HAMNET Report 7th August 2022

In an update to news of the magnitude 7 earthquake which struck Philippines on 27th July, GDACS reports that the human and material toll of the earthquake that struck Abra Province in the Northern Philippines continues to increase. Close to 2,000 aftershocks have struck the area since then, the strongest of which was of magnitude 5.1.

On 1st August, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that 10 people had died and 394 had been injured. 50,514 people were displaced, more than 380,000 were affected, and 24,901 houses had been damaged across Ilocos region and Cordillera administrative region. 27 cities and municipalities were declared to fall under a State of Calamity, and, in the 24 hours to 2nd August, 246 aftershocks were recorded out of total of 2,202 aftershocks so far.

Writing in prnewswire.com, The Salvation Army says that, as natural disasters become more frequent and destructive across the U.S., it is prepared to assist millions of survivors and first responders with critical services. Many communities are in increasing need of a helping hand as inflation rises and the impacts of past disaster events linger.

As one of the largest disaster relief organizations in the country, The Salvation Army is already on the front lines of meeting needs, and can quickly activate response efforts unique to each community affected. In 2021 alone, The Salvation Army responded to 8,441 disasters; assisted over 2.3 million people in the aftermath of hurricanes, wildfires, winter storms, heat waves, tornadoes, and other events; and provided more than $8.3 million in financial aid to survivors.

The Salvation Army is on the ground now in Southeast Kentucky after historic flooding impacted the area and is coordinating their efforts with state and local officials, as well as other participating relief agencies. Salvation Army teams, responding to the disaster, plan to continue providing meals, drinks, snacks, clean-up kits, and emotional and spiritual care for as long as their services are needed.

Trained Salvation Army staff and volunteers have served in the wake of every major disaster since 1900. In addition to offering disaster-preparedness training programs across the country to get individuals and communities ready for emergencies, The Salvation Army also has a disaster preparedness handbook available.

When a disaster strikes, The Salvation Army works with organizations and federal authorities to identify and mobilize resources through their national network of disaster professionals and service locations positioned in all 50 states, and support survivors and first responders through mobile units that provide food, hydration, hygiene products, and emotional and spiritual care.

So, a huge congratulatory pat on the back definitely goes to this very dynamic emergency response organization!

In world news from Ukraine, we hear that the head of the UN‘s nuclear agency has warned that a massive nuclear power plant captured by Russia during the Ukraine invasion is “completely out of control”.

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (pronounced “Zap-or-ritzia”), the largest such plant in Europe and responsible for one fifth of Ukraine’s energy needs, was seized by advancing Russian forces on March 4.

Under Russian control, it continues to generate electricity. However there are reports that it is also being used as a weapons store with several rocket launchers moved to the station’s grounds on the banks of the strategically important Dnipro River.

UN nuclear official Rafael Grossi warned that the Zaporizhzhia plant needed an urgent inspection and repairs.

“You have a catalogue of things that should never be happening in any nuclear facility,” he said at a UN conference in New York.

“The situation is very fragile. Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated one way or the other and we cannot allow that to continue.”

He said communication with staff at the plant had been “patchy”, warning the region will only have itself to blame if a nuclear disaster unfolds.

“While this war rages on, inaction is unconscionable,” he said. ”If an accident occurs at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, we will not have a natural disaster to blame – we will have only ourselves to answer to. We need everyone‘s support.”

Writing in Newsweek on Thursday, Ed Browne noted that a sunspot on the far side of the sun is so large that it’s changing the way sound moves through our star—and it could be revealed to us in days.

Sunspots are a known source of eruptions from our sun known as solar flares—bursts of radiation that travel to Earth at the speed of light. These flares, along with other potentially disruptive eruptions known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), are released whenever the intense magnetic fields associated with sunspots suddenly reorganize themselves.

Thus, scientists like to keep track of sunspots as they can be useful indicators of how active the sun is at a given moment. Flares, CMEs, and other solar phenomena that can affect Earth may be referred to as space weather.

Because the sun is a sphere, we can only directly see the sunspots that are facing us. However, it is also possible to detect sunspots on the back of the sun as well. Scientists can detect far-side sunspots and other hidden solar activity using a technique known as helioseismology.

Helioseismology is similar to regular seismology here on Earth. It works on the basis that sound waves, or vibrations, can travel through the interior of the sun and can be used to measure the star’s internal structure and dynamics.

These sound waves can be measured by observing the light released from turbulent gas on the sun’s surface on our side. By observing changes to the wave patterns on the sun’s visible side, it is possible to detect sunspots that are occurring on the other side, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). Using this method, it’s possible to produce an activity map of the entire sun every 12 hours.

“The detection of active regions on the far side of the Sun’s surface is of great importance for space weather predictions,” the U.S. National Solar Observatory (NSO) states on its website.

Currently however, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Centre (SWPC) does not have any significant space weather warnings or alerts in place. We’ll have to see what happens in the next week, as the far side of the sun rotates into view.

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

HAMNET Report 31st July 2022

There have been two major earthquakes around the Pacific Rim of Fire this week. The first was a magnitude 5.7 in Ecuador, just south of its border with Colombia on Monday the 25th, and at a depth of 10Km. Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute reported eight aftershocks of magnitude 4 or greater.

The US Geological Survey estimates that up to 1000 people experienced very strong shaking, and up to 59000 strong shaking. Injures to 8 people were reported, and 350 houses damaged or destroyed.

The second more severe earthquake struck on the West coast of the Cordillera Region of Luzon in Philippines, with magnitude 7.1 on 27th July, and also at a depth of 10km. A population of 157 thousand people in the area was exposed to shaking of at least magnitude 7, and 15000 people were displaced by the damage which occurred. At least five aftershocks of 4.5 magnitude or greater were reported in the next 24 hours.

In a world of runaway wildfires, as temperatures soar, it’s good to hear that radio amateurs helped prevent one. The ARRL Letter of this week reports that, while participating in the Black Hills Amateur Radio Club’s annual Summits on the Air (SOTA) event in South Dakota on July 16, 2022, two amateur radio operators helped spot a potential forest fire.

Ryan Lindblom, KE0LXT, President of the Black Hills ARC, and Christopher Jaques, KD0RAS, had made their trek to Cicero Peak. Just before heading back down, they noticed what might be smoke or dust to the south near Hot Springs. Lindblom made a contact on their simplex frequency to ask a local amateur radio operator if there had been any reports of Forest Service activity in the area.

