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

Friday, April 7, 2017

RaDAR Challenge Heaven at St. George Island Florida

Sometimes things just work out to your favor. This was the case for my Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) Challenge outing on Saturday April 1st. I chose St. George Island State Park in Florida. This is a beautiful park with beaches on the South side and bay front access on the North side. The weather was stellar with clear blue skies. Contrast that with Julian OH8STN operating RaDAR in Finland. He endured freezing rain but still had a good time.

The beach on the South side of St. George Island.
I thank Eddie ZS6BNE of South Africa for originating RaDAR. The RaDAR Challenge now occurs the first Saturday of April, the third Saturday of July and the first Saturday of November each year.  I have been participating since April 2013. The RaDAR challenge is a 4 hour stress test for your portable equipment and operating skill. In the Challenge, you make five contacts and move to another location. The distances vary by the transportation mode. I was on foot which is requires one kilometer. I chose to use my Icom 7100 for the expected difficult conditions. The battery and rig are heavy but a dog stroller I have made moving the gear very easy.

Picnic area on the North side of St. George Island.
Eddie was not able to practice RaDAR on foot this year. He recently was bitten on the foot by a large dog while jogging. However, Eddie was operating portable and focusing on RaDAR DX. That influenced me to choose St George Island. I subscribe to the salt water effect. This is that low angle radiation is enhanced for vertically polarized antennas at the shoreline or over saltwater. St George Island has a clear shot toward South Africa over the Gulf.



My first stop was on the beach. I had a schedule prearranged to walk through the bands on CW from 10 meters to 20 meters. I could not hear Eddie. He could hear me but I was too weak to work. However, I did QSO with Eddie's friend John Kramer ZS5J on 15 and 17 meters. I still needed five contacts to move. Then I worked Rubin AC2RJ on 20 meters. I was unaware he was chasing me but that QSO helped get the five. He made a RaDAR video from his end.


On my second stop, I set up my low dipole on forty meters. That enabled me to work chasers close by. That included Mike KM4ELJ near Panama City and Tom WD0HBR in Dothan, Alabama. A pleasant surprise was Craig NM4T The Huntsville QRP Guy. He worked me from his home in Alabama. It just happened that April 1st was the Florida State Parks On The Air Contest sponsored by the Lakeland ARC. I made a string of 16 contacts that counted toward that contest. I worked two other Florida State Parks including K4LKL which was the bonus station for the contest. The operator was a friend Matthew KK4FEM.


I timed my third stop to coincide with a SO 50 pass. Making a satellite pass counts toward a bonus for the RaDAR Challenge. I envisioned getting my five contacts all on the pass. The sat was so busy that I lucky to get one contact. Matthew KK4FEM came through for me. I picked up the remaining four on 20 SSB using the low dipole measured out for the band. This completed the four hours. But there is more.



The World Wide Fauna and Flora program for the USA, WWFF-KFF, has awards for radar. making three transitions in 24 hours qualifies for a Warthog award, four is the Rhino award and six for the Cheetah award. I had enough for the Warthog but one more stop would give me the Rhino. So another one kilometer walk and I got five contacts on 20 CW. Two were WWFF chasers from Croatia. See my Rhino Award here. But there is more.


On the way home, I passed by a small Florida State Park where the Florida Constitution Museum is located. I spent one hour there and got ten contacts. That is enough for a WWFF-KFF activation. I certainly was blessed with a wonderful day to practice RaDAR, the Florida State Parks On the Air and World Wide Fauna and Flora all on the same day.Doing RaDAR you learn to leverage off of other activities going on at the time. Propagation conditions for my ops were better than expected.


I was also pleased that Julian OH8STN, Tom G0SWB, Mickey NY2MC, Scott ND9E, and Rubin AC2RJ among others practiced RaDAR in unique ways. Some others just could not make it out. We all look forward to the July 15th RaDAR Challenge. Of course, it is unbearably hot then in Florida. The tables will be turned.




Monday, March 27, 2017

Thanks to Chris VA3ECO for Elmering

I met Chris and his wife Margot by chance at a Conservation Park in Panama City in February of 2016. I was doing portable ops and Chris recognized that I was a fellow ham. The couple spends the Winters of late in the Panama City. I have been getting started with amateur satellites. My HF operating started almost 40 years ago. I would not need elmering there but sats are different, in particular the linear sats. It just happens that Chris has done quite a bit with the linear birds like FO-29. He offered to get me going.

