placed an order for food with each other, logging the ordered foods in the comments column on the RaDAR Sport Online logbook. Grids were exchanged as well which could be seen as a delivery address and falls in line with what the world is experiencing through Covid-19 that we “accept deliveries”.

Arthur ZS5DUV introduced some unexpected responses when Eddie ZS6BNE ordered Chicken hearts saying he does not have them on the menu and Eddie had to change his order. This was incredible fun. enjoyed by none other than the CW fraternity in ZS. It gave CW and accurate exchanges a purpose.

The “Evaluator” was used to evaluate the exercise and the accuracy of taking orders. Mike ZS6MSW was called by Frank ZS6FN while Mike was entering his log which may be seen too as passing the order to the kitchen. Mike kindly asked Frank to wait. When all was clear they exchanged their orders!

This was close to real world information exchange and done entirely using Morse Code!

RaDAR – Testing for NVIS

I had built a QRP Labs U3S and run it on 40m and 20m. My main interest is in NVIS communications (Near Vertical Incindence Skywave). Many years back I visited a facility in Hermanus, South Africa where they test for various HF propagation conditions. The term Ionosonde comes to mind.

Well I made my own system that seems to work very well using WSPR as the source on the U3S and WSJT-X together with a SDR-IQ as the receiver. Allow me to present some further detail.

In KG34ac (Lichtenburg) I run the U3S using a 40m / 20m trap inverted vee. I built the simple traps myself on tiny pieces of PCB using a 30 turn winding on a red toroid with a parallel 47 pF capacitor. On 40m the U3S puts out 200 mW and on 20m, 50 mW approximately. The WSPR sequence is repeated every six minutes.

In KG34ac (Molopo), 29 km away as the crow flies I run WSJT-X in WSPR mode talking indirectly via virtual audio (Software) and Spectravue (RF Space’s SDR software) to the SDR-IQ SDR HF receiver usually used as a CW monitor for the RBN (Reverse Beacon Network) when appropriate..

These two options allow some pretty interesting observations. I use WSPRD at http://wsprd.vk7jj.com/ to accumulate the data and create an appropriate graph from that data using LIBRE Calc (Freeware office software).

The results coincide with real world propagation opportunities for NVIS communications. I drew this graph from recent data.

Now that’s using WSPR for a purpose! The SNR values are usually well into negative values for example -27 or nothing at all. Anything above the zero line is a very good indicator that suitable conditions exist.

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – WSPR our propagation tool

I had built the QRP Labs U3S WSPR transmitter and expanded it for two bands namely 40m and 20m. My interest is 40m as most of my RaDAR operaions take place locally although during the challenges it’s always good to cross the oceans and access other continents and make contact with other RaDAR operators around the world.

For quite some time (A few weeks) I have been WSPR’ing from my RaDAR playground in KG34ac but I started to get irritated by the slight QRM I was experiencing on my CCTV cameras which I use as “The poor man’s trail camera”. Seeing my grandson was returning to school after almost a year attending on line schooling due to Covid-19 my wife and Eduan had to go back to town in Lichtenburg and only join me on weekends again. I had to do a few chores there yesterday and took the U3S into town and set it up there. I had built a trap dipole for the purpose and got it up at about five meters above ground in an inverted vee format. The antenna was fed with a length of RG215, better than it was here at home.

I had to update my 6 character TX grid to KG33bu on the WSPR database after I found it was only registering 4 characters on the WSPR database. I had conflicts with duplicate call signs in different locations so the RX side I renamed to ZS6BNE/p which is what it is actually. I use a RF Space SDR-IQ SDR running on its software typically Spectravue. I use a virtual audio cable (Software) to channel the audio to WSJT-X running in WSPR mode. Here too I have an inverted vee on 40m for reception. My main concern obviously is 40m.

This opened up some interesting facilities. ZS6BNE TX in KG33bu and around 30 km away as the crow flies the ZS6BNE/p RX in KG34ac. This is my own NVIS alert / testing facility and has already shown some interesting results!

As suggested by a friend on our local WSPR WhatsApp group I use http://wsprd.vk7jj.com/ to do queries on the WSPR data. From this data I intend pulling it into Libre-Calc and drawing graphs from the results. Here you can clearly see a NVIS opening and to prove it I made contact with Andy ZS6ADY who is usually skip to me!

I’m looking forward to those graphs and seeing the interesting results!

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR News – The end of 2020

Andre ZS6CO was the first to submit a log for the November 2020 RaDAR Challenge. Andre worked from home as a fixed station and filled an important role. He worked three moving RaDAR stations, ZS5AYC, ZS6BNE and ZS6MSW. This support is what RaDAR operator like to see.

Tjaart ZS3DR ran a mobile station from his Landcruiser. Tjaart enjoyed the RaDAR movements. He managed to activate seven individual grid locations.

Christi ZS4CGR a supporter of many ham radio activities also joined in on the RaDAR Challenge. His plan was to travel using his bicycle but I believe the wind was excessive so he travelled using his bakkie. Christi activated eight different grid locations.

Andy DL2DVE joined in the RaDAR Challenge again. Andy wrote, “For the 7th Nov 2020 challenge I decided to walk, and selected a few places beforehand close to my QTH. Main target was to contact other RaDAR operators and to try R2R DX, so I took with me not only the IC-706 (100W) and the 2m long (high) Vertical, but also the 10m long vertical EFHW for 20m with a 12m mast. Spent quite some time to figure out how to contact M0NOM after I left house without e-mail…   Finally we got a very nice R2R QSO on 20m SSB.  Could hear N4KGL on 14.062 with 229…339 with the short antenna – this motivated me to assemble the large one. It was my priority so I gave up to walk to the 3rd site.  But could not copy Greg at his 2nd stop on 20m SSB as there was European QRM.  Have two sites activated (less than my plan), but the main target R2R was achieved, with Mark M0NOM/P.  Temp was 5 deg C, no rain. Two deployments, one EU-R2R and one DX-Contact to US, resulting in 60 Points. 3x (2 x 5 +5 +5). 73 Andy DL2DVE”

Hoping 2021 will see the dark clouds of 2020 disappearing. 73 and hope to hear you all on the bands soon.