An off-duty ranger, who was monitoring a local ham repeater from his home, and who heard the traffic from Cicero Peak, called in the alert. A fire crew and a helicopter were able to contain a small fire 2.5 miles south of Pringle, South Dakota.

Ward Hall, WC0Y, attending the Black Hills SOTA weekend for his second year, reported that a forest ranger on Bear Mountain stepped out of the ranger tower to greet him, but at the time, was busy monitoring firefighting traffic.

“I could hear the radio activity while I was on the ground near the tower,” said Hall. “The ranger later told me that the Forest Service was alerted to a small fire when an off-duty ranger was monitoring a local ham repeater and heard the traffic from Cicero Peak”. Hall said the ranger credited the ham activity for an early alert that allowed them to address the fire while it was small. “He was very appreciative of how the ham activity helped them and asked that I pass it on,” Hall added.

ARRL Dakota Division Director Bill Lippert, AC0W, applauded the work of the amateur radio operators for early reporting of what could have been a major fire, as well as credited the Forest Service for their quick response.

On the redcross.org website, Rick Steeves notes that “Information technology and communication are so important in the wake of a disaster”. As a member of a Red Cross international crisis response team, Steeves and his colleagues are often on the ground within 24 to 48 hours after disaster strikes to set up satellite communications, ensuring responders and those on the ground can get the critical supplies and relief they need.

“Our work lays the foundations for other humanitarian teams focused on food, clean water, shelter and other necessities after a major international event,” Steeves said.

At a recent week-long training, Steeves and 20 of his Red Cross colleagues gathered to share best practices. Rustam Makhmudov, who organized the training for the Red Cross, says that practicing the logistics and troubleshooting the technology before a disaster is critical to the success of any international operation.

“The main goal is for our volunteers — old and new — to walk away with tangible skills to take to the field. We are also building a team spirit and enthusiasm that we bring to the work. The more we do this in training, the better we can help people when disaster strikes,” he said.

Rather than in the mountains of Nepal or the coast of Mozambique, volunteers from around the country and Haiti gathered in Maryland to set up telecommunications gear and troubleshoot equipment. The goal was to simulate field conditions during an international crisis such as a hurricane, typhoon or earthquake. They worked with three satellite terminals to practice support for a basecamp for a hospital or field operations hub.

According to Makhmudov, simulating field experiences with volunteers is a critical component of the training. “Due to COVID, our team hasn’t been able to gather and share best practices for some time. During a crisis response, the situation on the ground is complicated and fast-paced. One of the best ways to learn and prepare is to do hands-on practice with the equipment,” he said.

Makhmudov said it takes time to position the ground terminal at the proper angle. “That’s the trickiest part of working with this equipment because we have to pinpoint exactly where the satellite is to establish a connection,” he said. Once they establish a connection, responders can link to the outside world. “Communication is everything. It helps other responders during the disaster successfully accomplish their mission and help those who need it most,” he said.

A Red Cross volunteer since 2005, Julie Bradley deployed to Myanmar, Nepal and Puerto Rico as an Information Technology Emergency Response Unit responder. She says that she’s shown up at a disaster and been told that medical professionals are waiting for the internet to be restored so that they can perform a life-saving operation.

“This puts the importance of our work in focus. Simply put — people’s lives depend upon us,” she said.  Bradley says that she and her fellow Red Crossers enjoyed the training and are ready to go out into the field. “We do this work because we like to feel valued and appreciated. We like to feel like we are a part of something larger than ourselves. After this training, we are prepared,” she said.

Thank you to the American Red Cross website for excerpts from their article.

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

HAMNET Report 24th July 2022

Across Western Europe, the wildfires continue. Portugal reports five active fires, and several deaths, including a firefighter aeroplane pilot, and a tally of 728 firefighters deployed in the five areas.

Spain is experiencing at least 30 active fires, and at least 7500 people have been evacuated away from the danger areas. Two deaths were reported on Wednesday.

In France, more than 19000 hectares of vegetation has been destroyed since the 12th of July, and about 43000 people have had to be moved to safety.

The fire risks in all these countries are reported to be extreme, as the heatwave continues, and the vegetation remains tinder-dry.

And north-eastern Italy, Greece and Slovenia are the latest countries to be experiencing wild fires, according to reports from GDACS on Thursday and Friday.

Psychology Today has an interesting article on the positive effects of being exposed to a major stressful situation.

Mark Travers says that a new study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin informs us that the aftermath of a mass trauma or natural disaster could benefit an individual’s mental health because of “psychosocial gains from adversity.” The study suggests that these benefits could be a direct result of a spike in perceived social support and social resources.

Lead author Anthony Mancini of Pace University in New York cites the example of the Virginia Tech campus shootings, which inspired his research, to illustrate this concept.

A study conducted at Virginia Tech on participants with anxiety and depression before the shootings happened revealed that nearly half of the group showed significant improvement in their mental state in its aftermath.

After realizing that this wasn’t an uncommon phenomenon and formulating the “psychosocial gain from adversity” theory, Mancini got the rare opportunity to test it out in real-time, using the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in New York.

Mancini and his colleagues were conducting a study on adaptation to college, which placed them in the unique position of having already conducted an assessment of the student body before the hurricane hit, which they were able to repeat in its aftermath. The team went a step further two semesters later, studying another cohort of students which had not had any hurricane exposure.

“Both comparisons showed that the hurricane cohort was doing better,” Mancini reports. “When we compared their functioning before and after, the hurricane cohort experienced reduced distress, negative emotion, and attachment avoidance.”

The students also reported an increase in social support. The hurricane cohort, compared to the cohort one year later, had more social support, less attachment anxiety, and less attachment avoidance. This means that the hurricane cohort was actually better off as a result of the hurricane.

Mancini explains that our instinct to affiliate with others after disaster exposure most likely has evolutionary roots, is related to the attachment system, and helps us cope with adversity generally. “Because social behaviour and relationships are critical to mental health, stress can then have surprising benefits on our level of distress, our concerns about our relationships, and the level of responsiveness we experience from others,” he explains.

For anyone who has weathered a natural disaster or faced a similar stressor in their life recently, he has the following advice: “Obey the instinct to affiliate with others after stressful experiences. They will likely be receptive and you may find that you have forged a new relationship or strengthened an existing one, both of which will be to your benefit in the future.”

Thanks to Psychology Today for these excerpts.

In the light of the glancing blows the earth received from a coronal mass ejection this week, which could have had a serious impact, The Irish Times reports that an innovative plan by Irish scientists to provide an early warning system for the arrival of solar storms powerful enough to disrupt critical infrastructure on Earth — using six tiny satellites — has received European Space Agency (ESA) backing.