Chris VA3ECO at an Elmer session

I had tried using a single FT 817 for FO-29. I could hear the stations. I liked what I heard. There can be many QSOs going on at the same time unlike the FM birds. Some ops can pull off using one rig but the dopplers had me lost. Then, I took a leap and got an Icom 910H on eBay. This was my most expensive buy on eBay. Fortunately, the radio was as described and working perfectly. That is if you know how to operate it. There is some complexity with understanding the satellite mode and so forth. I tried to get something going without the aid of computer. I still could not pull that off.

My Icom 910H setup for portable sat ops.

I have had some challenges getting the software control programs going in the past. Of course it is doable but the forums are filled with tales of woe. The software of choice for satellite rig control is SatPC32. I like software that you can get started without reading the manual. Well this program is a little non-intuitive at first.

An Arrow satellite antenna

Well, this is where Chris came in. He helped me update the Kelps and some other particulars. Then he met me at a parking lot and was my co-pilot for a pass of the XW sats. He knew about the fine tuning you use for the Doppler. These are things that would have taken me awhile to learn since I did not know what I did not know. We even did a second outing for more fun.



Well to complete the story Chris is now back in Canada. It is my turn to go solo on the linear sats. Last Saturday I was at the Samson, Alabama rocket launch and Chris agreed to meet me on a FO-29 pass.  I had success contacting Chris on two passes. I also got several more contacts. The ops are very friendly on the linear birds. This will be lots of fun. Thanks to Chris for being an Elmer to a senior ham. Hi Hi.

Chris has a home on an Island at Echo Bay on Lake of the Woods in Ontario. It happens to be a rare grid. So Chis is popular on the sats. He has a HF station as well. In fact his station is setup for remote operation. Chris did a talk for the Panama City ARC while he was here. He did a live demo of remote operating from our clubhouse. He has documented his remote setup here.




Oh yes, Chris is into lots of other interesting activities like model planes and drones. He has some great videos on YouTube. Check them out. He even does some rockets so he enjoyed coming to our launches in Samson.

73 to Chris and Margot

Greg N4KGL

Chris at a Samson, Alabama Rocket launch.




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Planning for the April 2017 RaDAR Challenge

The April 1st Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) Challenge has been on my mind. See RaDAR Challenge rules here. My top choice for a site is St. Andrews State Park nearby. The saltwater access is generous there. I should have azimuths over salt water for most of the world. I have had lots of luck from this site domestic and DX. However, the Sunspots are not favorable for the high bands this year.



To be bold, I could go pedestrian mobile using the Elecraft KX2 and a whip antenna.  I use the KX2 as a hand-held. It is the lightest configuration I can imagine. There would be almost no setup time. I might go for it. Of course, a backup antenna might be wise. It would likely be my self supporting dipole.



I also will go for the Satellite Bonus if there is a pass of an FM Bird. This could influence the four hour window I choose. It would require taking my Elk Sat antenna. The Elk also comes in handy for 2 meter FM simplex. The Digital Modes bonus is a possibility also.



I have three stops in mind as shown. I will be on foot. The stops are at least one kilometer apart. By choosing a State Park I will be eligible for WWFF-KFF Radar Awards. The Warthog Award is three stops, Rhino is four and the Cheetah is six in a 24 hour period.  I hope to get at least three stops in during the four hours. I could stay longer than four hours to go for the Rhino or Cheetah.



It will be five contacts and move one kilometer for the four hours. I am hoping for DX including RaDAR to RaDAR DX. As you can see five contacts and go, the walking, the bonuses all combine to be the a formidable.challenge. I am counting on a cadre of chasers and other RaDAR ops to help. We will see what factor weather plays. There might be a April shower. Sadly, Suzy is not allowed on the State Park beaches. Oh well I might think about other sites.




Consider getting out portable on April 1st. You can be fixed or move via any mode under RaDAR. The distances vary with the mode. Good luck!


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Get Ready for the April 1st 2017 RaDAR Challenge

RaDAR Is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio

1. Aim
The RaDAR “Challenge” is a unique event aimed at promoting the use of Rapidly Deployable Amateur Radio stations. This challenge is for all licensed radio amateurs not limited to South Africa. A RaDAR operator can take part in any of the three defined categories (see point 7) which may be changed at any time during the challenge. The points system is so structured as to encourage portable RaDAR operations, especially moveable RaDAR stations. Moveable RaDAR stations rely on fixed and portable stations as a point of contact using channelised frequencies. “Search and pounce” techniques are also allowed.

