HAMNET Report 26th July 2020

Here’s some obvious research emanating from the journal Paediatric Research. The authors went to a lot of trouble with this study, but showed conclusively that young children from dog-owning households have better social and emotional wellbeing than children from households who do not own a dog.

The study used questionnaire data from 1,646 households with children aged 2-5 years.

After taking into account children’s age, biological sex, sleep habits, screen time and parents’ education levels, children from dog-owning households were 23 per cent less likely to have overall difficulties with their emotions and social interactions, than children who did not own a dog.

Children from dog-owning households were 30 per cent less likely to engage in antisocial behaviours, 40 per cent less likely to have problems interacting with other children, and were 34 per cent more likely to engage in considerate behaviours, such as sharing.

Children who played with their family dog three or more times per week were 74 per cent more likely to regularly engage in considerate behaviours than those who played with their dog less than three times per week.

Associate Professor and co-author Hayley Christian, said: “While we expected that dog ownership would provide some benefits for young children’s wellbeing, we were surprised that the mere presence of a family dog was associated with many positive behaviours and emotions.”

Thanks to Univadis.co.za for this news. Mankind’s best friend really is mankind’s best friend!

IEEE Spectrum reminds you that space seems empty and therefore the perfect environment for radio communications. But don’t let that fool you: There’s still plenty that can disrupt radio communications. Earth’s fluctuating ionosphere can impair a link between a satellite and a ground station. The materials of the antenna can be distorted as it heats and cools. And the near-vacuum of space is filled with low-level ambient radio emanations, known as cosmic noise, which come from distant quasars, the sun, and the centre of our Milky Way galaxy. This noise also includes the cosmic microwave background radiation, a ghost of the big bang. Although faint, these cosmic sources can overwhelm a wireless signal over interplanetary distances.

Depending on a spacecraft’s mission, or even the particular phase of the mission, different link qualities may be desirable, such as maximizing data throughput, minimizing power usage, or ensuring that certain critical data gets through. To maintain connectivity, the communications system constantly needs to tailor its operations to the surrounding environment.

Imagine a group of astronauts on Mars. To connect to a ground station on Earth, they’ll rely on a relay satellite orbiting Mars. As the space environment changes and the planets move relative to one another, the radio settings on the ground station, the satellite orbiting Mars, and the Martian lander, will need continual adjustments. The astronauts could wait 8 to 40 minutes—the duration of a round trip—for instructions from mission control on how to adjust the settings. A better alternative is to have the radios use neural networks to adjust their settings in real time. Neural networks maintain and optimize a radio’s ability to keep in contact, even under extreme conditions such as Martian orbit. Rather than waiting for a human on Earth to tell the radio how to adapt its systems—during which the commands may have already become outdated—a radio with a neural network can do it on the fly.

Such a device is called a cognitive radio. Its neural network autonomously senses the changes in its environment, adjusts its settings accordingly—and then, most important of all, learns from the experience. That means a cognitive radio can try out new configurations in new situations, which makes it more robust in unknown environments than a traditional radio would be. Cognitive radios are thus ideal for space communications, especially far beyond Earth orbit, where the environments are relatively unknown, human intervention is impossible, and maintaining connectivity is vital.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Penn State University, in cooperation with NASA, recently tested the first cognitive radios designed to operate in space and keep missions in contact with Earth. In their tests, even the most basic cognitive radios maintained a clear signal between the International Space Station (ISS) and the ground. They believe that with further research, more advanced, more capable cognitive radios can play an integral part in successful deep-space missions in the future, where there will be no margin for error.

Now, in this barren radio landscape that is a combination of solar minimum and a COVID pandemic, I have managed to find some radio news for you.

Southgate Amateur Radio News says that August sees two GB80 Special Event Stations coming on air, marking the critical role that radar played in the Battle of Britain 80 years ago

In mid-August 1940 as events unfolded, the radar stations such as Ventor on the Isle of Wight bore the brunt of the initial wave, but stayed on air to play a vital role. Unlike its modern counterparts, the pioneering Chain Home Radar system operated over HF to VHF (~20-55 MHz).

