HAMNET Report 20th September 2020

Since the 15th September, Tropical Cyclone Noul has been threatening the East coast of Vietnam, with wind-speeds up to 120km/h threatening at least 3.3 million people. Forecasts predicted the storm would hit the coast on Friday, and then proceed in a westerly direction to involve Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. These storms tend to weaken once they cross over land, so the worst damage is always near the coast. However, first reports indicate the death of seven people in Cambodia, struck by lightning during the storm, while they were sheltering in a stilt house.

The Vietnam Red Cross Society has strengthened its preparedness for the Typhoon, by increasing its stock of emergency supplies, the VNRC Central Committee said on Friday. By the time the eye of the storm crosses into Thailand, it should have weakened considerably.

Protecting citizens in the face of disaster often requires far-reaching decisions to be made. Any assistance is welcome—including from Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Wildfires are increasingly getting out of control, as shown by recent events in California and Australia. Yet firefighters continue to battle tirelessly against the flames—and nowadays they have more at their disposal than just water and controlled burns. Digitisation has long been part of their arsenal in the form of geo-information systems, webcams and drones. These have become key tools in predicting and controlling wildfires, yet the huge quantities of data they produce quickly pushes human expertise to its limits. “AI is always useful when you’re dealing with masses of data,” says Benjamin Scharte, who heads the Risk and Resilience Research Team at the ETH Centre for Security Studies (CSS). Recently, he and his colleague Kevin Kohler teamed up to analyse the use of AI in civil protection.

“Being able to use algorithms to make predictions is pretty exciting,” says Kohler. Which direction is the fire front heading? Where should we set the next controlled burns? By crunching all the available data, AI-based modelling tools can help answer these questions. This data might include weather forecasts, drought duration, wind direction—and even the potential amount of fuel available to the fire. The resulting predictions can make disaster response more efficient. In the best-case scenario, they can even act as a form of prevention.

Civil protection is particularly responsive to the use of AI because, all too often, it is a matter of life and death—and every minute counts. Experts are often expected to make snap decisions with far-reaching consequences, so they are grateful for any assistance that can underpin those decisions with more robust data. Ultimately, however, the quality of a decision always depends on the quality of the data. “However smart my algorithm may be, it will be of little use in an emergency if I can’t supply it with the right data for the disaster,” Kohler cautions.

Even the highest quality data can never fully replace the experience gained by experts over many years, so the question of whether a human or a machine should make the final decision is highly complex. Taken as a whole, the algorithm might conceivably produce a lower economic loss or fewer casualties than its human counterpart, but it may also make decisions in individual cases that we find unacceptable.

So at what point might we be willing to let a machine make its own decisions? Scharte and Kohler agree that this depends on the context: “Civil protection is sometimes a matter of life or death. Humans should play a part in making those decisions—it’s not the place for machines to make fully autonomous decisions.”

A crucial factor is how much faith people have in the algorithm. Trust paves the way for acceptance, and both are enhanced when we are able to clearly follow what an algorithm is doing. Trust takes time to be built up, so progress will be slow.

A sad reflection on us old fogies involved in this wonderful hobby of ours comes from Frank Kemmerer AB1OC, member of the Nashua Area Radio Society. He says that lack of mentorship can prevent some hams from getting on the air. In a free QST article Frank looks at one club’s approach to the problem. For the last 5 years, the Nashua Area Radio Society (NARS) in Nashua, New Hampshire, has been actively providing licensing classes and training to help new amateur radio operators develop their skills. Their club has helped over 420 people earn or upgrade their licenses.

The Nashua Area Radio Society has spent quite a bit of time trying to understand why so many of the people who earn a license or an upgrade don’t get on the air. The number one reason they discovered is that the amateur radio community isn’t providing the mentoring that many hams need to get active. This is a bit of an indictment on all of us already licensed individuals, and I hope it doesn’t mean the dreaded apathy is creeping into our lives too. So do try to grab that new ham near you, and make sure he has the advice and skillset necessary to become a useful radio operator who enjoys his hobby.

As an example of the value of amateur radio, Jaime Stathis, writing in WIRED, says there’s no better time to be an Amateur Radio Geek.

“The most important component of staying safe during an emergency is the ability to give and receive information. When the power goes out—which it often does, not only during wildfires but also during hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes, and tornados—the internet doesn’t work and cellular networks crash with increased demand. In Northern California, she says they often have their electricity cut to prevent fire during high-risk times, leaving millions of customers in both metaphorical and actual dark.”

“Although I spent most of my life thinking amateur radio was for geeks and grandparents, I now sit with [my partner] for twice-weekly check-ins with the local amateur radio club. It’s a way for ham radio operators not only to touch base with each other, but also to test their equipment. Amateur radio operators not only help themselves, but in emergencies they deploy to assist organizations, like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Red Cross, and local public safety offices, to communicate and coordinate with the public, and with each other.”

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

HAMNET Report 13th September 2020

Here’s another example of amateur radio coming to the aid of the community.

Nigel Vander Houwen, K7NVH, reported to the ARRL News on September 8 that some HamWAN users in the Puget Sound region of Washington, who were viewing the network’s camera feeds, spotted a large brush fire.