The Sun regularly produces solar eruptions in the form of flares, or bigger solar storms, which then travel rapidly across space and disrupt navigation systems, radio communications, power grids and spacecraft instrumentation upon reaching the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Surround mission, a collaboration involving scientists at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) and engineers at the University of Manchester is to explore new ways to track reliably the precise direction in which a solar storm is travelling.

Scientists understand that whether the storm’s magnetic field is pointing upwards, downwards, left or right determines whether it has a minimal or large impact on Earth. A major problem now is that because solar storm prediction is unreliable, there are a lot of “false calls” on how impactful a solar storm will be on reaching us.

“What we particularly care about is trying to triangulate their positions and track [solar storms],” says Prof Peter Gallagher, head of astrophysics at DIAS and its lead space weather research investigator. “You can then work out accurate arrival times at Earth; that’s the holy grail.”

The size of solar storms varies, says Gallagher, but some can be many times the size of Earth, and completely envelop the planet. “If they give us a glancing blow, they are not as effective, or ‘geo-effective’ we call it. If there is a full head-on impact, they will envelop the whole Earth, cause the Aurora Borealis, and problems with shortwave communications and GPS.”

When solar storms erupt they fire off electrons and protons held in a superheated gas (or plasma), which is carried across space by a solar wind — a stream of particles travelling from the sun at about a million miles per hour. The storms are a health hazard to astronauts and flight crews flying over the poles, where their impact is greatest.

The Surround mission is proposing to use a constellation of CubeSats better to track, monitor and predict solar storms. The plan is to launch six CubeSats, each with radio spectrometers to track the solar radio bursts associated with solar storms that can disrupt our global navigation satellite systems by interfering with radio waves. The CubeSats, which will each sit in separate locations in space, will combine to track solar storms from multiple angles.

I wonder if there is an English word describing to “triangulate” from six directions?

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

HAMNET Report 17th July 2022

In the face of the severe heatwave affecting much of Central and Western Europe, France, Spain and Portugal have been experiencing many wildfires this week. In Spain, temperatures in the low 40’s Celsius were measured on several days of the week.

According to the Portuguese National Authority for Emergency and Civil Protection (ProCiv), 10 major fires have been burning across Portugal, and a total of 144 fires were registered on 9 July. These fires were mainly located in the central part of the country in the districts of Leiria and Santarém, involving 1185 firefighters, 237 vehicles, and with assistance from 15 fire-fighting aircraft.

On 9 July, Portugal activated the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) and made a request for assistance for 1 Aerial Forest Fire Fighting Module. In response, the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) invited Spain to mobilise 2 Canadair airplanes, which were deployed to Portugal on the morning of 10th July.

Portugal continues to face an extreme fire risk in the upcoming days compounded by high temperatures, strong winds, low relative humidity and drought conditions. Considering this and the actual operational situation, the general response level was raised on 11th July from orange to red, and a Civil Protection Contingency Declaration Situation was issued.

As of 12th July at 7.00 UTC, there are about 27 wildfire events (of which three were active and ongoing and two were under control) across Portugal, including two events located north of Lisbon Capital City. Portuguese authorities have mobilised more than 2 000 firefighters. At least 26 people have been reported injured.

And, in France, forest fires have been affecting south-western France over the past 24 hours, causing evacuations and damage.

According to the Operational Centre for Inter-ministerial Crisis Management (COGIC), as of 13 July, there were two main active fires. So far, the burnt area is of approximately 1 400 hectares. For both fires 230 firefighters, two Canadair and two other aircraft were deployed.

COGIC reports around 6 000 evacuated people in one temporary accommodation centre in the area of La Teste-de-Buch municipality. In addition, the same source reports 520 preventively evacuated people in other areas.

By Thursday, Spain was reporting that several forest fires had reportedly broken out across Spain, resulting in evacuations. Firefighting operations continued to be hindered by weather conditions and lack of visibility limiting the performance of aerial resources.

According to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), the fire risk was expected to be “extreme” to “very extreme” from 13-15th July over most of Spain, including the abovementioned areas affected by the ongoing fires.

Our man Greg Mossop G0DUB of IARU Region 1 has issued a directive about a “digital check-in exercise” he proposes to hold in our region from 08h00 to 11h00 UTC on Saturday July the 30th.

The objectives are to encourage the use of digital modes for message passing, to practice relaying messages that may have been received on other modes ( e.g. SSB/CW), and to reinforce the fact that the message format should not change between transmission modes or relays.

Frequencies to be used are those appropriate for the digital mode in question, according to band-plan convention, and the idea is that stations should send messages in plain text IARU format to one of the following destinations;

Winlink: G0DUB

APRS: G0DUB

e-mail: exercise@raynet-hf.net

The Subject line of the message must be in the format “//WL2K R/ G0DUB Chester GBR” allowing the message to be sent through ‘hybrid mode’

The Winlink protocol should whitelist the destination email address, set the message priority and show the callsign and city of the destination.

The body of the message is as described below.

APRS messages should follow the format specified in http://aprs.org/doc/APRS101.PDF page 75  entitled “NTS Radiograms”.

Between 11h00 UTC and 14h00 UTC, G0DUB will review all messages received and prepare responses/comments which will be sent from 14h00 UTC.

Participating stations should check in again with their digital systems between 14h00-17h00 UTC to pick up those responses.

Messages should be sent in plain text format, the content is not critical in this exercise. The key feature is that the message format is followed.

He then lays out an example of the format the message should follow, based on the specification mentioned above.

Stations will receive feedback that their original message was received correctly. If no feedback is received then the originator should email exercise@raynet-hf.net to report that two-way communication failed.

 

After the test, information will be compiled on how many messages were exchanged and how many were successful in meeting the exercise objectives.

We wish all participating stations success in formatting and sending their messages successfully, with a view to getting used to the protocol needed to ensure that the message is correctly received.

With the geostationary QO-100 satellite fresh in South African radio operator’s minds at present, an interesting article in Hackaday.com this week, by Dan Maloney gives us food for thought.

The problem is that Software Defined Radios which will transmit at 2.4 GHz, and receive at 10.45 GHz are few and far between, if price is any objection. The most available system is the ADALM PLUTO, which will do the job relatively cheaply, but at the price of frequency stability.

