HAMNET Report 28th March 2021

In a message to his regional directors, National HAMNET Director Grant Southey ZS1GS reports that he and Brian Jacobs attended a virtual meeting of the IARU Region 1 emergency communications leaders on 27th February. It was interesting to note that JS8Call was discussed a few times for Emmcomm use. Happily, SA seems to be doing very well in this field.

Greg Mossop, the Region1 co-ordinator took a liking to South Africa’s use of it during JS8Call parties and would like for us Region1operators to play with the mode during the 11/12 April QSO party.  He is proposing that we concentrate on the period 12h00-15h00UTC on the 11th, and we use the call group @R1emcor for transmissions.

Greg is looking at ways to communicate with South Africa and Grant hopes we can show him that we are more than capable.

In an interesting diversion from what we regard as a normal DXPedition, the concept of a radio-in-a-box has been developed, in a waterproof Pelican case, which is dropped off on a DXPedition site, with generator and antennas, and then operated remotely, from on board a nearby vessel. This obviates the common problem where operators are not allowed to stay on the island overnight, and so cannot take advantage of night-time conditions there, or better propagation at other times of day in other parts of the world. The ship-to-shore link has been tested with a Ubiquiti data bridge on 900 MHz, and this type of low-profile expedition may become the norm in sensitive geographical areas.

George Wallner, AA7JV, has been operating as C6AGU from Deep Water Cay in the Bahamas, during March, and tested this setup, to appease the concerns of environmental protection agencies that oppose camping on protected land. George’s setup contains a FLEX-6700 and an amplifier, and operators in his group include W6IZT, W8HC, and KN4EEI.

So far, all tests of the system have been deemed to be very successful. Thank you to the ARRL Letter of March 25th, for news of this clever development.

Now here’s a very clever technology, reported on in UASweekly.com. They report:

NEC Laboratories Europe has prototyped new, AI-enabled drone technology that quickly locates natural disaster victims using their mobile phones or smart devices in areas with damaged or no cellular infrastructure.

Finding disaster victims is slow and resource intensive. To locate victims, emergency response teams rely on line-of-sight or being in close proximity, and mortality rates are often high. NEC’s new prototype technology, SARDO (Search-And-Rescue DrOne), greatly expands search and rescue capabilities by using an autonomous drone as a mobile cellular base station to identify signals from smart devices of victims as it flies nearby.

Existing device tracking technology, such as GPS or standard cellular trilateration, is not suited for natural disaster situations. GPS tracking requires that a disaster victim be in possession of a GPS-enabled smart device and that GPS tracking be active at the time of the disaster. In the event of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or snow avalanche, cellular network infrastructure may not be working, or the disaster may have occurred in an area with inadequate coverage like a remote, mountainous region. This limits or prevents network operators from locating victims using their mobile phone signals.

SARDO fills this gap by incorporating the functionality of a cellular base station into an autonomous drone. Using pseudo-trilateration SARDO, as a mobile base station, acts as a single anchor that retrieves multiple distance measurements from a disaster victim’s smart device, taken by the drone over its flight time. The SARDO drone uses machine learning to calculate the position of a victim’s device even when that person is moving. The drone continually adjusts itself based on their predicted motion until it has identified the exact position of a victim. Says Antonio Albanese, Research Associate at NEC Laboratories Europe: “SARDO brings together the increasingly higher penetration rate of smart devices in our society and the ability of drones to reach harsh locations. We can now combine these technologies to build a standalone localization system that effectively supports first responders in disaster recovery operations. Requiring no pre-deployment effort, it can be up-and-running within minutes and keep the related deployment complexity to a minimum.”

SARDO works by identifying the unique identification number of a disaster victim’s eSIM or SIM card using the resource control connection that it establishes with a base station. With required emergency approvals, the SARDO drone can search for both a specific victim and all unknown victims within a given region. In collaboration with the network operator, search and rescue teams can also communicate directly with a victim via their devices. In large disasters with many victims, multiple SARDO drones can be used to scale up search and rescue efforts.

In earthquakes, damage to buildings is often extensive and rubble hampers search and rescue efforts. SARDO identifies rubble as a propagation environment and, by compensating for this, can predict a victim’s current location in it. In principle, this same technique is used by SARDO to identify channel artefacts produced by different propagation environments such as snow caused by avalanches or water in times of flooding.

Using commonly available parts, any commercial drone or UAV that meets disaster zone search and rescue requirements can be converted and deployed as a SARDO. This makes it extremely versatile in meeting the needs of different disaster response teams.

So, in summary, this is a more sophisticated way for a drone to calculate where that cell phone signal is coming from, while it desperately tries to ping its out-of-reach cell tower, without relying on the presence or absence of a GPS location. This should work even with my old Nokia 2110!  Thanks to UASweekly.com for the report.

It being the week before Easter, and Pesach week currently in progress, may I wish you all happy Easter and happy Pesach, and encourage all of us to remain safe, and healthy by following the rules of this pandemic game we are dicing with, and at the same time radio-active, and willing to be of help to your fellow South African. With the threat of the start of a third wave of the pandemic hovering in front of us, it behoves us to be responsible in our actions and activities.

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