“They reported it to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which thanked them for the first report they’d gotten on the fire, and they’ve sent a team to try and keep it small and under control,” Vander Houwen said. “It’s estimated currently at around 50 acres, southeast of Enumclaw along Highway 410”. The fire was not said to be threatening any homes. State Route 410 was reported closed between Enumclaw and Greenwater, and drivers heading to Mount Rainier National Park were advised to take another route.

HamWAN is a non-profit organization developing best practices for high speed amateur radio data networks. It runs the Puget Sound Data Ring. So far, HamWAN networks have been used for such applications as low-latency repeater linking (including DMR), real-time video feeds, APRS I-gates, providing redundant internet access to emergency operations centres, and more.

Amateur radio licensees in the HamWAN service area can connect directly to the network with a modest investment in equipment and no recurring costs. The HamWAN Puget Sound Data Ring has cells deployed at numerous wide-coverage sites, interconnected with 5 GHz radios. The HamWAN technical team has been installing remotely controllable cameras at HamWAN link sites, and one of these was used for the wildfire report.

Thanks to the ARRL News for this report.

I’m not sure about the other regions of HAMNET in South Africa, but here in the Western Cape, we have taken to holding our monthly meetings online, during the lockdown. This seems to work well, although we don’t necessarily see all the same faces online as we see at the offline meetings, but there’s no doubt that it is very convenient to do the business online.

Reporting in Phys.org, Bryce Benda at Leiden University reports that astronomers there have published two articles on more sustainable astronomy in a special section of the journal Nature Astronomy. Among other things, they calculate that their online conference EAS 2020 consumed (I think that should be “produced”) 3,000 times less carbon dioxide than the face-to-face edition a year earlier. They also show that the programming language Python, which is often used by astronomers, demands excessive electricity.

The idea for a special section on sustainability and climate arose during the virtual conference of the European Astronomical Society (EAS). This conference was supposed to take place in Leiden last June but was held online due to the corona crisis.

The article on more sustainable conferences compares the carbon footprint of the 2019 European Astronomy Conference, held offline in Lyon, with that of the 2020 online conference in Leiden. It shows that an online conference emits three thousand times less carbon dioxide than a face-to-face meeting.

Leo Burtscher was one of the organizers of the online conference in 2020 and first author of the article: “Of course we expected that online would emit less CO2. But the fact that the difference was so huge came as a surprise.”

Burtscher and his co-authors suggest that a combination of online lectures with regional offline meetings could be a good alternative. These face-to-face meetings provide the interaction astronomers want and could, for example, take place simultaneously at various locations throughout Europe.

The article on more economical use of computers was written by Professor of Computational astrophysics Simon Portegies Zwart. He sums up five points of improvement: “Do your daily work, such as emailing and writing texts, on a simple laptop. If you use a supercomputer, don’t go to its full capacity. If you perform calculations on a fast workstation, don’t overclock that computer. For your calculations and simulations, use special computers with hardware based on graphics cards. And, very important: do not use Python if you want to do large calculations.”

Many astronomers won’t like the plea for less Python, thinks Portegies Zwart. That programming language is user-friendly and there are many collections of free code pieces that astronomers copy into their programs. Portegies Zwart calls for programming lectures for students to focus less on Python and more on programming languages that are much more efficient with the computer’s process.

Now, only in America will this kind of radio transmission take place.

Two airline pilots encountered unusual traffic near Los Angeles airport last week: a man with a jetpack flying around on his own at an altitude of around 900 meters.

The bemused pilots were on different flights when they reported the sighting, leading to incongruous radio communications with air traffic control: “Tower, American 1997. We just passed a guy in a jet pack,” reported one pilot, noting that the person was flying at about the same altitude as the plane, just about 300 meters away. The other pilot reported the same sighting seconds later, prompting air traffic control to urge caution.

Jet packs rarely fly at such high altitude. The FBI is still investigating the case.

Thanks to CGTN for that one. Incidentally, they also report on a trial in Botswana, where researchers painted eyes on the back of the haunches of a trial group of 683 cows in the Okavango Delta, and compared the results with a group of 835 unpainted ones. Believe it or not, none of the 683 painted cows were killed by predators in the four year study, whereas 15 of the unpainted cows were. Seems that the predator lions don’t like being watched as they attempt to sneak up on their prey!

I’m sure I enriched your HAMNET experience with that latter piece of news!

Finally, in answer to a question in the Physics Forum as to which form of life appeared first on Earth, authorities say that bacteria and archaea appeared first on earth. These are both prokaryotes, simple cells without a nucleus. After more than a billion years, the more complex eukaryote cells appeared (cells with a nucleus). From the initial eukaryotes, plants and animals evolved. There are also fungi and single celled eukaryotes that are neither plants nor animals. Probably plants arose first (in the oceans, that is), and probably also preceded animals on land. A big reason for animals to roam onto the land is to get food resources not available in the ocean. That would not happen before plants were there, plants that grow on land. Another reason for animals to be out of the water would be to escape predators.

Perhaps they should have had eyes painted on their behinds to protect them from said predators!

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

HAMNET Report 6th September 2020

Since Sunday the 30th of August, there have been warnings out for Tropical Cyclone MAYSAK, and subsequently Tropical Cyclone HAISHEN, following it into the seas between Taiwan and Mainland China to the West, South and then North Korea to the North, and Japan to the East. Twenty million people in these densely populated areas were in the path of the 120km/h storm winds by last Sunday, predicted to increase to 220km/h in the two Korean nations as the cyclones advanced.

