SKCC 5123T----- FISTS 14979----- Flying Pigs 2331----- NAQCC 3610-----QRP ARCI 14176-----Polar Bear 257

Sunday, April 26, 2015

RaDAR at the Headland Alabama Tailgate

I love to make the semi-annual tailgates on the square in Headland, Alabama sponsored by the Wiregrass ARC of Southeast Alabama. This year, I wondered if was going to be called off due to some heavy rain early. But as often the case after the rain it makes for a nice day. There was not so much gear for sell this year. However, it was a great opportunity to chat with the gang there.  They have a good mix of experienced hams and new hams and prospective hams that gather for the tailgate.

This year I brought the new LNR Mountain Topper radio to demonstrate the Rapid Deployment Amateur radio (RaDAR) style operating. I combined the MTR with the LNR Trail Friendly End Fed in an inverted L configuration. This gets me on 40 and 20 meters. You could get on 30 meters by substituting a half wave wire for that band. The antenna was supported with two 20 foot crappie poles. All this gear is an easy carry. The MTR is the smallest and lightest part of the gear. The size is amazing.

QRP To The Field going was on. Due to time constraints, I was not going to make a serious run at it. But it did offer some contacts. Forty meters had nill but I copied a few stations on 20 meters. I think conditions were a bit off. You will notice there is no tuning knob on the MTR. You can scan up or down with the up and down buttons. This is something to adapt to but you can navigate around the QRP watering holes pretty easily. To check your frequency you tap the FN button and get the frequency annunciated in code. For the record, I was at grid square EM71HI84WN. I worked six stations including Wyoming, Texas twice, Oklahoma, Ohio and one op gave no location. So having at least five qualifies for an #RaDARActive Activation.

I will keep this light pack-up in mind for future RaDAR outings. It would be ideal for multiple stop RaDAR outings or challenging SOTA outings. The constraint of CW only becomes an advantage in portability with the Mountain Topper. Bob Bankston N4RNR of Dothan also has a MTR. Actually quite a few hams in the Dothan area now have KX3s and Alexloops among their gear. 

By the way, I won a ARRL gift certificate in the raffle. This will help get an antenna book I want. Likewise, I enjoyed the BBQ. Thanks to Wiregrass ARC for a great event.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Chameleon Antennas

I have recently adopted some Chameleon Antennas into my Rapid Deployment Deployment (RaDAR) operations. I have to think the name must refer to their antennas changing configurations are like the changing colors of a chameleon lizard. The instruction manuals are helpful in choosing a configuration to optimize for the distance and frequency you want to work. The antenna models I have are the Hybrid Micro and the Tactical Dipole Lite based on the EMCOMM II. Both antennas are based on a 5 to 1 broadband transformer. When used with a tuner you can pretty much work any HF frequency. My KX3 has an internal tuner. This makes for a great combo. My Icom 7100 does not have an internal tuner but I have added a LDG IT 100 that works great.

The Hybrid Micro comes with 60 feet of wire but it is also compatible with the Military style whip and extension sold by Chameleon. The whip when used with a tripod is very convenient. I happen to use a tripod I got with another antenna. I have purchased a Flag Pole To Go Bag off of Amazon and it packs up the tripod, whips, wires and the micro nicely.

So you have the choice of going with the whip or perhaps deploying the wire from the trees. I have done both. And yes if you pony up for a second whip you can do a dipole like this.

Another Chameleon product is the Tactical Dipole Lite which uses the EMCOMM II transformer. It comes with two 60 foot wires. I am pairing this one up with my Icom 7100 Go Box. There are lots of configurations again such as NVIS, Inverted L, and horizontal. I am thinking of using a horizontal configuration  about 25 to 30 feet high for Field Day.  Here I am using a Vee configuration.

I admit this gear is not inexpensive. You do get first class hardware and great customer service. You will have many configurations to try and tailor to your situation. Being able to rapidly change bands is a plus for RaDAR so you can pick up your five contacts and go. I get some great reports and some not so great. This is pretty typical of any antenna I use. I was very impressed with a 60 meter contact and report I got from K5ZRK in Mississippi with an inverted L configuration. Portable antennas for 60 meters are challenging. This gear is not for everyone but I am having lots of fun with it.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Announcing the RaDAR Active Program

The aim is to encourage and recognize Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) activity. RaDAR Operators can keep a count of RaDAR Activations. An activation is making five contacts while on a portable outing away from their permanent station. To get more activations on an outing you must travel the required distances (See below) before making additional contacts. 

Posting a photo to the RaDAR Google+ Community (or anywhere you choose) and additional details for each activation is welcome but not required. A post to the community monthly will solicit the current RaDAR Active count for participants. Participants may list their RaDAR Activation count on any post to the community. For fun use the hashtag   

The RaDAR Active counts will begin with the RaDAR Challenge and end at the beginning of the next RaDAR Challenge. RaDAR Challenge is the first Saturday of April and November. The RaDAR Active replaces the RaDAR Rally. It is simpler and less bookkeeping. We can see how it works and adjust.