2. Date and Time
From 00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 1 April 2017. A 24 hour window will give equal opportunity to the international community of RaDAR operators. RaDAR operators are suggested to chose a four hour operating period during the 24 hour window,.

3. Bands and Modes
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.

4. Suggested HF calling frequencies
See http://zs6bne.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/radar-calling-frequencies/ for the latest international list of frequencies. The WARC bands can be used considering this is a RaDAR Challenge and not a contest as such. It provides better opportunities for RaDAR contacts during difficult propagation conditions. Recommended digital modes frequencies – Refer to the South African Radio League Contest Manual, General Rule 15.

5. Exchange
The RaDAR challenge requires more than a minimalistic information exchange. Accurate information exchange is considered more important than a large QSO count.
Call sign, name, RS(T) report, QTH and grid locator. Note the grid locator can change as RaDAR operators are allowed to move position at any time. The grid locator of six characters is acceptable but should preferably be accurate to 10 characters for higher
position accuracy. Smartphone applications are generally used to establish more than a 6-character grid locator. If working non-participating stations, call sign, name, RST and QTH is acceptable.

6. Scoring
1 point per QSO.
Individual QSOs – per mode, per band, per satellite, per call sign.
If the moving RaDAR station has moved the required distance (see point 7) contact can be made with a previously worked station, again.

7. Categories and multipliers
The following multipliers are applicable to determine the final score. If category/mode of transport changes were made during the challenge, than calculate accordingly.

X 1 – RaDAR Fixed station (At home or in another building)
X 2 – RaDAR Field station (Portable – away from home)
X 3 – Moving RaDAR station – See modes of transport below.

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 before further contacts are allowed to be made. This requirement tests the ability to rapidly re-deploy your amateur radio field station.

9. Bonus points (All categories)
Five (5) points (The equivalent of five QSOs) for a minimum of one satellite or any digital modes QSO involving a computer, smartphone or digital modes device. (For clarity thereafter 1 point per Satellite / Digital modes QSO).
Five (5) points for the first successful same continent RaDAR to RaDAR QSO (As may be confirmed by the extensive information exchange.
Five (5) points for the first intercontinental (DX) QSO
Ten (10) points for the first successful inter continental (DX) RaDAR to RaDAR QSO (As may be confirmed by the extensive information exchange).

10. Log Sheets
Log sheets must be submitted by 8 April 2017 and sent by e-mail to edleighton@gmail.com.

See https://zs6bne.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/11046905_10152762072212759_727315224761083499_n.jpg for a log sheet specifically designed for the 2016 RaDAR contest.
Note: A photo of the station (JPG format) MUST accompany every log entry. A photo is required for each new location that moveable stations visit. These photos are used to promote amateur radio and the RaDAR concept showing where amateur radio can be used to communicate from and in the many different ways.

The above is an excerpt from from http://www.sarl.org.za/Web3/Members/DoDocDownload.aspx?X=20161222085537waqSliCvbT.PDF

Visit zs6bne.wordpress.com and https://plus.google.com/communities/109283065808971118728 for more info about RaDAR.

You are also encouraged to enter your RaDAR Op Plan at http://radarops.co.za/index.php/planned-ops/

I encourage all hams to participate a. Let us know your plans and results. Good luck and be safe!

Greg N4KGL
www.N4KGL.info





Monday, February 6, 2017

Camp Helen, Florida Activation

The one-year National Parks On The Air program concluded in December 2016. It encouraged me to visit several National Park sites. Now the World Wide Fauna and Flora program can fill the gap as it covers National and State Park sites. The closest state park other than St Andrews State Park to me is Camp Helen. I have known about it for years but had made few visits. Sunday was my opportunity to visit and activate the site for WWFF. It is reference KFF-1845. Fortunately it was T-shirt weather in February. I am also beginning to renew my Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) mindset. It is a program that adds motion to portable operating. The next RaDAR challenge is the first Saturday in April. The question of what site and what gear to use will be pondered right up to the event.