Aljazeera said on Monday that the Japan Meteorological Agency warned that Typhoon MAYSAK could bring with it storm surge, heavy rains, high waves and violent winds, potentially causing a “major disaster” in the Okinawa region.

The agency also called on residents to “evacuate to sturdy buildings before winds get stronger”.

MAYSAK was expected to gain further strength, with maximum winds of 252km/h as it closed in on the island from late at night, Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said in a statement on Sunday.

A total of 180 flights to and from the Okinawa region had already been cancelled and many schools and public offices were closed from last Monday afternoon, the Okinawa Times newspaper reported.

By this Saturday it was Typhoon HAISHEN causing the trouble, following in the tracks of MAYSAK, and threatening 15 million people in its path.

Fraser Cain, writing in his weekly UniverseToday Blog, notes that it was in 1950, that Italian-American physicist  Enrico Fermi sat down to lunch with some of his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he had worked five years prior, as part of the Manhattan Project. According to various accounts, the conversation turned to aliens and the recent spate of UFOs. Into this, Fermi issued a statement that would go down in the annals of history: “Where is everybody?

This became the basis of the Fermi Paradox, which refers to the disparity between high probability estimates for the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence (ETI) and the apparent lack of evidence for it. Since Fermi’s time, there have been several proposed resolutions to his question, which includes the Berserker Hypothesis. This theory suggests we haven’t heard from any alien civilizations because they’ve been wiped out by killer robots!

Also known as the “deadly probes scenario,” this hypothesis may sound like something out of science fiction (the name itself is actually taken from an SF franchise, in fact), but it’s actually rooted in scientific research. It also touches on other proposed resolutions to the Fermi Paradox, such as the Hart-Tipler Conjecture (i.e. aliens don’t exist) and that it’s the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself or others.

Central to Fermi’s famous question was a discrepancy between the assumed likelihood of that extra-terrestrial intelligence (ETI) and the lack of evidence to support this assumption. But given the number of stars in our galaxy (200 to 400 billion), the number of Earth-like planets in our galaxy (an estimated 6 billion), the number of galaxies in the Universe (as many as 2 trillion), it’s not farfetched to assume intelligent life must exist elsewhere.

In 1961, American physicist and SETI researcher Dr. Frank Drake illustrated this conundrum during a meeting at the Green Bank Observatory. In preparation for the meeting, Drake created an equation that summed up the probability of finding ETIs in our galaxy, thereafter known as the Drake Equation

And yet, after an additional 70 years of searching, Fermi’s Paradox and the “Great Silence” persist, as no compelling evidence has been found. This has led to multiple proposed resolutions from astrophysicists, astrobiologists, and other scientists and researchers.

As the saying goes, the show ain’t over until the fat lady sings, so watch this space!

Byron Spice, writing in ScienceDaily notes that it wasn’t long after Hurricane Laura hit the Gulf Coast 2 Thursdays ago, that people began flying drones to record the damage and posting videos on social media. Those videos are a precious resource, say researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, who are working on ways to use them for rapid damage assessment.

By using artificial intelligence, the researchers are developing a system that can automatically identify buildings and make an initial determination of whether they are damaged and how serious that damage might be.

“Current damage assessments are mostly based on individuals detecting and documenting damage to a building,” said Junwei Liang, a Ph.D. student in CMU’s Language Technologies Institute (LTI). “That can be slow, expensive and labour-intensive work.”

Satellite imagery doesn’t provide enough detail and shows damage from only a single viewpoint — vertical. Drones, however, can gather close-up information from a number of angles and viewpoints. It’s possible, of course, for first responders to fly drones for damage assessment, but drones are now widely available among residents and routinely flown after natural disasters.

“The number of drone videos available on social media soon after a disaster means they can be a valuable resource for doing timely damage assessments,” Liang said.

Xiaoyu Zhu, a master’s student in AI and Innovation in the LTI, said the initial system can overlay masks on parts of the buildings in the video that appear damaged and determine if the damage is slight or serious, or if the building has been destroyed.

Now, a nice story to end off with. Fred Hall M3CTW, celebrated his 100th birthday last Tuesday. The retired clock and watchmaker from Wilshaw in Yorkshire says he loves driving and still does drive, having easily passed an extra driving test at age 94. He has been a widower for 11 months, and is known the world over for his amateur radio activity, being on the air on a daily basis. He continues to show an iron will and a carefree determination to enjoy life.

This was evidenced in his mid-90’s, when he was still climbing on his roof installing aerials, although a few years prior to that he had fallen out of a tree and broken a limb!

“I have a very loving family who are in regular touch, and it was lovely on Tuesday night when I came back from York, and everyone in the courtyard where I live came out to greet me and wish me well”, says Fred.

As for the secret to his long life, he says he is teetotal and makes sure he eats well. I note he omitted to add that the actual reason for his longevity is Amateur Radio!

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

HAMNET Report 30th August 2020

The HAMNET regions in South Africa have been conducting a blackout exercise since yesterday (Saturday) 12h00, and will finish their exercise experiments at 12h00 today (Sunday). The exercise and the scenarios needing to be played out have been organized by representatives of membership in the Northern Cape and the Free State, and we are all grateful to them for their backroom work.