GB80CH (Chain Home) will be operated from Chelmsford in Essex, which has the most complete surviving radar tower from the Battle of Britain. Originally located at Canewdon near the Essex coast, the 360ft tall Chain Home mast was moved to what was Marconi Research Centre in the 1950s (now BAE Systems) in Great Baddow, where it has recently been given listed status. In recent times, it has supported amateur experiments on 1.8MHz and 472kHz. The BAE Systems Great Baddow Amateur Radio Club, with amateur colleagues in local clubs, will be operating across the HF+6m bands.

GB80BRS will be operated to commemorate Bawdsey Radar Station in Suffolk, which was where radar was developed in the late 1930s and was the location of the world’s first operational radar station. This will be the latest special event station following several previous commemorations including in 2015, when the 80th anniversary of the first demonstration of working radar was made in the UK. Operation will be on the 10m to 80m bands, SSB, CW and FT8.

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

HAMNET Report 19th July 2020

The ARRL Newsletter says that Indonesia’s International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) member-society ORARI and the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space of Indonesia (LAPAN) have activated the IO-86 amateur radio satellite to facilitate emergency communication in the South Sulawesi province in the wake of flooding on July 13th. The disaster has affected nearly 5,000 families, according to Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB).

Heavy rains early this week swelled rivers and sent floodwaters, mud, and debris across roads and into thousands of homes, submerging many of them. IARU Region 3 Disaster Communication Coordinator Dani Halim, YB2TJV, reports an emergency post was established near the scene of the flooding. Some traffic is being handled on HF, and radio amateurs in Region 3 are asked to keep 7.110 MHz free for emergency communications.

Repairs to the power grid are under way. Local emergency managers and the Indonesian Red Cross have conducted a quick assessment in the field. The provincial road is covered in mud, preventing access to the main command post and the affected location.

As of July 15th, at least 16 people died, and 46 other individuals are missing. ORARI Local Soroako participated in activating the Masamba flash flood disaster relief program and proceeded directly to the disaster site. Carrying out communication support at the disaster site, ORARI Local Soroako — with Andi Baharuddin, YC8BR, who had first headed for the disaster site — and ORARI Local Luwu Utara were establishing emergency communication.

Greg G0DUB has sent a report about IARU Region 2, where Joaquin Solano XE1R reported that, on July 9th  an air ambulance en route from Santiago, Chile, to Easter Island lost communications while they were more than 1,000 nautical miles away from the mainland. The pilot resorted to the frequency of Cadena Peruana de Socorro (the Peruvian Relief Net) in 7.100 MHz to ask for help. Luckily, Guillermo, OA4DTU, and Giancarlo, OA4DSN, were on frequency. Guillermo answered the call and then called Oceanic Air Control in Chile, the official entity in charge, which was already on alert after they lost contact with the air ambulance. The HF radio at Easter Island was not in operation at that time, which complicated the situation.

After several phone calls to that entity to let them know about the airplane’s position and route, approximately at 04:30 UTC, the pilot reported that he had made VHF contact with the tower at Easter Island and he had received descent and landing instructions.

This provoked the joy and relief of all those involved in the communications effort. Later, the pilot called Guillermo by phone to thank him for his help and sent him a photo of the air ambulance on the runway while they waited for the patient to be transported to Santiago, Chile.

This operation lasted about 3 hours, from the time of first contact until the airplane arrived at the destination, with messages of gratitude being sent by Oceanic Air Control to Guillermo and to Cadena Peruana de Socorro.

Once again, the positive role of the radio amateurs in risk or emergency situations is confirmed!

And the ARRL notes in its Letter for July 16th that ARRL Contest Program Manager Paul Bourque, N1SFE, reported this week that ARRL has received more than 8,700 online Field Day entries, and paper-only entries have started arriving too.

“As many participants chose to operate from home this year, and given the 2020 rules waivers, we have seen a tremendous increase in entries over last year’s event,” Bourque said. “Most of the entries received have been through the online web app, and Headquarters staffers have begun processing the paper entries this week.” The 2020 waivers allowed individual club members to attribute their scores to their clubs.

In a late report, the ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) reports on the Red Cross Drill held on 30th May.