40 Meter NVIS Dipole

Elecraft KX2

First, I checked in with the Park Staff. It took a few minutes for them to grasp what I was doing. But once they did they made me and Suzy very welcome. I decided to get the ten required contacts for a WWFF-KFF activation at the first stop. I used The NVIS 40 meter dipole which is only nine feet off the ground. The central area of the park seems to have good elevation above the surrounding area. I am sure that was why it was picked way back when. All around the site offers access to the beach, lakes and many trails.



I was fortunate to have many elements come together that help when I do activations and RaDAR.  I worked several friends who chase me. This included Mike KM4ELJ in Youngstown, FL, AK4JA Bobby in Georgia. He worked me on a tube QRP rig. Likewise, Tom WD0HBR in Dothan, Alabama. That is a motivation for 40 meter NVIS. It turns out at 11:30 or so it is usually the peak in the foF2 frequency. It was just just over 7 MHz. I worked Bob WB4BLX on 2 meters simplex with the aid of the Elk antenna. I also worked him on 40 CW.

 I have been getting into Amateur Satellites lately. I make the Sats part of my portable outings. Eddie ZS6BNE, the originator of RaDAR, made them a bonus for the RaDAR Challenge. I worked the 1 PM pass of SO 50. It had a 45 degree elevation. The central part of the park is open enough to have visibility of the pass. I heard my signal well on the duplex mode of the Kenwood TH-D72A. I got three contacts including XE1SEW DX.
 
The second part of my outing was to walk and talk using the Elecraft KX2 and a loaded whip on 20 meters. This is also known as pedestrian mobile. I forgot the counterpoise initially and had an answer to a CQ without it. I was able to do hunt and pounce with success. I did not keep a good log. However, I did work the Virgin Islands and St. Martin. Those were a shot over the lake. There is a trail that follows the lake shoreline. I also worked the Maritime net on 14.300 and a Vermont station in the QSO party. The KX2 and whip are the most portable of my configurations. Suzy enjoyed the walk.

 I have to think the Camp Helen site would make a nice Field Day location. It has a variety of buildings as well as an open area. There is even a wooden water tower that offers some elevation for antennas. Oh just thinking! I any case, I hope to return to Camp Helen often and activate more of the Florida State Parks close by.



Suzy

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Winter Field Day 2017

Winter Field Day happened to fall on a SEARS rocket launch day at Samson, Alabama. Chris VA3ECO and I did about 2.5 hours of operating when we weren't distracted by rocket launches. The weather was about 50 degrees. With a breeze, that was enough to keep us honest. We had fourteen QSOs with a mix of CW and phone for 120 points. However, the bonuses stacked up giving us a total  a total of 6120.
  • 1,500 points for not using commercial power.
  • 1,500 points for setting up outdoors.
  • 1,500 points for setting up away from home.
  • 1,500 points for satellite QSO(s).
Chris VA3ECO operating
The rig was my Icom 7100 at less than 100 watts with a 40 AH LiFePO4 battery. The antenna was the Chameleon 5 to 1 transformer and 65 feet of wive as an inverted L. This was good enough to give us a taste of the action. Below are a few rocket photos and the sound from the AO 85 satellite QSO. The satellite QSO was not until Sunday morning.

Chris' launch

Greg's launch of a three engine cluster with the Loc Viper rocket



Sunday, January 15, 2017

Rockets & Radios at the Samson Alabama Launch

I met Chris VA3ECO and his wife by chance at Conservation Park last Winter while Suzy and I were doing RaDAR. Chris has returned to Florida for this Winter. We were pleased that he came up for the January 14th Rocket Launch in Samson. Chris had done some rocketry in Ontario from his boat on a lake since cleared land is hard to find. He got quite a rocket show from our SEARS rocket club members. I did a launch of my Big Boy for Chris and Chis launched my Estes Stealth,

Chris VA3ECO and Big Boy

Greg's Big Boy launch on an E20 motor

Chris and the Estes Stealth

Stealth Launch on a C6-0
Chris put together this video of the launches.



Radio-wise, I setup my Elecraft KX2 for 40 meters. I did not have any luck getting back to my buddies in Panama City or Dothan, However, the NVIS Dipole did well to at longer distances to  Florida and Georgia. I had the honor to work KM4ZVC/AG for his first HF QSO as a new General Class.

