HAMNET Report 9 July 2017

From Michael ZS1MJT, of the Cape Rally Group, comes the news that, on 1 July, the Riebeek Valley Rally was held in the Riebeek Kasteel area. Control was at the Meiring Primary School in Riebeek Kasteel.

Communications worked extremely well as all stages and radio operator positions were in ‘open’ areas and were in line of sight of the 145.650 repeater.

Michael thanks all who helped and the users of the 650 repeater, who allowed them the opportunity to use the repeater for the day.

He says the next rally is the All Tar Rally in Killarney on the 28 & 29th July.

Also in the Western Cape, a particularly difficult rescue of an injured person from the Yellowwood Amphitheatre in du Toit’s Kloof took place over Thursday night and Friday morning. HAMNET’s Johann Marais, ZS1JM, coordinated Wilderness Search and Rescue’s efforts from 13h00 on Thursday to assist with the rescue. Members of the Mountain Club of South Africa and Metro Rescue services all gathered on the Eastern Side of the  tunnel, to await instructions. An Oryx helicopter was deployed from Ysterplaat Air Force Base and could not proceed because of bad flying weather, but did manage to drop off a paramedic and a technical rescuer a little way away from the patient. Another team of 3 rescuers walked in to the spot with supplies, warm clothing and food to allow the group to spend the night on the mountain. The patient was reported as being in a serious but stable condition.

Next morning, the Oryx was able to fly in and extract the injured man, from where he was transported directly to Groote Schuur hospital. Thank you to all the WSAR operatives involved, and the SAAF helicopter crew for completing the rescue.

The Seattle Times reported on Monday the 3rd that the British Airline Pilots Association is warning of a looming catastrophe unless drones are subject to tougher regulations.

The association demanded the compulsory registration of drones on Monday after Gatwick Airport briefly closed its runway over safety concerns when a drone was spotted in the area.

Authorities diverted four EasyJet flights. One British Airways flight was sent to Bournemouth Airport.

The union’s flight safety specialist, Steve Landells, says the incident shows “the threat of drones being flown near manned aircraft must be addressed before we see a disaster.”

There have been several near-misses between drones and aircraft in Britain, with sheer chance averting collision in some cases.

Under British rules, a drone operator must be able to see it at all times and keep it away from planes, helicopters, airports and airfields.

From the West Australian, a report says commercial pilots are reporting near misses with drones in WA, prompting warnings that it is “only a matter of time” before an incident occurs.

WA Labour senator Glenn Sterle, who chairs a Senate inquiry into drone safety and regulation, wants tighter restrictions on recreational drone use after the Australian Transport Safety Bureau received 170 reports of remotely piloted aircraft being flown in flight paths, near airports and at dangerous heights.

“They’ve had incidences at Jandakot (Airport) where they’ve had drones at the end of the runway, with someone operating one out of the park,” Senator Sterle said.

“Anyone can walk in and buy a drone and they have no training, no awareness. It’s not a matter of if, but when.”

On the other side of the argument comes another report about a group of students from MIT trying to ease the burden on emergency responders by providing a high-flying solution to downed communication lines. The team has designed and tested an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can fly for more than five days straight, offering a new solution for bolstering telecommunications systems during disaster situations. I wrote about this briefly in a previous bulletin.

In emergency situations, especially natural disasters and fires, the very communications networks that are so important to coordinating response are often damaged or overloaded. MIT’s long-flying drone is poised to change that.

The UAV, which resembles a glider, weighs less than 150 pounds and has a 24-foot wingspan. The petrol-powered craft can carry up to 20 pounds of telecommunications equipment at an altitude of 15,000 feet and in winds up to the 94th percentile, according to the students’ calculations.

The drone has passed initial tests after being modified to fit the FAA’s regulations for small drones, which required the payload and amount of fuel to be reduced to meet the FAA’s overall weight limit of 55 pounds. Future tests are needed to determine if the UAV can actually fly for more than five days straight.

“There are a few aspects to flying for five straight days,” Warren Hoburg, Boeing assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, said in a statement. “But we’re pretty confident that we have the right fuel burn rate and right engine that we could fly it for five days.”

The drone was designed as part of the Beaver Works capstone project at MIT in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force. The original goal of the project was to create a long-duration UAV powered by solar, but the team ultimately found that solar power was not conducive to emergency response, a field that demands reliable tools, regardless of the availability of sunlight.

A prototype constructed last fall featured a petrol engine instead, along with a frame made of lightweight materials like carbon fibre and Kevlar. It is designed to be easily dismantled and reassembled for easy transport.

The design makes the drone suitable for many long-term missions, said R. John Hansman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics.

“These vehicles could be used not only for disaster relief but also other missions, such as environmental monitoring. You might want to keep watch on wildfires or the outflow of a river,” Hansman said. Thank you to Statescoop for the body of this report.

Join us next week for more news relating to emergency communications.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.