A few small groups in each region have organized themselves into cells, and are operating without any comfortable amenities, like electricity, phones and warm beds. Messages with tasks in them are being sent to each cell, the task has to be completed, and the results then radioed to another division’s station, to be returned to the organizers to check for accuracy. The exercise is not a contest, and there are no winners. The idea is for the groups to test their equipment and their capabilities, in difficult circumstances.

Well, the weather certainly has helped to contribute to the difficult circumstances. As I write this, snow is about to start falling on all high ground in the south-western portions of the country, and rain is falling steadily. So those that don’t catch their death of pneumonia will come back wiser, and wetter!

We look forward to the reports-back.

The Southern States of the US are similarly nursing their injuries as Hurricane Laura finally blew itself out a bit on Friday night and Saturday morning. Louisiana seemed to bear the brunt of the onslaught, with winds in the region of 240 km/h, but the storm directly threatened the United States, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Antigua and Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Dominica.

At least 1.3 million people were in the path of the storm on the US mainland, and storm surges were expected to swamp low-lying territory on the coast.

From the ARRL News, we learned that The National Hurricane Centre (NHC)-predicted “unsurvivable storm surges” in the vicinity of 6 metres or greater, driving Gulf waters inland into waterways and lowlands. More than a half-million people in Louisiana and Texas were told to evacuate ahead of the storm, but not everyone did — or was able to leave. One death has been attributed to the storm. Widespread power outages were reported. By Thursday morning, the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) had ratcheted its alert level up to 5 — Catastrophic Response Mode — and remained in operation even after the hurricane hit.

“Once Laura has been downgraded to a Tropical Storm, we will focus on helping to gather any post-storm reports from the areas that have been hit,” HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said. “This includes the relaying of any emergency or priority traffic.”

At mid-week, ARRL South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator Jeffery Walter, KE5FGA, said, “We have begun nightly Zoom meetings with North Texas, South Texas, and ARRL Delta Division leadership. The areas directly in the path of the storm may call for mutual aid support.” He assured that volunteers would be vetted and provided with necessary information and a plan put in place, to define the deployment period.

At 12h00 UTC on Thursday, the NHC was reporting damaging winds and flooding rainfall overspreading inland areas in western and central Louisiana. “Life-threatening storm surge continues along much of the Louisiana coastline,” the report added. The storm was still packing 160 km/h winds. Laura was predicted to move across southwestern Louisiana on Thursday morning, and then continue northward across the state through the afternoon, with the storm’s centre forecast to move over Arkansas on Thursday night, the mid-Mississippi Valley on Friday, and the Mid-Atlantic States on Saturday.

Voice over Internet Protocol Weather Net (VoIP-WX) Manager Rob Macedo, KD1CY, was interviewed on The Weather Channel on Thursday morning.

In Louisiana, ARES teams were in standby status for local emergency managers or served agencies, such as the Red Cross, to request activation. Louisiana Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) James Coleman, AI5B, said earlier this week that activations would happen on a parish-by-parish or on a regional basis as support is needed. The Louisiana ARES Emergency Net activated on Wednesday on 3.878 and 7.255 MHz. The Delta Division Emergency Net was on standby on Thursday. Ham Aid emergency communication kits from ARRL Headquarters have been pre-positioned in Louisiana for such situations since last year.

Now WSAR in the Western Cape are sad to report that a hiker died high on a mountain in greater Cape Town, found after an epic search in foul weather. The 58 year old man had set out for a gentle stroll on the lower slopes on the Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset West on Thursday.

Almost 24 hours later (Friday midday in fact), his body was found high in the mountains. He may have suffered a fatal fall, on a rocky crag high above the Winelands town.

Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) spokesperson Johann Marais ZS1JM, of ORRU and HAMNET, said the nature reserve manager called them for assistance around 17h00 on Thursday after the man’s wife had reported him overdue in returning.

“The man had set out to hike the Sugarbird Route and not returned by 16h00 as he had arranged with his wife. By then rangers had already patrolled the route. WSAR had over 17 operatives in the field on foot and where possible in 4×4’s searching into the small hours of the night.”

The search was coordinated from a Joint Operations Centre (JOC) established in a hi-tech “Incident Command Centre” vehicle provided by the Western Cape Government’s Department of Health. “The search was resumed early on Friday”, Johann continued.

After several hours search on Friday morning on the nature reserve’s network of mountain tracks and narrow paths, the search party found the lifeless man amidst swirling north-westerly winds, clouds and cold winter rain.

Johann Marais said that the man had been fatally injured when he fell someway off the path. The location is understood to be between Porcupine Ridge and the Saddle, or in the deep gorge directly below. Despite successfully locating the man, rescuers had still not been able to retrieve his body by Friday night, owing to poor weather.

WSAR and HAMNET offer their sincere condolences to his wife and family.

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

HAMNET Report 23rd August 2020

Jose Mendez EA9E, Emergency communications coordinator for Spain in IARU Region One has announced that they will be carrying out an exercise today the 23rd August, between 12h00 and 14h00 UTC. This will consist of a general call-in and a net control on 7.110 MHz, as well as a Winlink System practice, with two stations located on 7 and on 10 MHz, experimenting with person-to-person communication.