Dan says he was pleased to see that the problem of SDR frequency stability was tackled by using a GPS-disciplined oscillator. The setup uses the ADALM-PLUTO SDR transceiver and a precision oscillator from Leo Bodnar Electronics. The oscillator can be programmed to output a rock-solid, GPS-disciplined signal over a wide range of frequencies. The Pluto has an external oscillator input that looks for 40 MHz, which is well within the range of the GPS Disciplined Oscillator.

Setup is as easy as plugging the oscillator’s output into the SDR’s external clock input using an SMA to UFL jumper, and tweaking the settings in the SDR and oscillator. Not all SDRs will have an external clock input, of course, so your mileage may vary. But if your gear is suitably equipped, this looks like a great way to get bang-on frequency.

Hackaday.com’s blog for 13th July includes a decent picture of the PLUTO and the oscillator, and a video of the Leo Bodnar Oscillator in use.

It is an exciting area to be investigating, and IARU Region 1 is lucky to have the availability of the Qatar Es’hail 2 satellite parked in geostationary orbit above us for continuous use.

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

HAMNET Report 10th July 2022

Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, Regional Director of HAMNET KwaZulu Natal, has issued a report about the Scottburgh to Brighton Paddle Ski Race of last week. He says:

”Hamnet KZN provided eleven operators to ensure the safety of competitors for this event on Saturday 2nd July 2022.

“The event covered 46.5Km starting at Scottburgh on the lower South Coast at 07H00, a compulsory check-in at the beach in Amanzimtoti, then finishing at Brighton Beach on the Bluff in eThekwini (Durban) This used to be South Africa’s premier ocean paddle ski race, however, the effects of Covid 19, the recent floods and damage to infrastructure resulting in serious water pollution have certainly taken their toll.

“Only 10 Single and 23 Doubles entered the race. A number of potential entrants are also set to run the Comrades Marathon later this year and presumably this may have influenced their decision not to participate for fear of falling ill. A high E.coli count had been recorded and the public were being warned not to eat sardines caught in the recent sardine run.

“Hamnet KZN operators were positioned at key vantage points along the route and able to advise the control station at Athlone Park of any incidents via 145.550 Simplex.

“Communications were maintained with Inshore Rescue Boats(IRB’s) via a commercial simplex radio channel which proved to be a challenge as it was found out later that a number of their batteries had corrosion and would need to be replaced.  This event was a joint operation involving Hamnet KZN, Lifesaving South Africa, NSRI and eThekwini Lifeguards.

“I am pleased to report that no serious incidents occurred although a couple of competitors did end up on the rocks at Amanzimtoti and their skis broken in half.

“They were assisted by lifeguards who paddled out to them and brought them to safety.

“My thanks to all of those who assisted with the event, namely:

“Keith ZS5WFD, Duncan ZS5DGR, Roeloff ZS5RPC, Pravin ZS5LT, Ben ZS5BN, Troy ZS5TWJ,  Geoff ZS5AGM, Val ZS5VAL, Shaun ZS5SM, Kathy ZS5OL and Rob ZS5ROB.”

Thank you, Keith for the report, and well done to the skilled operators.

The ARRL Letter for 7th July says that Makani ‘Ino is Hawaiian for “big wind” and the name of Hawaii’s Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) upcoming hurricane emergency communications drill. The drill will assess the ability of amateur radio operators to establish emergency radio communications in the event of a severe infrastructure failure due to hurricane-like conditions.

In addition to testing two-way radio communications, the drill will also use Winlink Global Radio Email® to send and receive messages from surrounding islands and participating agencies. Radio operators will first use radio, and then they’ll send simulated digital messages using Winlink for reports and requests for assistance.

Hawaii ARES Public Information Officer Michael Miller, KH6ML, said, “With this drill, we are also trying to increase the level of participation, so that all operators have the chance to develop the skill sets for real-world situations.” Miller added, “It is important for younger, or new, amateur radio operators to know they can use their digital skills in emergency situations.”

Miller also said they will be sending after-action reports to participating agencies, such as the National Weather Service and the American Red Cross, to help improve communications using amateur radio technology.

This is the second state-wide drill conducted by Hawaii ARES in 2022. Makani ‘Ino [takes place on] Saturday, July 16, 2022, from 9 AM to noon, Hawaii Standard Time.

The main question all bees need answered for them is: Where are those flowers and how far away are they? This is the crux of the ‘waggle dance’ performed by honeybees to alert others to the location of nectar-rich flowers. A new study in Frontiers in Robotics and AI has taken inspiration from this technique to devise a way for robots to communicate. The first robot traces a shape on the floor, and the shape’s orientation and the time it takes to trace it tell the second robot the required direction and distance of travel. The technique could prove invaluable in situations where robot labour is required but network communications are unreliable, such as in a disaster zone or in space.

If you have ever found yourself in a noisy environment, such as a factory floor, you may have noticed that humans are adept at communicating using gestures. Well, we aren’t the only ones. In fact, honeybees take non-verbal communication to a whole new level.

By wiggling their backside while parading through the hive, they can let other honeybees know about the location of food. The direction of this ‘waggle dance’ lets other bees know the direction of the food with respect to the hive and the sun, and the duration of the dance lets them know how far away it is. It is a simple but effective way to convey complex geographical coordinates.

This ingenious method of communication inspired the researchers behind this latest study to apply it to the world of robotics. Robot cooperation allows multiple robots to coordinate and complete complex tasks. Typically, robots communicate using digital networks, but what happens when these are unreliable, such as during an emergency or in remote locations? Moreover, how can humans communicate with robots in such a scenario?

To address this, the researchers designed a visual communication system for robots with on-board cameras, using algorithms that allow the robots to interpret what they see. They tested the system using a simple task, where a package in a warehouse needed to be moved. The system allows a human to communicate with a “messenger robot”, which supervises and instructs a ‘handling robot’ that performs the task.

In this situation, the human can communicate with the messenger robot using gestures, such as a raised hand with a closed fist. The robot can recognize the gesture using its on-board camera and skeletal tracking algorithms. Once the human has shown the messenger robot where the package is, it conveys this information to the handling robot.

This involves positioning itself in front of the handling robot and tracing a specific shape on the ground. The orientation of the shape indicates the required direction of travel, while the length of time it takes to trace it indicates the distance. This robot dance would make a worker bee proud, but did it work?

The researchers put it to the test using a computer simulation, and with real robots and human volunteers. The [real and human] robots interpreted the gestures correctly 90% and 93.3% of the time, respectively, highlighting the potential of the technique.