American Red Cross volunteer radio amateurs organized and conducted a large-scale nationwide emergency communications drill on May 30th, 2020. Planning began last November by a handful of Red Cross volunteers. Interest both within Red Cross and the larger radio amateur community grew and by May a thousand hams were registered to participate.

Training and exercises are held periodically under the provisions of the Red Cross-ARRL formal Statement of Understanding and this drill was no exception. ARRL’s ARES program provided hundreds of hams to support Red Cross in this simulated nationwide emergency. In all, over a thousand radio amateurs were active in thirty six states, including Hawaii and Alaska, as well as the territory of Puerto Rico.

Additionally, the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN), with its strong history of providing emergency and disaster communications services, participated in this joint simulation. SATERN was activated in six states.

The drill scenario was a nationwide power outage with participating hams role-playing as “shelter stations.” (No drill participant was physically deployed at a Red Cross shelter due to the risks associated with COVID-19). For future drills, actual operation at Red Cross shelters and facilities will be planned.

For this drill, each “shelter station” ham was in an area that had no power, internet or cell phone service and the Shelter Manager needed to send a requisition for supplies. The Shelter Manager would hand the ham an ARC-6409 requisition form that would then be transmitted digitally, over radio, to a Divisional Clearinghouse. There were ten of these clearinghouses set up around the nation to serve as collection points for the 6409’s and other Red Cross forms. The Divisional Clearinghouses were assumed to be “high and dry,” with power and fully-functional internet. They would be able to collect the forms and convert them into plain-English documents to send to a conventional Red Cross email address, readable by a non-ham.

This event was a booming success. More than six hundred 6409’s were sent, along with three hundred ARC- 213 message forms and almost a hundred shelter reports and staff assignment forms, demonstrating the ability of amateur radio operators to process and deliver Red Cross forms in an emergency scenario with no internet, power or cell phone services. Cooperation between ARES and Red Cross was strengthened more than ever, thanks to this exercise.

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

HAMNET Report 12th July 2020

Wilderness Search and Rescue, the volunteer rescue organization in the Western Cape, of which HAMNET is a signatory, was involved in a long search and retrieval action between Monday and Wednesday this week.

A runner had set off for a solo run along the contour paths of Table Mountain on Monday afternoon, and did not return that evening. WSAR and HMANET were activated on Tuesday and Wednesday. On the second day, a huge number of other volunteers joined the search, and there were about 500 people, in 61 search groups combing the front of Table Mountain that day. The weather was excellent, and helicopters were also able to fly, and the unfortunate runner was discovered soon after lunch on Wednesday, seemingly having fallen a distance to his death, not far from the track of the cable car, and the India Venster route up the mountain. WSAR and HAMNET extend their deepest condolences to the family of the young man

The Western Cape has been lashed by a strong winter storm this weekend, with many places recording 100mm of rain or more. Low-lying dwellings have been under water, and disaster management has had its hands full helping people who needed alternate shelter. The cold front is of course crossing the rest of the country, bringing snow and rain as I write.

But spare a thought for Japan. At least 50 people on the southwestern island of Kyushu have died after three days of torrential rains, floods and mudslides.

The casualties include 14 residents of a nursing home for the elderly in Kumamoto, the region which has sustained the worst effects of the disaster.  The nursing home was swamped by waters from the nearby Kuma River that overran its embankment, leaving residents who were wheelchair-bound trapped on the ground and unable to reach higher ground.

The disaster has washed out bridges and roads, prompting emergency crews to sail down flooded streets on rafts and inflatable boats to rescue residents trapped in their homes. Some residents were also rescued from the rooftops of their inundated homes by helicopter.

Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters last week that more than 40,000 members of the Self-Defence Force, along with local emergency first responders, were involved in search-and-rescue missions in Kyushu.

More than a million people have been ordered to evacuate the Kyushu region. And all this in amongst the need to wear masks, wash their hands regularly, and maintain a safe physical distance from other evacuees!

Thank you to the Voice of America News for these details.

Our ever-watchful friends, the Southgate Amateur Radio News team, report that the Mid Ulster Amateur Radio Club (MUARC) has made available a series of talks for everyone to view, on YouTube.

