HAMNET Report 8 April 2018


I’m very pleased to tell you that Greg Mossop G0DUB of Region One of the IARU has picked up on the notes I sent last week of the HAMNET Blackout Exercise Dave Higgs and his merry men of the Eastern Cape Division are organising for the beginning of May.

After quoting the announcement Dave put out, and mentioning the team booklet that is already available for the event, Greg makes a good point when he says: “While the exercise is only for South Africa, the exercise booklet may give some of you ideas for your own exercise”. We monitor the IARU Region One news as it is issued for news and ideas on how to improve our efforts in this country, and it is good to know that the other member countries monitor our news too. So well done Dave ZS2DH for striking the right sort of chords!

How many of you relative old-timers in amateur radio cut your electronic’s teeth on the circuits and ideas in that wonderful monthly publication of the 50’s to 70’s, called “Popular Electronics“? I know I did, though I didn’t have access to the periodical every month.

Well John ZS1JNT has drawn my attention to a website which has catalogued and copied them all, in PDF format, to the web. I looked at a few and was instantly transported back to my pre-teens, when I could only dream about the projects and test-kits on offer! They are to be found at http://www.americanradiohistory.com/Popular-Electronics-Guide.htm. Thanks for that information, John.

I have mentioned the next subject before on this platform, and here are further notes on the use of drones in emergencies.

Law enforcement and emergency responders have been using drones to give them an eye in the sky for years. But the unmanned aerial vehicles may soon provide ears as well. Two of the United States’ largest mobile phone companies are exploring using drones as flying mobile hot spots to provide phone and other services when cell towers are down or in areas where service does not exist.

“After Hurricane Sandy, we lost cell service countywide for several days,” said Martin Pagliughi, the director of the Cape May County Office of Emergency Management in New Jersey.

So on a raw day last month, several of Cape May’s emergency responders gathered at a municipal airport in Woodbine to watch Verizon launch a 200-pound drone into the sky. When it reached an altitude of 3,000 feet, a hot spot on board started transmitting a wireless signal. On the ground, members of the Cape May Police Department noted the strength of the service on the Verizon-issued phones they were carrying.

“They were testing texting, they were testing voice, they had full coverage in the radius,” Mr. Pagliughi said.

And, in 2017, AT&T won a $7 billion federal government contract to construct a nationwide disaster readiness network called FirstNet. Parts of the programme will include technology to provide cell service from the sky. When Hurricane Harvey struck Houston and Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, AT&T relied on mobile hot spots driven to sites and raised onto masts to provide cell-phone service. The company also can launch a remote four-rotor hovering drone known as a “Cell on Wings”, which is tethered to ground cables for data exchange and power.

“A vast majority of the time” the combination of a truck and a mast will solve the communications problem, said Chris Sambar, a senior vice president at AT&T. “But there are times where what’s needed is a drone.”

In addition to providing phone and other data services for emergency responders, Verizon is pursuing other possible uses for drones.

“We envision the ability for the aircraft to have a camera onboard to collect the photographic data and beam it to the ground,” Christopher Desmond said, providing situational awareness at the scene and also at a command centre. That, he said, would enable better collaboration between those inside and outside a disaster zone.

The pilotless airplane with its 17-foot wingspan is much larger than a hobbyist’s drone. It does not hover and it does not run on batteries. Instead its petrol engine supports flights that can be as long as 16 hours, while producing 400 watts of power — enough to control the airplane and feed the electrical needs of a communications hot spot, camera and other onboard equipment.

“It’s a unique vehicle, a unique way of carrying sensors with a persistence you can’t get from manned aircraft,’’ said David Yoel, the founder and chief executive of American Aerospace, the company that owns the drone and operates it for Verizon.

Before Verizon started testing its aerial hot spot, Cape May had conducted its own tests using a drone from American Aerospace equipped with radio, cell and satellite transmitters. Mr. Pagliughi said he wanted to see how effective the various options might be and that the county would work with any company that could expand the range of airborne service for emergency responders.

Thank you to the New York Times for these notes.

Next weekend, the SARL will be holding its Annual General Meeting, which I hope to attend. I have previously mentioned the importance of having a quorum of votes at the meetings to allow them to continue. To this end, you, the “Ham-in-the-street”, can ensure the meetings occur, even if you cannot attend yourself, by providing a person of your choice with your proxy. So this is my final plea to all of you HAMNET members to send a proxy to a person in your region, who you believe can carry your wishes to the meetings. If you have particular feelings about any of the AGM motions, tell your proxy-holder so, but please don’t let apathy prevent your feelings from being made known, or stop the meetings from happening because a quorum wasn’t present.

I look forward to seeing you there!

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