“This technique could be useful in places where communication network coverage is insufficient and intermittent, such as robot search-and-rescue operations in disaster zones or in robots that undertake space walks,” said Prof Abhra Roy Chowdhury of the Indian Institute of Science, senior author on the study. “This method depends on robot vision through a simple camera, and therefore it is compatible with robots of various sizes and configurations and is scalable,” added Kaustubh Joshi of the University of Maryland, first author on the study.

Hmm, I’m sure you’ll agree it is not only bees or robots that understand the meaning of the wiggling of backsides!

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

HAMNET Report 3rd July 2022

On Wednesday last, Greg Mossop G0DUB passed on a communique from Carlos Alberto Gonzalez, CO2JC, of IARU Region 2, reporting that Venezuela and Nicaragua were preparing for the second Tropical Cyclone of the season, not yet named, and asking for a range of HF frequencies to be kept clear of casual chatter, while emergency communicators were using them.

The Cyclone was entering the Caribbean Sea that evening, and the island nations were playing safe, rather than sorry.

By Friday, Carlos was reporting that the cyclone had passed close to, but not crossed the coast of Venezuela, and they were relaxing their frequency restrictions.

Carlos said further that Colombia’s network on 7060 KHz was active, that Costa Rica was spared, but that Nicaragua had declared a red, or maximum, alert at their southern border with Costa Rica, and an orange alert for the rest of the country. Costa Rica was to start constant monitoring from Friday the 1st starting at midday their time. Guatemala was also activating a preventative network, with a view to aiding their various neighbours if required.

There has been no further word of the cyclone itself, so, at this stage, it all seems to be proactive, rather than reactive.

On the other side of the globe, Tropical Cyclone CHABA-22 started bearing down on the coast of China on Wednesday, with estimated wind speeds of about 120km/h, threatening 6.17 million people in its path. It was predicted to reach the island of Hainan yesterday the 2nd, strengthening as it progressed, and causing heavy rainfall and strong winds over Southern China, in Guangdong Province.

Reporting from England, Dr Corwin Wright, of the Centre for Space, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the University of Bath, says that the January volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered a tsunami was among the most powerful ever recorded, sending shockwaves around the world and into the edge of space, according to new research. It was as big as notorious Krakatoa in 1883 and sent gravity waves reverberating around the Earth reaching more than 60 miles into the upper atmosphere.

The volcanic eruption was hundreds of times stronger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II. It affected radio communications, GPS systems, telescopes, and even weather systems.

“This was a genuinely huge explosion, and truly unique in terms of what has been observed by science to date. We have never seen atmospheric waves going round the whole world before, or at this speed – they were traveling very close to the theoretical limit,” says lead author Dr Wright in the statement. “The eruption was an amazing natural experiment. The data we have been able to gather on it will enhance our understanding of our atmosphere and will help us improve our weather and climate models.”

After a series of smaller events beginning in December, Hunga Tonga blew on January 15, 2022, producing a vertical plume that rose more than 50 km into the sky. Heat released from water and hot ash fuelled gravity waves on Earth for the next 12 hours.

There were only three confirmed deaths, which is a miracle given that whole communities were left under a blanket of volcanic ash and mud from the massive tidal wave that followed. About 84 percent of the total population of the Island nation of Tonga was affected.

As predicted, in the week after the ARRL-sponsored Field Day exercise in the U.S., the online news has been full of report-backs, too many to read and mention. There were upwards of 2400 stations on the air over that weekend, and the ARRL letter of Thursday the 30th June reports that it had already received logs revealing 517000 contacts made in the 24 hour period.

Many amateurs took the time during the exercise, and afterwards to make videos, which they have posted on YouTube, reporting on their successes and failures, and showing off their very swanky radio gear. If you have the time and the inclination, go to YouTube, and type “ARRL Field Day 2022” into the search bar, and you will find many reports to digest and enjoy.

In a separate report in the ARRL News of 30th June, mention is made of a 2 day exercise by radio amateurs, joined by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), local and county law enforcement agencies, and the EmComm Training Organization (ETO) for participation in a functional earthquake exercise in southern California, known as SoCal Shifting 2022.

The goal of the exercise, which took place on June 18th and 19th, was to test the operational capability and readiness of the Winlink Global Radio Email® system using amateur radio frequencies.

Oliver Dully, K6OLI, District Emergency Coordinator of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) Los Angeles Northeast District, said the exercise came together quickly over 5 days, with the help of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Disaster Communications Service (DCS), the San Diego ARES, and the Ventura County ARES.

Dully said, “Amateur operators routinely hold weekly tests but need to be network-aware and used to the battle rhythm during emergencies to move traffic in [a] more timely manner.”

The exercise scenario included a cluster of earthquakes occurring on June 18 at 10:18 AM Pacific Standard Time, and amateur radio operators were asked to send a series of messages ranging from a “Did You Feel It (DYFI)” report to a Field Station Report (FSR).

Dully said the exercise was a great success, stating: “Participants were only given a short 3 days’ notice, so the great success of the SoCal Shifting 2022 functional exercise again demonstrates the value of regular, mission-focused training and collaboration.”

Dully said the numbers from the final after-action report were outstanding:

The ARES Los Angeles Northeast District tactical call sign received 372 messages from 101 participating stations during this exercise, all via Winlink.

Regrettably, Winlink and its superb features are not sufficiently popular or understood by Emcomm operators in this country. I hope that this lack of use can be remedied in future.

We end with a quickie. The Daily Maverick reported this week that more than 2000 spinoff technologies have resulted from NASA space missions. This ranges from memory foam to cochlear implants, and is good information for the next time that somebody tells you that space exploration is a waste of money!

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

HAMNET report 26th June 2022

CNN reports that aid groups scrambled on Thursday to reach victims of a powerful earthquake that rocked eastern Afghanistan, killing more than 1,000 people in an area blighted by poor infrastructure, as the country faces dire economic and hunger crises.

The slow response, exacerbated by international sanctions and decades of mismanagement, concerns people working in the humanitarian space, like Obaidullah Baheer, lecturer in Transitional Justice at the American University of Afghanistan. “This is a very patchwork, band-aid solution for a problem that we need to start thinking (about) mid to long term… what do we do when (another disaster) hits?” he asked CNN by phone.

The magnitude 5.9 quake struck during the early hours of Wednesday near the city of Khost close to the Pakistan border and the death toll is expected to rise as many of the homes in the area were flimsily made out of wood, mud and other materials vulnerable to damage.

Humanitarian agencies are converging on the area, but its remote location has complicated rescue efforts.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has successfully dispatched humanitarian aid and assistance to families in Paktika and Khost provinces to cover the needs of about 4,000 people, a spokesperson for UN Secretary General António Guterres said during a Thursday press briefing.

Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the “priority needs include emergency shelter and non-food items, food assistance, health and water and sanitation, as well as hygiene support.”

He added that the World Food Program (WFP) has confirmed stocks of food will be able to serve at least 14,000 people in the hardest-hit Paktika province.

“At least 18 trucks are making their way to the earthquake-affected areas carrying emergency supplies, including high-energy biscuits and mobile storage units,” a WFP statement released Thursday said.

UNICEF Afghanistan tweeted that they were able to distribute “hygiene kits, winter kits, emergency family kitchen kits, tents, blankets, warm clothes and tarpaulin” to affected individuals in Paktika and Khost.

The quake coincided with heavy monsoon rain and wind between June 20 and 22, which has hampered search efforts and helicopter travel.

As medics and emergency staff from around the country attempt to access the site, help is expected to be limited as a number of organizations pulled out of the aid-dependent country when the Taliban took power in August last year.

Those that remain are stretched thin. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it had mobilized “all of the resources” from around the country, with teams on the ground providing medicine and emergency support. But, as one WHO official put it, “the resources are overstretched here, not just for this region.”

It is estimated that 7,000 people were exposed to very strong and 119,000 to strong shaking. The most affected province is Paktika Province (south of Khost Province) with at least 200 deaths, but fatalities were also reported in the Provinces of Khost and Nangarhar. The seismic event was also felt in Pakistan and India.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that Ofcom is proposing to allow satellite operators to access more spectrum so they can provide a wider range of broadband services, including in hard-to-reach areas.

Ofcom says “As consumer demand for satellite services increases, we want to support innovation by extending spectrum access under our Earth Station Network licence to include the 14.25-14.5 GHz band.

“This would double the capacity available to satellite operators in what is known as the “Ku band”, meaning they would be able to use the full 14-14.5 GHz band for their services.

“This would support better broadband for more rural homes and businesses, as well as connecting planes and ships. In the future, these new frequencies could also help connect road vehicles, trains and drones, including in more remote parts of the UK.

“As part of this approach, new conditions would also be introduced to protect existing radio astronomy sites making observations in the 14.47-14.5 GHz band from interference. We also plan to introduce temporary conditions to protect any fixed links remaining temporarily in the band.”

They don’t specify whether these frequency allocations would only apply to the UK, or whether the allocations would also be encouraged in other parts of the world.

Reporting on Wednesday the 22nd, on cnet.com, Erick Mack noted that space weather watchers were keeping a close eye on a dark and volatile spot on the sun that had grown dramatically this week.

Between Sunday and Monday, Sunspot AR3038 more than doubled in size, making it several times wider than Earth’s diameter, and it continued to expand until Wednesday, according to NASA heliophysicist C. Alex Young, writing at EarthSky.

Sunspots are darkened, cooler areas on the sun’s surface with unstable magnetic fields, and they can produce solar flares and coronal mass ejections of charged particles and plasma. These flares and ejections occasionally cause chaos for electrical and radio communications systems here on Earth.

Over the last day, the mega-sunspot let off a pair of minor, C-class solar flares while pointing straight at Earth, but Astronomer Tony Phillips reports at Spaceweather.com that “Sunspot AR3038 has a ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field that harbours energy for (medium strength) M-class solar flares.”

Generally M-class flares aren’t that big of a deal, but earlier this year, a flurry of M-class flare activity created a geomagnetic storm strong enough that SpaceX reported it had essentially fried a number of its Starlink satellites.

Our magnetosphere prevents the radioactive eruptions from harming life on the surface of Earth, but it does pose a risk to our communications systems, astronauts in space and even the electrical grid on the ground, particularly more powerful X-class flares.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Centre forecast a 25 to 30 percent chance of M-class flares over the following three days and a 5 to 10 percent chance of X-class flares.

We end this bulletin in the same manner that we started it, with news of another Magnitude 5+ earthquake, this one a 5.6 strength quake on the Iranian coast of the Gulf of Aden, which occurred yesterday morning at 2am our time.

It occurred at a depth of 10km and exposed a smallish population of about 3000 people to severe shaking. At the time of writing, I am unaware of any casualties or humanitarian assistance needed. There may be more news next week.

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

HAMNET Report 19th June 2022

May I start this report by wishing all the fathers listening a Happy Father’s Day? I hope you are accorded the gratitude you earned, and that you have a wonderful day with your families.

The biggest outdoor radio activity in America’s calendar takes place next weekend, with the arrival of the annual Field Day event. Every club or group in the country will be setting up a station away from electricity and permanent antenna structures, and attempting to make contact with as many other similar stations as possible.

The American press is full of announcements of local clubs and their plans to activate stations in fields, meadows, hills, and probably mountains, running fairly portable equipment on battery power, supported by solar panels, generators or cars alternators. Low power communications will be prevalent, and hopefully the sun will play the game and provide decent ionospheric conditions to allow low power signals to be heard.

Obviously, the value of Field Day lies in training the average operator to be of use in emergency communications, helping to deal with the extreme weather conditions which the Americas so often face. We all benefit from the frequencies we are allocated, on the proviso that we be prepared to assist our individual countries when disasters of any sort strike, and America is not different.

Follow-up reports of field day experiences will be presented for several months in publications and newsletters, and post mortems of what went right, and what didn’t, will abound. No doubt I’ll have several of those for you over the coming weeks.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports this week that, on 10th June, the official radio station of the International Telecommunications Union celebrated its 60th year on the air.

It started broadcasting on 10 June 1962 and was officially inaugurated the following month by then UN Secretary-General U Thant and ITU Secretary-General Gerald Gross – himself a ‘’ham” radio enthusiast known by the callsign W3GG.

Recognized as a unique “country” in the ham radio community, 4U1ITU operates in accordance with privileges extended by ITU and the Government of Switzerland. It has also earned the DXCC (or ham radio “century club”) award from the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), confirming air contacts with 100 or more countries.

From its long-time home on the 5th floor of the Varembé Building in Geneva’s international district, this unique broadcasting outlet still today serves as a model for the highest standards of amateur radio station operation everywhere.

Not many of us have been on the air for 60 straight years, so congratulations to 4U1ITU, and may you remain with us for decades to come.

Reporting further on the humanitarian crisis still gripping the Ukraine civilian population, GDACS reports that nearly two-thirds of children in Ukraine have been uprooted, according to a UNICEF director, calling the war a “child rights crisis”. The number of damaged schools is likely in the thousands, and only about 25% of schools in Ukraine are even operational.

