HAMNET Report 16 June 2019

We are again indebted to Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, this time for a report on the Comrades Marathon run last Sunday. He says that this year’s event saw 29 operators positioned at selected refreshment points, along with 2 operators each at the Durban Disaster Management Centre and Scottsville Race Course JOC respectively, giving a total of 33.

“With the large number of operators required,  a joint operation between HAMNET, REACT (Radio Emergency Associated Citizen Teams using CB Radio on Ch 24 & 21) and LCCSA (Land Cruiser Club of SA) was implemented, with relay stations situated at strategic points to facilitate interoperability.  When all is said and done, we all have an interest in radio, and we were able to come together as a team and provide a solution.  My thanks to Guy ZR5GB who co-ordinated the assistance of the LCCSA members.

“Justin ZS5JW and Kimmy ZS5KIM were plunged into the deep-end this year and did an absolutely first class job of handling the Durban JOC, being operational from 04H30.  They managed all radio traffic from water tables up until Cato Ridge, when Keith ZS5WFD and Willem ZS5WA at the Pietermaritzburg JOC took over.   The Finish JOC only closed down at 20H00 after having had an early start at 7am.

“WhatsApp was used to great effect in support of normal radio traffic until around 16H00 when overloading of the cellular networks became a problem due to the large number of runners and spectators at the finish putting pressure on it.  This also had an effect on officials that were using PTT  radio systems reliant on the cellular network backbone. Good old fashioned VHF/UHF analogue radio did not suffer from this problem and continued to operate normally.

“I am pleased to report that no serious medical incidents were reported on the road, although an extensive medical plan was in place with Netcare 911 managing the event.  They had deployed 16 ambulances, 6 rapid response vehicles with Advanced Life Support, as well as 6 motor bikes with paramedics.  A helicopter was also on standby.  A full trauma centre was  established within the finish venue.  Quite a number of medical requests were made to their representatives in the JOC’s both at Durban and Pietermaritzburg and in a number of cases the runners had recovered sufficiently to continue with the race before they arrived.  Others just retired and were picked up by the rescue (bailer) buses. A number of requests for additional water and Arnica Ice for tired, aching and cramping muscles were received, but due to congestion on the route it was not possible to get additional supplies to these water points timeously.

“With over 20,000 runners and hundreds of spectators, it is always a  concern to respond to incidents on the route safely, and response times will never be as quick as would be achieved under normal road conditions.

“Justin ZS5KT at Essex Terrace in Westville had a number of issues at Table 3 with camera crews on motorbikes getting far too close to runners.  The directive issued had been to maintain a safe distance of at least 30 metres from runners.

“A bottleneck caused by major roadwork’s in the vicinity to 45th Cutting at Sherwood also resulted in large groups of runners crossing over onto the Durban bound carriageway of the M13 freeway which was open for normal traffic.  Video and still footage has been submitted by Justin and will be forwarded to the race organisers at the de-briefing.  These incidents were all reported to the JOC and logged accordingly.

“The initial plan was to link the Midlands Amateur Radio Club (MARC) 145.750 repeater to the Highway Amateur Radio Club (HARC) 145.625 repeater, but local interference was causing the 750 to lock up the 625.  Mike ZS5ML and Koos ZS5KDK were able to unlink them and we operated them in stand-alone mode.  Good use was also made of cross-band mobile repeaters, and a list with frequency/CTCSS tone allocations was circulated to avoid interference between users.

“Unfortunately due to my work commitments and the passing of OM Glen ZS5GD last year, who put in many long hours at the Expo with me in the past, we did not participate in the Comrades Expo that was held from 06 to 08 June 2019.

“Once again I extend my thanks to all of the operators that worked together to ensure the safety of all participants and spectators, as without you our task would be impossible.” Close quotation.

Thanks for the excellent report Keith. It looks as though the runners were safer because of your combined presence.

From SKA Global Headquarters, comes a report that the SKA Organisation has followed closely the recent developments towards creating constellations of satellites that aim to offer wireless broadband access in remote areas.

Prof. Philip Diamond, the SKA Director-General says “Innovation and societal impact are at the heart of our mission to deliver the world’s largest radio telescope, and indeed we feel some community pride that Wi-Fi itself originated as a globally-significant spin-off from fundamental radio astronomy research.

“Radio astronomers have been engaged for decades in the work of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) – a United Nations Agency – to regulate the international use of the radio frequency spectrum. Their efforts ensured a limited number of narrow bands of the spectrum received protection in the 1960s to allow radio astronomy to develop and conduct essential and unique research.

“Over the years however, there has been growing pressure on the spectrum due to the arrival of novel technologies. However, at the same time radio astronomy has developed extensively beyond those bands to remain at the forefront of scientific breakthroughs. In the case of the SKA, our eventual ability to observe the sky across a large part of the radio spectrum continuously, promises a wealth of discoveries in an extremely broad range of science disciplines.

“Whilst there is legislation in place at the two SKA sites in Australia and South Africa to protect the telescopes from ground-based radio interference at those frequencies, the use of air and space-borne radio communications is regulated on a collaborative international basis, often coordinated through the ITU.

“As a global project, we firmly believe in the power of collaboration. As a sector member of ITU, we are engaging directly with companies such as SpaceX to explore mitigation options and initiatives that could be applied  to ensure that the large-scale investments in the SKA and other radio telescopes, their discovery potential and the likely spin-offs coming out of their development, are safeguarded, while these new developments in telecommunications, with their obvious broader societal benefits, flourish.

“Recent public statements from SpaceX officials are reassuring in this respect and we remain optimistic that the development of such satellite constellations can be compatible with radio astronomy, preserving our ability as a society to continue advancing our knowledge about our universe.

“We look forward to further cooperation to evolve a radio astronomy friendly environment.” Close quote.

Perhaps the SKA and SpaceX’s goals ARE compatible after all.

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