All amateur bands are allowed including cross band contacts via amateur radio satellites.
Modes – CW, SSB, AM, FM or any legal digital mode. QSOs via terrestrial repeaters will NOT be allowed. This is not a contest there are no winners or losers. Participants do it for the challenge and enjoyment of Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio.

Travel Modes and Required Distances:

Modes of transport and required movement distances (moving RaDAR stations only)
Vehicles, motorcycles and motorboats etc. (Motorised transport) – 6 km
Bicycles – 2 km
On foot and paddle canoes – 1 km
Wheelchairs – 500 m
Aeronautical mobile stations are considered moving stations and can communicate at any convenient time.
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. This requirement tests the ability to rapidly re-deploy your amateur radio field station.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

N4KGL's April 2015 RaDAR Challenge Report

This is my report on my April 2015 RaDAR Challenge outing at St Andrews State Park near Panama City, Florida. I made six stops on my journey. RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio. There is a RaDAR Challenge the first Saturday of April and November.

Stop 1 was EM70DD21GT. This is at the picnic area on the North side of the park. My mind set was to work 40 meter NVIS. I used the Chameleon Hybrid Micro with the 60 foot wire. I took advantage of some tree limbs and the feed point was a tripod with a few feet of PVC. My first CW contact was Virginia which was weak both ways. Then I worked Florida that was 599. I took advantage of three FM simplex contacts to bail me out of this location.

I transitioned to Stop 2 on foot using a cart to carry my gear.Stop 2 is at EM70DD31KK which is Sandy Point. This is my favorite places in the park. I setup the Chameleon Hybrid Micro on a tripod. I caught Budd W3FF in California on 18.157.5. Budd uses his base to help out portables and pedestrian mobiles. I picked up four more SSB contacts on 17 meters to complete the five. The expected shower happened and I was glad to have my Sportsbrella as a shelter.

I walked back toward my first location and took advantage on a picnic table directly on the shore of Grand Lagoon. This was Stop 3 at EM70DD21GV. I used the Chameleon Hybrid Micro again and located the antenna right on the salt water on a tripod. I worked two on 17 meter SSB with 59 reports. Then I reached out to a local Don KK4DWC and managed a 40 meter contact. The was about 20 miles away in Southport.

After the first three stops I was feeling pretty beat up by the stiff winds. I was not sure I would stay. I took a 6 kilometer drive around the park and stopped at a store. This counted as a transition and I decided Stop 4 would be from the pier on the North side of the park at EM70DD23GC. I setup the Alexloop and made three local contacts with N4STC, N1HQ and K4LIX on 17 meters SSB. Then I lucked into two Italy contacts also on the same band to complete the five.

The weather was looking better and I decided to take the Alexloop to Sandy Point which is Stop 5 at EM70DD31LK. This was an easier walk with lighter gear and without the cart. In fact I had left my table somewhere and was wondering if I would find it. It turned out Bob KK4DIV was just starting this RaDAR outing at a park in nearby Lynn Haven. I worked Bob and another Lynn Haven ham Ron KK4DWE on 17 SSB. After that I worked Missouri. Then I finally caught up with John W8JER in Sturgis Michigan. John and Micky had returned to their home there after a three month stay in Panama City Beach. Micky has her general class now, her call is KE8ASK. I worked her for my fifth contact.

Now the weather was beautiful and I decided to head South to the Jetties area. Stop 6 was at EM70DC29DX. This was a great stop as I worked four DX stations. Argentina, Costa Rica, Brazil and Chile all on 10 meter SSB.  I was definitely getting some low angles with the Alexloop off the salt water.

I had about a 1.5 kilometer walk to the truck on the North side. I looked at two spots that I thought I left the table. No luck but as I was walking back to the truck I spotted it on the pier where I had taken a photo of the pelicans.. So I was really glad to have it back.

The 24 hour window for the RaDAR Challenge let me make six stops instead on my usual three for the four hour RaDAR Contest from previous years. Twice the fun right! I used the Chameleon for three stops with a wire once and a whip twice. I was very pleased. I also used the Alexloop which made for a lighter pack up at three stops. I think it would be interesting to use the Chameleon with a whip as a pedestrian mobile in the future. All my contacts were at 10 watts except one. I get great audio reports on the KX3. With the compression the KX3 has great punch on SSB.

I had one RaDAR to RaDAR contact with Bob KK4DIV nearby. I find the local contacts help. Some know I will be out there and some don't. This makes RaDAR a local club effort and builds interest in RaDAR. I would have enjoyed RaDAR to RaDAR DX but the timing and spotting is a challenge. This year as this it was the Easter weekend made it a non-starter for many to get out. Also April is still rough weather in the Northern latitudes. I do know Eddie ZS6BNE had a great outing with his Grandson. Also Tom G0SBW and Lucy M6ECG got out in the UK.

I enjoyed getting outdoors to a beautiful park for RaDAR. There are not many other reasons I would be walking so many kilometers. You also meet the public. They were really nailing me on what I was doing this time. One person's Dad was a ham and he took several pictures to show his Dad. Here are few more photos.