The Elecraft KX2 shaded by the LowePro case


The 40 meter NVIS dipole

Suzy with the N6BT Bravo in the background

Suzy enjoyed trips up and down the road on the farm. I took her off the leash for some of that. I also did a SO 50 satellite pass. I got K3GDS at grid FN00 and N8IUP at grid EN81. The launch site is EM61.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

N4KGL Amateur Radio Highlights for 2016

Here are my 2016 Amateur Radio highlights

The 2016 ARRL National Parks On The Air  event was awesome. I was not close to many National Park Sites. However, Gulf Islands National Seashore SS08 was nearby. I activated SS08 eight times as N4KGL. Bob KK4DIV, Mike AI4NS and I activated SS08 as N4P at the Biodiversity Festival. We had a booth at the festival where we did a real-time propagation experiment and got lots of young people on air. Beyond that, I made a day trip to the Jimmy Carter High School in Plains, Georgia. I also stopped by the Natchez Trail on a trip to Nashville, and activated the Santa Fe Trail on a trip to Kansas.



I was able to do all three RaDAR Challenge Events April, July and November. A new portable operating activity started this year called the Second Saturday Sprint which is April through October. It gives you credit for anyone you work. That fits in with RaDAR style ops nicely. I did Field Day with the Panama City ARC as usual.



I got the Elecraft KX2. Now I use it for all my portable ops. I like the small size, light weight, up to 10 watts, internal battery, and internal tuner. That is hard to beat. I found I could attach a whip and counterpoise and operate it as a hand-help for pedestrian mobile. Even 40 meter contacts are possible with the whip.



I started learning how to use the amateur satellites for portable operating. So now I include a satellite pass on most outings. It is a different mindset for the radios. I have used several. The most recent is the Kenwood TH-D72A which is capable of full duplex. It is also very capable doing APRS with an internal GPS.



Another new discovery was the World Wide Fauna and Flora Program which has a National Program called KFF. I have done some activations already. It is going to encourage me to visit all the State Parks here in Northwest Florida. It applies to National and State Parks. This can be the replacement for National Parks On The Air.



Linda and I enjoyed Micky KE8ASK and John W8JER on their visit in during the winter. We also met up with them at the Huntsville Hamfest also along with Craig NM4T at the Monte Sano gathering. I gave a talk on NPOTA at the hamfest.



With respect to the blog and YouTube I now use the GoPro Session to document my outings. I learned that I can't talk that well but that's me. Of course, Suzy has been my companion on most outings. She will draw a crowd and cons them for belly rubs. She definitely gets RaDAR and is leading the way between stops. I actually know she is the star of this blog and pulls in the hits.
\



Sunday, January 1, 2017

My Last National Parks On The Air Activation

The ARRL 2016 National Parks On The Air Event has concluded with the years end. It was a very popular amateur radio event to help celebrate the National Park Service Centennial. So I decided to squeeze in one more activation. I chose the closest site for me. It is the Okaloosa Island Day Use Area which is a little more than an hours drive just West of Destin, Florida. It is part of Gulf Island National Seashore which is designated SS08.l upload my logs to Log Book Of The World LOTW and the World Wide Fauna and Flora system. Note the NPOTA SS08 is KFF-0661 under WWFF. This is my eighth SS08 activation and the sixth time at this Okaloosa Island site.



The weather was a bit chilly at 55 degrees (F) and cloud cover. I started with a SO 50 satellite pass which netted two contacts. On HF I used the Elecraft KX2 running ten watts to a N6BT Bravo 7K vertical. I used 100 feet of RG-8 to get the antenna close to the saltwater shore on the North side. I did not go with my NVIS antenna for 40 meters since foF2 was not above 7 MHz. That nixed any HF contacts back to Panama City.  I was able to use the longer skip on 40 meters. I snagged Craig NM4T near Huntsville which was as short as I could get. It was a surprise and pleasure to work Craig my buddy and the Huntsville QRP guy. Also Suzy was my buddy once again.

So my total is 60 contacts. Several were the first SS08 for the chasers. The breakdown was

  • 40 CW (6)
  • 40 SSB (12)
  • 20 CW (20)
  • 20 SSB (20)
  • SO 50 (2)

NPOTA has been a great experience. It ended too soon. My plan right now is to continue my start with the WWFF-KFF for portable activations. It has hunters which are the equivalent to chasers in NPOTA.. You can take credit for 2016 NPOTA activations in that system by submitting your logs. The nice thing about KFF is that it includes National and State Parks. There are lots of State Parks in Northwest Florida for sure.

Elecraft KX2

N6BT Bravo 7K Vertical

Suzy