Since 24 February, over 6.6 million people have received food assistance, over 2.7 million health-related support and nearly 1.7 million people cash assistance.

The European Commission is coordinating the delivery of assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to Ukraine, from all 27 Member States and three Participating States. More than 40,000 tonnes of assistance from these countries and items from the rescEU medical stockpile have been delivered to Ukraine via the UCPM logistic hubs in Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

As usual, and sadly, it is always the civilian population in a conflict that suffers the worst collateral damage.

Now, here’s one to file in your head in the field entitled “Information I didn’t need to know”.

Phys.org reports that a large international team of researchers has found 69 unique genetic variants linked to the ability to keep time to a beat. In their paper published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, the group describes their genetic study involving more than 600,000 volunteers.

Most human beings have the ability to keep time to a beat—clapping along in sync with the drummer on a rock song, for example. But some people do not have this ability. In this new effort, the researchers wondered if there were genes responsible for the ability to keep a beat, suggesting genetic variations could account for those who could not keep time. To find out, they started by asking a large group of volunteers the simple question: “Can you clap in time with a musical beat?” 91.57% of the 606,825 volunteers responded yes. They also asked some of the volunteers to engage in beat-measuring experiments, such as tapping a key on a keyboard in time to the beat of a song. The researchers noted that those volunteers who answered yes to the main question scored higher on such experiments.

The researchers then conducted a large-scale genome wide association study (GWAS) on the volunteers aimed at identifying the loci associated with keeping time. They found 69 genes involved in beat synchronization that differed [in] those who could keep a beat and those who could not. They also found that the gene VRK2 appeared to be the most significant. And they found that volunteers who self-identified as musicians tended to have more variants, suggesting variants could go both ways—giving people a better sense of a beat or a worse one. Prior research has also found links between people with VRK2 variants and several types of mental illness, such as schizophrenia and chronic depression.

The researchers also found that other genes besides those that are needed to recognize the timing of a beat are involved in keeping a beat, such as walking pace, respiratory flow and the processing speed of certain parts of the brain. They also suggest the ability to keep a beat might be linked to childhood speech development and social interactions.

I note that they don’t include any reference to the ability of the genetic variants to aid one in sending or receiving Morse Code rhythmically and correctly. If there is a connection, I clearly wasn’t born with any of these variants!

This is Morse-incapable Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa

HAMNET Report 12th June 2022

From the Pacific Ring of Fire, GDACS reports that, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, the activity of Mount Bulusan continues. Over the past 24 hours, five volcanic earthquakes have been recorded, and the ash plume reached 250 m above the crater drifting north-northwest.

Following the huge phreatic eruption of 5 June, 418 people were evacuated into two temporary shelters located in Juban Town, while the number of affected people stands at 16,400 across 11 barangays, located  in Sorsogon Province (Bicol Region, southern Luzon, central Philippines).

The alert level is placed at 1 (Low Level of Volcanic Unrest), but an entry ban to a radius of 4 km is still in effect.

From AJU Business Daily comes an interesting report that South Korea’s science ministry will develop a technology to monitor underwater disasters such as submarine earthquakes and tsunamis in real-time and overcome the limitations of seismological observatories on land that cannot accurately identify the exact location, epicentre and scale of underwater earthquakes.

The Ministry of Science and ICT launched a pilot project to establish a surveillance network that can monitor underwater earthquakes, tsunamis and slope collapse in real-time and quickly spread related information using wireless networks. Some 24 billion won ($19.1 million) will be invested for five years starting in 2022.

The project would help the ministry analyse geological environments in the sea off the east coast and select candidate sites for submarine disasters. A prototype for an underwater wireless observation network will be created to transmit data observed on the seabed to build a real-time platform for data collection, storage, analysis and management.

“We will cooperate with the Korea Meteorological Administration successfully to carry out the project so that the research outcomes can contribute to early warnings,” an unnamed maritime ministry official said in a statement on June 9. The ministry said the new technology can be used in other sectors.

Being on the Pacific Ring of Fire, as the circular earthquake-prone ring around the Pacific is called, South Korea needs all the advance warning of earthquakes or tsunamis it can get, and the same is true of all other countries on the ring.

On 12 May 2022, a Zambian-registered truck hauling a tanker of hydrochloric acid left the northbound carriageway of the N3 near Howick and plunged down an embankment onto the south-bound freeway.

Miraculously, the south-bound fast lane of the country’s busiest highway was free of traffic at that moment. A collision setting off a hydrochloric acid explosion would have spewed clouds of highly flammable hydrogen gas and toxic chlorine gas into the air.

The municipality dodged an even deadlier bullet on 11 February when hundreds of travellers on the N3 approaching Pietermaritzburg from Durban diced with disaster when a fully laden LPG tanker overturned near Ashburton.

Motorists and their passengers, many en route to the Midmar Mile, were oblivious to the potential catastrophe. All it needed was a spark to ignite the highly flammable load of 8,500 litres of compressed gas.

Preventing almost certain death on the highway and, in Ashburton, straddling the N3 that Friday afternoon were two emergency response trucks summoned from the Pietermaritzburg and Durban fire services. For hours that afternoon, through the night and well into the next morning, the trucks hosed down the tanker to prevent an inferno.

The vehicles were called out because the Umgungundlovu District Municipality was incapable of rendering an adequate emergency service. The UMDM’s fire truck dispatched from its station at Ashburton was not equipped to deal with the emergency.

Of deep concern to professionals in the industry was that emergency protocols designed to mitigate catastrophic disasters were being ignored. In the case of the hydrochloric acid spill, traffic, including heavy trucks, sped past the accident seemingly oblivious to the danger.

The LPG spill in February should have resulted in traffic being stopped on both carriageways, and the evacuation of people from their cars, and officials moving  them at least 800m away. Even that wouldn’t have been enough if the tanker had caught alight, according to Joe Nassar of Starstruck Fire Services.

He explained that LPG expands to 270 times the volume of gas it occupies as a liquid, and that the force of the blast would have hurled the tanker 100m into the air.

It would also have unleashed a giant fireball and a fiery gas cloud would have blanketed an area of 3km2. Because LPG is heavier than air, the flames would latch on to any combustible material to keep burning.

Cars and their fuel tanks would have been fodder for the perfect firestorm.

We can all be very thankful that both of these disasters were avoided. Thanks to the Daily Maverick for this excerpt from their article.

Here’s a worrying if funny report from TMZ.com.