Please be mindful of signals coming out of the Spanish mainland during this time.

RFI is quoted this week as saying that Japan’s government has said it would send a second disaster relief team to Mauritius to help with the oil spill from a Japanese ship that ran aground off the Indian Ocean island last month. A team of seven people are to leave Japan on Wednesday to help with clean-up efforts and assessments for the environmental damage caused by the Wakashio oil spill, the foreign ministry said.

The team will include officials from Japan’s environment ministry and the National Institute for Environmental Studies. Japan’s foreign ministry described how the oil spill has caused critical environmental damage, which could have a “serious impact” on the country’s important tourism industry.

“Japan hopes that this assistance will contribute to the recovery of the environment of the Republic of Mauritius and the prevention of maritime pollutions,” said the foreign ministry.

France has also dispatched aircraft and technical advisors from neighbouring Réunion Island to help with the disaster.

The accident has affected one of the most ecologically sensitive areas of Mauritius, which has declared the spill an environmental emergency. The MV Wakashio bulk carrier split into two pieces last Saturday and there are concerns that the island could take years to recover from the disaster.

French overseas minister Sébastien Lecornu, speaking on FranceInfo radio, said there are concerns about what to do with the shipwreck. Lecornu said the French authorities are focused on an environmental approach that protects biodiversity and the coasts of neighbouring Reunion island, a French department in the Indian Ocean.

The Daily Mail’s MailOnLine reports that scientists are saying that Earth’s sun once had a twin, and evidence of its celestial sibling still exists in our solar system.

Scientists note that stars birth from clouds of dust and gas and typically form with binary companions.

The team suggests passing stars in the birth cluster may have removed the second sun through their gravitational influence – and it could be lurking anywhere in the Milky Way.

Data proposes our star’s doppelganger would be similar in mass and would explain the ‘Oort cloud,’ which is a collection of debris left over from the formation of the solar system that circles our sun at a distance.

Another sun could also give credence to the existence of Planet Nine, a theoretical body hiding in the outer reaches of the solar system.

Astronomers theorize Planet Nine is five to 15 times larger than Earth. But it would be hard to collect enough material so far from the Sun to form a super-Earth-sized planet.

Binary stars are better at drawing in and capturing debris, says Harvard science professor Avi Loeb, co-author of a new report published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

‘If the Oort cloud formed as observed, it would imply that the sun did in fact have a companion of similar mass that was lost before the sun left its birth cluster,’ reads the study.

‘Binary systems are far more efficient at capturing objects than are single stars,’ said Loeb, who says their model predicts more objects with a similar orbital orientation to Planet Nine.

According to co-author Amir Siraj, a Harvard undergraduate, objects in the Oort cloud may have impacted the development of life here on Earth, from bringing water to the planet to causing the dinosaurs to go extinct.

The double-sun theory isn’t as radical as it sounds. ‘Most Sun-like stars are born with binary companions,’ says Siraj. According to him, this solar doppelganger didn’t go nova, it simply moved on. ‘The Sun’s long-lost companion could now be anywhere in the Milky Way,’ he said.

The key to proving their theory lies with the Vera C Rubin Observatory in Chile. Next year, it begins a 10-year survey of the night sky that could confirm or rule out the existence of Planet Nine.

‘If the VRO verifies the existence of Planet Nine, and a captured origin, and also finds a population of similarly captured dwarf planets, then the binary model will be favoured over the lone stellar history that has been long-assumed,’ Siraj said.

Now our friends at Southgate Amateur Radio News have reported via the ARRL Letter on 20th August that a new open-source app called SignalID can identify about 20 signal modes in just 5 seconds of recording time, and more may be on the way. The app is open source and free.

Using it is simple. Once the frequency and bandwidth have been set, the user places the cell phone’s microphone near the receiver’s speaker, presses the large button, and waits for 5 seconds. The quieter the external environment is, the fewer errors.

“The algorithm is based on frequency, so incorrect tuning will result in an erroneous detection. The recording is limited to 5 seconds, for practical reasons. Mode recognition may require several attempts, the developer, Tortillum, said, and upgrades are already in the works. “The easiest way to try it is with RTTY or STANAG,” the developer added.

The very few comments so far from users suggest some further work may be needed, but they praised the concept. The developer invites additional comments.

The application, which includes a complete list, could prove a valuable tool in determining the types of emissions that may stray into amateur radio bands

On Southgate Amateur Radio News, the Times of India reports that amateur radio operators have once again been roped in to fight Covid-19. While previously they helped monitor home-quarantine violations, this time they’ve been tasked with assisting the government in facilitating contact tracing via real-time radio communication.

With the government dividing Bengaluru into 8 zones to handle cases, Bommanahalli appears to have become the focal point for the ham operators, who have set up ward-level control rooms in their homes to coordinate with the zonal team.

Eighty to 100 ham operators are presently helping booth-level volunteers and ward committees carry out door-to-door surveys, assist patients and trace contacts of those testing positive for the virus.

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

HAMNET Report 16th August 2020

Aljazeera has provided a concise report about the fuel spilling from a Japanese bulk carrier that ran aground on a reef in Mauritius two weeks ago, creating an ecological disaster, endangering corals, fish and other marine life around the Indian Ocean island, according to officials and environmentalists.