The talks are given by a variety of authors, and include:
• QO-100 geostationary satellite,
• DMR: What it is all about,
• Coaxial Cable and Connectors: know what to use and when to use them,                      • What it is like as an Air Traffic Controller,
• Urban QRM. What can I do? A Q&A,
• The RSGB OAS, and
• Amateur Radio and the Raspberry Pi.

Each talk runs for about an hour, and can be accessed by going to YouTube, and typing MUARC MEDIA in to the search bar.

Southgate also says that, following their report “ESA invites proposals for lunar lander mission in late 2020’s”, the German Amateur satellite organisation,     AMSAT-DL has submitted a major and comprehensive proposal to the European Space Agency for their Lunar Lander.

AMSAT-DL propose LUNART – Lunar Amateur Radio Transponder – a comprehensive radio platform using the European frequency standards of 2.4 GHz up and 10 GHz down which were pioneered in the QO-100 satellite project. LUNART would include low power beacons, and while high data rates would be operated from their 20 meter diameter dish at Bochum, lower data rates would be available to more modest amateur systems.

The proposal is on open access at the ESA website and is now being evaluated. It follows G0SFJ’s proposal LARIE – Lunar Amateur Radio Interaction Experiment, which made the initial case for Amateur Radio on ESA’s Lunar Lander. Both refer to weak signal modes and share the same frequency bands. Andy, G0SFJ, welcomes LUNART as a well-developed proposal, and hopes ESA will support it too.

Now from Maria Temming, at Science News, comes a report about newly christened “Dimorphos”, a tiny space rock with a big target on its back.

The International Astronomical Union gave the rock an official name on June 23rd for a unique reason: It has been marked for the first-ever asteroid deflection mission. A NASA spacecraft will ram into Dimorphos — on purpose — to alter its path through space. Although Dimorphos is not at risk of striking Earth, its nearness to our planet makes it a prime testing ground for a technique to ward off dangerous asteroids in the future.

Dimorphos is a moonlet asteroid that orbits a larger asteroid known as Didymos. Its new name, Dimorphos, is Greek for “having two forms,” in honour of the two different trajectories it will have before and after the spacecraft knocks it askew. At just 160 meters across, about the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, Dimorphos is one of the smallest objects to earn an official name from the IAU.

NASA will launch the Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft in July 2021 to crash-land on Dimorphos in September 2022, about 11 million kilometres from Earth. The collision should nudge Dimorphos into a tighter orbit around Didymos — a change that’s much easier to measure than knocking a solo asteroid into a slightly different orbit around the sun, says Kleomenis Tsiganis, a planetary scientist at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, who is working on the DART mission and suggested the name Dimorphos.

Dimorphos currently orbits Didymos once every 12 hours. By hitting it with DART, “you’re actually changing the orbital period enough — by, say, 10 minutes or 20 minutes — which could be observed even from the ground,” Tsiganis says. Telescopes on Earth will track the immediate aftermath of the crash, and the European Space Agency will send its Hera probe to Dimorphos in 2024 to ensure that the moonlet asteroid is following its new intended path.

And, in a newsletter from the Radio Amateur Society of Australia released yesterday, they announce that their e-magazine, called QTC, has been downloaded 2000 times in the last 3 days. This is a free download, and you’re welcome to take a look at vkradioamateurs.org. You will find the link to QTC there.

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

HAMNET Report 5th July 2020

The ARRL News noted on 30th June that well-known contester, DXer, and National Contest Journal (NCJ) Editor Scott Wright, K0MD, has been “substantially” stepping back from ham radio while offering his expertise to the US convalescent plasma COVID-19 Expanded Access Program. The study began in early April under the leadership of Dr Michael Joyner, MD, of the Mayo Clinic; Dr Peter Marks, MD  PhD, and Dr Nicole Verdun, MD, of the US Food and Drug Administration; Dr Arturo Casavedall, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, and Wright, who is with the Mayo Clinic. Dr Marks’ call-sign is AB3XC.

“The US Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program is a collaborative project between the US government and the Mayo Clinic to provide access to convalescent plasma for patients in the US who are hospitalized with COVID 19,” Wright told ARRL. The work has been referenced during White House press briefings and in congressional testimony. The US government-supported study collects and provides blood plasma recovered from COVID-19 patients, which contains antibodies that may help fight the disease. The Mayo Clinic is the lead institution for the program.