The good folks at M&M Mars had a genuine chocolate disaster on their hands … 2 people got trapped in a chocolate factory vat — not on purpose, we think — and they required a “jaws of life” type rescue.

What sounds like a scene straight outta “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” went down ten days ago at an M&M Mars plant in Lancaster County … not too far from Hershey, PA.

It’s unclear right now how the 2 people fell into the vat, but authorities reportedly had to cut a hole in the side of the tank to get them out.

The first victim was reportedly rescued around 3:10 PM, and the second was extricated about 15 minutes later. No word yet on if the vat was filled to the brim or empty when the victims went down.

And, yes … they’re still victims, even if they were possibly swimming in chocolate.

No word on either person’s condition right now, but according to reports they were alive when cops pulled them out.

Hmm, I think if that had happened to me, I’d have evaded rescue for as long as possible!

Finally, a warning to all listeners in the Western half of the country: A massive frontal system will arrive today (Sunday), bringing icy conditions, and about 3 inches of rain, to the Western Cape. Please avoid low ground, and keep your radios on emergency frequencies to be ready to respond if needed.

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

HAMNET Report 5th June 2022

The ARRL Newsletter, and GDACS said that, on Saturday, May 28, as Hurricane Agatha (the first hurricane of the eastern Pacific hurricane season) was ready to make landfall in Mexico, operators at WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) were conducting the annual readiness check of the station for 2022.

This year marks the 42nd year of volunteer communication services for the NHC. After 2 years of volunteer ham radio operators working remotely from their home stations due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, hams were able to operate inside the NHC for this year’s annual test event.

The event was reported as successful, with all of the station’s radios and antennas having performed well. Within 8 hours, 289 contacts were made nationwide and internationally. Operators used HF, VHF, and UHF radios, as well as digital modes.

Then, on Monday, May 30, Hurricane Agatha hit Oaxaca, Mexico as a Category 2 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 170km/h. It was recorded as the strongest hurricane to come ashore in May during the eastern Pacific hurricane season, making landfall on a sparsely populated stretch of small beach towns and fishing villages in southern Mexico. The next morning, Agatha was downgraded to a tropical depression, with winds of 55km/h.

The Government of Oaxaca reports that at least nine people have died and 22 others are missing, mainly in the Coastal and Sierra Sur Regions of Oaxaca. Search and rescue operations are continuing. According to media, six fatalities and 10 missing people were reported in the municipality of Santiago Xanica which is one of the most affected areas, and the main route connecting the area has been destroyed. Many towns in Oaxaca are affected by power outages and roads blocked by landslides and floodwaters.

Greg G0DUB reports that Carlos CO2JC provided this update on Wednesday releasing the frequencies in use for Hurricane Agatha;

“The following frequencies that were used for communications due to the passage of Hurricane Agatha are released for the time being.

They are “7095 kHz, 7120 kHz, 3720 kHz and 14120 kHz.

“We continue to monitor the possible formation of a tropical cyclone in the area between the southwestern Gulf of Mexico and the north-western Caribbean Sea in the next few hours”, Carlos said.

Now here’s the first news of something that will become more and more useful and prominent in future radio comms.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that Paul Jaffe KJ4IKI and his team at U.S. Naval Research Laboratory have succeeded in transferring 1.6 kw of power over a 1 km path using 10 GHz

The US Navy describes it as being “the most significant power beaming demonstration in nearly 50 years.”

The aim was to demonstrate power beaming of 1 kW of electrical power over a distance of 1 km using 10 GHz. The two sites used were the U.S. Army Research Field at Blossom Point in Maryland, and The Haystack Ultrawideband Satellite Imaging Radar (HUSIR) transmitter at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“The reason for setting those targets is to push this technology farther than has been demonstrated before,” said Paul Jaffe Ph.D., Power Beaming and Space Solar Lead. “You don’t want to use too high a frequency as it can start losing power to the atmosphere. 10 GHz is a great choice because the component technology out there is cheap and mature. Even in heavy rainfall, loss of power is less than five percent.”

In Maryland, the team exceeded their target by 60 percent by beaming 1.6 kW just over 1 km. At the Massachusetts site, the team did not have the same peak power, but the average power was much higher thereby delivering more energy. Jaffe said these demonstrations pave the way for power beaming on Earth, in space, and from space to Earth using power densities within safety limits set by international standards bodies.

“As engineers, we develop systems that will not exceed those safety limits,” Jaffe said. “That means it’s safe for birds, animals, and people.”

I predict that this technology will get incorporated into more and more power distribution systems for equipment at sites where no wired electricity is available.

Interesting Engineering has an article on Zombie Satellites still in orbit after decades of non-use, which have been found still to be transmitting beacon material or telemetry.

They include:

  • LES-1 a communications satellite from 1965, which spontaneously began to resume transmissions in 2012. Apparently, a short had developed in the satellite’s systems allowing power from the solar cells to reach the transmitter directly.
  • LES-5 a similar satellite launched in 1967, which revived itself from a graveyard orbit, and is still transmitting its telemetry beacon on 236.75MHz.
  • Transit 5B-5, launched in 1964, which can still transmit at 136.650MHz when it is passing through sunlight.
  • The most well-known to us is AMSAT-OSCAR 7, the second so-called “Phase 2” satellite designed and built by the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, or AMSAT for short. Launched into orbit in November of 1974, the satellite worked as expected for many years until its batteries finally died in mid-1981.

AO-7 carries two amateur radio transponders. The first, its “Mode A” transponder, has an uplink on the 2-meter band and a downlink on the 10-meter band. The second called its “Mode B” transponder, has an uplink on the 70-centimeter band and a downlink on the 2-meter band. AO-7 also carries beacons which are designed to operate on the 10-meter, 2-meter, and 70-centimeter band.

Miraculously, after several decades of silence, the satellite began to resume transmissions in June of 2002. The reason appears to be the fact that one of its batteries shorted, allowing it to become an open circuit and allow the spacecraft to run off its solar panels when the satellite is in direct sunlight.

Today, AO-7 is officially one of the oldest remaining communications satellites in existence. It will be 50 years old in 2024.

  • Others include Prospero (1971), Calsphere 1 and 2 (1964), Lageos-1 (1976) and ISEE-3, the latter orbiting the sun since 1978, hopefully to be reactivated in the future.

So folks, because we are old and decrepit, does not necessarily mean we have stopped being useful. Hopefully the older radio amateurs will continue to be mentors to the new licensees. No question that is ever asked, or piece of advice sought, is ever stupid. Sometimes, the answers are!

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