The MV Wakashio, owned by the Nagashiki Shipping Company, struck the reef on Mauritius’s southeast coast on July 25th.

Last Thursday, the government said fuel was leaking from a crack in the vessel’s hull, and Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency, pleading for international help.

Environmental group Greenpeace said the spill was likely to be one of the worst ecological crises Mauritius has ever seen.

“Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny and Mahebourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius’s economy, food security and health,” Greenpeace said in a statement.

France was sending specialist teams and equipment to help Mauritius deal with the spill, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

Nagashiki Shipping Company said it had tried to free the tanker, but the effort was hampered by persistent bad weather.

The tanker is grounded in what the environment ministry has described as a sensitive zone, with the leaking fuel endangering the diverse marine life that attracts tourists from around the world.

Mauritius, famous for its pristine beaches, is popular with tourists who last year contributed 63 billion Mauritius rupees ($1.6bn) to the economy.

And the Japanese company that owns the ship has apologised for the incident, and has also sent a team of oil-spill specialists to assist. Oil on board ship is being loaded into portable tanks and airlifted off the tanker by helicopter. The New York Times website said on Friday that almost all the remaining oil has been pumped from the ship, so the spillage should not get worse over the weekend.

Forbes.com says that the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation has 40 conservation programs operating to support various endangered species. Here, there are 15 of the most iconic species and habitats that have been directly impacted by the oil spill, and which the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation and other local environmental groups are fighting to save.

Now ARRL.org reports another step in ARRL’s increased focus on strengthening its emergency communications capabilities and long-standing working relationships with federal and state agencies and private emergency response organizations, in hiring Paul Z. Gilbert, KE5ZW, of Cedar Park, Texas, as its first Director of Emergency Management.

Gilbert brings more than 30 years of experience in public service in both his professional and amateur radio endeavours. Beginning with his appointment as Emergency Coordinator in 1987, he has held multiple positions in the ARRL Field Organization. Currently in his second term as South Texas Section Manager, he has also served for more than a decade as the West Gulf Division’s Assistant Director for Public Service, acting as liaison between Division leadership and local, state, and federal emergency management organizations.

Professionally, Gilbert most recently was Radio Officer, HQ Staff, for the Texas State Guard, where for the past 6 years he has been responsible for the planning and implementation of the organization’s communications capabilities. Previously he was a Public Safety Radio Coordinator for a Texas agency, charged with overseeing that organization’s large-scale disaster communications response and identifying and eliminating in-state interoperability issues.

In his new role, Gilbert will manage a team responsible for supporting ARRL Emergency Communications (EmComm) programs and services, including the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) and National Traffic System (NTS), as well as leading the continued modernization of those programs in consonance with the future emergency communications needs of the public and ARRL’s key partners.

This week’s ARRL letter reports that an auxiliary cable that helps to support a metal platform above the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope’s reflector dish in Puerto Rico snapped in the early morning hours of August 10th, causing a 100-foot gash in the reflector dish. Operations at the world-famous observatory, which is managed by the University of Central Florida (UCF), have been halted until repairs can be made. When the heavy 10 cm cable fell, it also damaged about a half-dozen panels in the Gregorian dome above the dish and twisted the platform used to access the dome. The cause of the cable break is not yet clear.

“We have a team of experts assessing the situation,” Observatory Director Francisco Cordova said. “Our focus is assuring the safety of our staff, protecting the facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to full operations as soon as possible, so it can continue to assist scientists around the world.”

UCF manages the National Science Foundation (NSF) facility under a cooperative agreement with Universidad Ana G. Méndez and Yang Enterprises Inc. Home to one of the most powerful telescopes on the planet, the facility is used by scientists around the world to conduct research in the areas of atmospheric sciences, planetary sciences, radio astronomy, and radar astronomy. Arecibo is also home to a team that runs the Planetary Radar Project supported by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program in NASA’s Planetary Defence Coordination Office, through a grant awarded to UCF.

The facility has endured many hurricanes, tropical storms, and earthquakes since it was built 50 years ago. Repairs from Hurricane Maria in 2017 are still ongoing. Through it all, the facility has continued to contribute to significant breakthroughs in space research in the area of gravitational waves, asteroid characterization, planetary exploration, and more.

The largest single-dish radio telescope in the world for decades, Arecibo was bumped into second place in 2016 by the Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China.

The Arecibo Observatory Radio Club operates KP4AO at the site, mostly on special occasions.

Finally, a strange phenomenon has been noted in patients with Covid-19, who need admission to ICU and oxygen of some sort or other. Observations have revealed that those seriously ill patients who have a headache when they are admitted to ICU do better than those who don’t have a headache. There is no obvious reason why this should be so. Headache is such a universal symptom of fever and infection that one might have expected the statistics to be the other way round.

Nobody said that the coronavirus infection was not novel!

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

HAMNET Report 9th August 2020

The premier of the Australian state of Victoria plunged the region into a “state of disaster” last Sunday, announcing even stricter lockdown measures, introducing a nightly curfew and banning virtually all trips outdoors after Australia’s second largest state recorded 671 new Covid-19 infections in a single day.