“My role was to organize the infrastructure and the research approach, and to help lead the set-up of the data collection and of the website teams, while overseeing the study conduct and regulatory compliance,” Wright explained.

According to a June 18th  Washington Post  article, “A large study of 20,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients who received transfusions of blood plasma from people who recovered, found the treatment was safe, and suggests giving it to people early in the disease may be beneficial.”

Nice to see two physicians there, who are radio amateurs, involved in the program.

Southgate Amateur Radio News says that The Hindu newspaper reports on the role of amateur radio volunteers during the Coronavirus quarantine in Bengaluru.

As the number of COVID-19 positive cases increase, so do those of people placed under home quarantine. A special task force has been constituted in Bengaluru to ensure that citizens placed under home quarantine follow the protocol for it. Among the citizens who have volunteered to help the task force are 260-odd HAM (amateur) radio operators in the city.

They work in shifts, coordinating with booth-level and ward-level squad members to keep a watch on home quarantined people. While most of them are operating out of their homes, three static centres have been set up in the Vasanthapura, H.B.R. Layout, and Jayanagar localities.

“We had earlier set up HF and VHF stations at the State war room. But we have decided to cut down on our movement considering the high risk involved. We are all keeping a watch in our neighbourhoods, apart from providing back-up communication to the squad and task force,” said S. Sathyapal, director of the Indian Institute of Hams.

A Forbes magazine article reports radio amateurs across North America spent last weekend doing emergency communications practice.

For twenty-four hours over the weekend of June 27 and 28, 2020, thousands of amateur radio operators across the United States and Canada set up temporary emergency communications centres where everything had to be done without external services. This meant they had to erect their own temporary antennas, provide their own emergency power and operate their equipment in temporary locations. Their goal was to prove that they can communicate with each other in times of an emergency when there’s no infrastructure available.

These amateur radio operators devote seemingly endless hours preparing their radio equipment, computers, cables and antennas required to conduct radio communications in today’s demanding environment. What’s more, these radio operators volunteered their time, provided their own equipment and transported it to a remote site without electrical power, frequently without shelter and with only the supplies they could carry. And this time, they were doing it in the middle of a pandemic where they met crowd size requirements and social distancing laws.

“They do this for the same reason we always exercise,” said former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “It’s better to have it break in practice than break during real emergencies.”

Your writer watched some videos of last week’s Field Day activities, and was distressed to see the relaxed attitude to social distancing taking place. This relaxed attitude is being evidenced also in the extreme rate at which new cases of Covid-19 are increasing in number in large parts of that country. Some states have again ordered lockdowns, and the mandatory wearing of face coverings, which of course are the right things to do.

Poor Brazil is taking strain under the influence of severe weather since 30th June, with heavy rain, strong winds, and loss of life, while at the same time becoming the country in the Americas with the second highest Covid-19 rates, after the US. Other countries experiencing heavy rain and flooding include Myanmar, China, and India, and to a lesser extent, European Georgia, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, United Kingdom and Ukraine.

And just to complete a HAMNET Bulletin devoted more or less completely to the infernal coronavirus, a Science News report by Erin Garcia de Jesus says that lockdowns implemented in some countries to reduce transmission of the coronavirus were extremely effective at controlling its rapid spread, and saved millions of lives, two new studies suggest.

Shutdowns prevented or delayed an estimated 531 million coronavirus infections across six countries — China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, France and the United States — researchers from the University of California, Berkeley reported on June 8th  in Nature.

And shutdowns saved about 3.1 million lives across 11 European countries, scientists at Imperial College London estimate in a separate study. In Europe, interventions to reduce the coronavirus’ spread brought infection rates down from pre-intervention levels by an average of 81 percent, the team reports also in Nature on June 8th.

The problem remains that there is no cure for Covid-19, and the only two things that will prevent this thing from just dragging on, are the development of a vaccine that everyone must get, or the inexorable increase in patients surviving the disease until 70% of the world’s population has had it, and when herd immunity will cause the number of new cases to dwindle away to nothing. There is no forecast possible for how long either of these will take. In the meantime, maintain safe distancing, wash your hands often, and wear a mask properly.

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