Premier Daniel Andrews told Victorians at a news conference that “we have to do more, and we have to do more right now,” as the state battles to contain a devastating coronavirus outbreak that had already stripped residents of their freedoms, livelihoods and social interactions, and made it an outlier from the rest of the country.

“Where you slept last night is where you’ll need to stay for the next six weeks,” Andrews said, announcing a curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. beginning Sunday evening and moving Metropolitan Melbourne into stage four lockdown measures.

In that part of the state, only one person per household will be allowed to leave their homes once a day — outside of curfew hours — to pick up essential goods, and they must stay within a 5 kilometre radius of their home. Melburnians had already been under strict measures for most of July after the area was identified as the epicentre of Australia’s second wave.

The draconian new rules were spurred by more bleak Covid-19 figures. Seven new deaths were announced on Saturday, bringing the state’s total to 123, and there have been 11,557 confirmed infections.

In addition, Andrews said the state has 760 “mystery cases,” where “we cannot trace back the source of that person’s infection.”

“Those mysteries and that community transmission are in many respects our biggest challenges and the reason why we need to move to a different set of rules,” Andrews said. “The whole way through this, I promised to be upfront. So I’ll say this now. This will be imperfect. And for a little while, there’ll be more questions than answers,” he added, after the swath of new measures.

We thank CNN for this news of a possible second wave starting in Australia.

Meanwhile, The Japan Times reports that cardboard partitions are becoming more common as shields to prevent infection with the novel coronavirus via droplets among people staying at disaster shelters following the recent heavy rains that hit some regions of Japan.

An increasing number of companies are developing such products, which can be assembled easily, reshaped freely and can even be recycled.

Kato Danboru Co. developed a cardboard partition product for use at shelters jointly with the city government of Noda, Chiba Prefecture, after the Tokyo-based company introduced to the municipality a desk partition to help prevent coronavirus infection.

The company plans to deliver to the city 2,100 sets of the product. The jointly developed partition is 2 meters in length and width and 1.45 meters in height when assembled. It is designed for use by three people at a time.

Pictures with the article show a raised pedestal surrounded by a cardboard wall creating a semi-private, and more isolated space for a group of 2 to 3 people to protect them from direct contamination from other refugees. The shelter has a high roof or ceiling, of course, so ventilation, and dilution of any possible coronavirus, is more effectively achieved.

In that the cardboard can be reused or recycled, this is a clever and fairly inexpensive solution to the problem of social separation, when large numbers of people are gathered in a temporary shelter after a natural disaster.

With the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) expecting Tropical Storm Isaias to become a hurricane again on Monday the 3rd, and make landfall that evening, the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) reactivated at 1600 UTC on 14.325 MHz. HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said the net would shift operations at 2300 UTC to 7.268 MHz, where it would remain until no longer needed by the NHC

“The centre of Isaias was expected to approach the coast of north-eastern South Carolina and southern North Carolina within the hurricane warning area later that day,” the NHC said. The centre was predicted to move inland over eastern North Carolina that night, and move along the coast of the mid-Atlantic States on Tuesday and into the north-eastern United States by Tuesday night.”

The HWN initially activated on July 31 at 1500 UTC, when Isaias was about 245 miles southeast of Nassau. “During the next 41 hours, we relayed the latest advisories to those in the Bahamas, south Florida, as well as mariners and shortwave listeners, Graves said. “Because Isaias was forecast to regain strength to a Category 1 hurricane, and hurricane watches and warnings remained in effect for the Florida coast as well as areas in the Bahamas, the Net remained activated.” After the NHC dropped all hurricane watches and warnings on Sunday morning, and the storm was no longer believed to become a hurricane, the HWN secured operations on Sunday, August 1.

“During the course of 41 hours, we never received any reports from the Bahamas,” Graves said. “We did hear from many south Florida stations, but the storm was not yet close enough at the time for [that area] to be adversely affected.

Although Isaias hadn’t turned into a monster hurricane, radio amateurs from all over South Carolina had been preparing for days as the South Carolina Emergency Operations Centre geared up for the storm. Isaias was predicted to make landfall on the border of North Carolina and South Carolina.

Thank you to the ARRL News for permitting this summary of their news.

Finally, another confirmation of the importance of the loss of the sense of smell as being the most important diagnostic feature of Covid-19 comes from Oxford University, where Professor Tim Spektor and his group are running the vaccine trial in which South Africa is participating.

The Oxford group has pioneered a cell-phone app in that country, by means of which you submit the state of your health, daily and anonymously, as well as results of Covid-19 tests you may have had done. From 2.8 million contributors amongst the general public, the app is helping to build an appreciation of which symptoms are most likely to be associated with positive cases. This example of artificial intelligence is telling them that clinicians should regard loss of the sense of smell, or Anosmia, as a more diagnostic sign of Covid-19, than a chronic cough, or a fever.

There is no reason why this sort of artificial intelligence could not be harnessed to develop diagnostic protocols for other diseases, which are commonly missed, because data in great enough quantity is never gathered to allow easy diagnosis.

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

HAMNET Report 2nd August 2020

The ARRL has reported that the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) activated for Hurricane Hanna, the first hurricane of the Atlantic Hurricane season. The storm was poised to make landfall along the Gulf of Mexico. A Category 1 storm, Hanna had maximum sustained winds of 120 km/h. At the time of the report, the storm was about 90 miles east-northeast of Port Mansfield, Texas, and about 100 miles east-southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas.

WX4NHC at the NHC also activated for Hanna, and participated in the HWN on 14.325 MHz, as well as on the VoIP Weather Net .

Bobby Graves KB5HAV said “We are also available to provide back-up communication to official agencies such as emergency operations centres, Red Cross officials, and storm shelters in the affected area. We will also be interested to collect and report significant damage assessment and storm surge data back to the forecasters as well as to FEMA officials stationed in the National Hurricane Centre.”

Due to COVID-19 precautions, WX4NHC operators are operating from their homes.

Meanwhile, there is an orange alert for another Hurricane named Isaias-20, active in the Atlantic, and approaching the Caribbean, predicted to proceed up the East coast of Florida towards the Carolinas. With current maximum wind speeds of about 140 km/h, it is currently threatening all the Caribbean islands and Florida. It is to be expected, though not yet reported, that the National Hurricane Centre will remain on standby, monitoring the path of the storm, and activating WX4NHC if amateur radio is called upon for weather reports and message handling.

The ARRL Letter this week reports that the airship Dirigible Italia crashed on pack ice northeast of the Svalbard Islands on 25th May 1928, on the return leg of a trip to survey the North Pole with 16 passengers and crew on board. At impact, one person was killed, and the cabin carrying nine people separated from the hydrogen-filled airframe. Six crew members on the dirigible structure were never seen again, after the airship again became airborne. The survivors on the icepack turned to their 5 W wireless set, a one-tube Hartley oscillator, to put out a call for help, but it was only after 9 days of trying that they were able to get the attention of a radio amateur 1,900 kilometres away.

The recently published article, “The Shipwreck of the Airship Dirigibile Italia in the 1928 Polar Venture: A Retrospective Analysis of the Ionospheric and Geomagnetic Conditions,” provides the gripping historical context and tries to explain why it was so difficult to establish communication for a rescue. Drawing from sources of geophysical data collected at the time, and using modern theories of propagation — including some directly derived from amateur radio observations — the authors present data including sunspot count, magnetic flux, and F2 layer height, and take the reader through an analysis of the sky-wave and ground-wave paths.

Ultimately, the authors suggest, ground-wave path losses likely exceeded 100 dB, leaving only skywave as a potential link. In the first few days after the crash, the ionospheric path was impossible at the frequencies being used — 9.1 and 9.4 MHz — due to disturbed conditions. It was only after conditions had settled that communication became possible, and it only became reliable when a lower frequency was chosen.

Even after communication was established, 15 rescuers were lost in the search and recovery operations, including Roald Amundsen, Norway’s famed polar explorer. Finally, on July 12, 1928, 48 days after the initial crash, a Russian icebreaker was able to reach and rescue the survivors.

Propagation conditions really can become a matter of life or death.

Further, Tech Explorist tells us that Solar flares are an explosion of energy caused by tangling, crossing, or reorganizing of magnetic field lines near sunspots. Solar flares release a lot of radiation into space. If a solar flare is very intense, the radiation it releases can interfere with our radio communications here on Earth.

The X-ray light emitted by a flare, and the ejection of material from the Sun that often accompanies them can produce powerful space weather effects on Earth. These can pose hazards to astronauts, spacecraft, and technological systems on the ground, such as electric power grids and radio communications.

As global society turns out to be more dependent on these technologies, there is an increasing need for reliable techniques to anticipate imminent solar events and improve cautioning times when they happen. In spite of many years of study and near persistent monitoring of the sun’s magnetic activity, the specific conditions and mechanisms that produce flares remain unknown, making them especially difficult to gauge.

Kanya Kusano and colleagues presented a new model called ‘κ-scheme (kappa-scheme) to forecast large solar flares more reliably than previous methods. This physics-based scheme predicts when a large solar flare is imminent using routine magnetic observations of the Sun.

It derives critical thresholds of a magneto-hydrodynamic instability. It also identifies where the flare will occur and how much energy could be released.

Scientists tested the model by analysing data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory from 2008 to 2019, finding that the κ-scheme was able to identify the occurrence, location, and size of most large flares, up to 20 hours in advance.

Finally, Sue Kerr, writing in The Leader-Vindicator, says that as a senior citizen, she tends to stick close to home. She’s not a coward, far from it, but she just doesn’t feel like picking up the coronavirus and sharing it with her frail family members.

As a result, there’s more tinkering going on. She’d like to improve her soldering skills, she’d like to play around with amateur radio and there are all kinds of nifty and useful things that she (an average person) can make.

She says lifelong learning is not limited to the so-called smart people. It’s only a matter of scratching our curiosity itch. And it’s good for us.

She says COVID-19 has made us change the way we do some things. Before it hit, she’d never been in a Zoom teleconference. It sure works better for her than the out-of-date software she had to use for a freelancing gig back in 2013.

So, this creepy little virus has us doing things in new ways. If we’re wishing and praying for things to get back to normal, we should consider the possibility that the new normal might actually be better — simpler, more convenient, maybe even less expensive.

Thank you for the perspective, Sue!

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

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.