HAMNET Report 27 January 2019

The ARRL Letter for 16 January reports that the Winter Field Day Association (WFDA) sponsors the 2019 running of Winter Field Day, January 26 – 27 (that is, this weekend). WFDA says that the ability to conduct emergency communication in a winter environment is just as important as the preparation and practice that take place each summer, but with some additional unique operational concerns.

“We believe that maintaining your operational skills should not be limited to fair-weather scenarios,” WFDA said in announcing this year’s event. “The addition of Winter Field Day will enhance those already important skills of those who generously volunteer their time and equipment to these organizations. Preparedness is the key to a professional and timely response during any event, and this is what local and state authorities are expecting when they reach out to emergency service groups that offer their services.” The event is open to all radio amateurs.

Members of the Warren County  Radio Club will activate Maxim Memorial Station W1AW during 2019 Winter Field Day. Club members will work a rotating 24-hour operating schedule to ensure the most band/mode coverage.

Grant ZS1GS sent me a piece from the South China Morning Post, reporting on  a giant experimental radio antenna on a piece of land almost five times the size of New York City, according to researchers involved in the highly controversial project.

The Wireless Electromagnetic Method (WEM) project took 13 years to build but researchers said that it was finally ready to emit extremely low frequency radio waves, also known as ELF waves. Those waves have been linked to cancer by the World Health Organisation-affiliated International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Although the project has civilian applications – officially it will be used for earthquake and mineral detection and forms part of China’s 11th five-year plan – it could also play a crucial role in military communications.

Scientists said that its transmissions could be picked up by a submarine lurking hundreds of metres under the sea, thus reducing the vessel’s risk of having to resurface to receive transmissions.

The project follows the construction of China’s first military-grade Super Low Frequency transmission station in 2009.

The next year, a Chinese nuclear submarine successfully communicated with the station from deep water – making China the third country in the world to have established such a submarine communication system, after the United States and Russia.

But the Chinese navy is eager to expand its capacity and has been pouring resources into the more advanced ELF radio technology, which allows submarines to communicate with the command centre from a greater depth and is harder to disrupt.

The Chinese government, however, has played down the importance of the facility, which occupies some 3,700 sq km of land, in information released to the public.

Apart from the need to protect an important strategic asset, some researchers said that the secrecy was to avoid causing public alarm.

The antenna would emit ELF signals with a frequency of between 0.1 and 300 hertz, the researchers said.

The exact site of the facility has not been disclosed, but information available in Chinese research journals suggests it is in the Huazhong region, an area in central China that includes Hubei, Henan and Hunan provinces and is home to more than 230 million people – greater than the population of Brazil.

Project WEM’s main surface structure is a pair of high voltage power supply lines stretching from north to south, and east to west on steel lattice towers, which form a cross that is 60km wide and 80km to 100km long.

At the end of each power line, thick copper wire goes underground through a deep borehole. Two power stations generate strong currents and electrify the ground in slow, repeating pulses, turning the earth underfoot into an active source of electromagnetic radiation.

The radio pulses not only pass through the atmosphere, but travel through the Earth’s crust as well, with a range of up to 3,500km, according to the project scientists.

A sensitive receiver within that range, which is roughly the distance between China and Singapore or Guam, would be able to pick up these signals.

The closer to the power source, the stronger the pulses.

The radar will be difficult for spy satellites to detect because it will appear no different to an ordinary power grid, although a radar expert said it might be possible to detect its emissions and use those to determine the location.

The inland location of the new facility would also make it harder for an enemy to attack, compared with a facility located on the coast.

But the project has caused concern among some academics, who worry about the possible impact on public health.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organisation, has previously warned that ELF waves are “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.

Numerous epidemiological and experimental studies conducted by researchers around the world have linked long-term ELF exposure to an increased risk of childhood leukaemia.

In a 500-page report constantly updated since 2007, the WHO has documented a large number of academic investigations linking ELF radiation to a range of illnesses including delusions, sleep deprivation, stress, depression, breast and brain tumours, miscarriages and suicide.

Though many results remain inconclusive, the WHO said the implementation of precautionary procedures to reduce exposure was “reasonable and warranted”.

China is not the first country doing this. Other countries conducted similar projects long ago.”

In 1968, the US Navy proposed Project Sanguine, a giant ELF antenna that would have covered two-fifths of the state of Wisconsin to enable undersea communications with submarines.

The project was terminated due to massive protest by residents.

The US Navy built a smaller transmitter, the Wisconsin Test Facility, with two 45km power lines in the Clam Lake area, a place with a low population density. The station emitted ELF waves at 76 hertz and was decommissioned over a decade ago.

In the 1980s the Soviet Union constructed Zevs, a considerably more powerful facility on the Kola Peninsula inside the Arctic Circle.

The Zevs antenna was powered by two 60km electric lines and had a main frequency tuned at 82 hertz. The radio waves it produced were believed powerful enough to reach Russian nuclear submarines hidden deep under the Arctic ice cap.

Unfortunately I don’t have a back garden big enough to accommodate an antenna 60km by 60km in size, so I don’t expect to hear these signals at my station!

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

HAMNET Report 20 January 2019

South Africa has won an extraordinary victory in space science with the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) being chosen to provide space weather information for the continent, the country’s ministry of science and technology said on Monday.

Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said SA was selected by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to become the designated regional provider of space weather information to the entire aviation sector using African airspace.

“This means that every aircraft flying in the continent’s airspace will rely on SANSA for the space weather information it needs to submit as part of its flight plan.”

Kubayi-Ngubane said: “Space weather, which can influence the performance and reliability of aviation and other technological systems, is caused by the Sun, the nature of the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, and the Earth’s location in the solar system.

“Space weather can lead to reduced signals from global navigation satellite systems, adversely affecting navigation, increased radiation, which can destroy human cells and tissue, especially during long-haul flights, and blackouts of high-frequency radio communications, which are critically important for the aviation and marine sectors.”

Kubayi-Ngubane said SANSA’s designation by the ICAO presents an opportunity to  use further the newly revamped space weather centre at Hermanus in the Western Cape.

The centre’s monitoring of the sun and its activity has been providing the country with vital early warnings and forecasts on space weather conditions, and these benefits will now be extended to the international aviation community.

The upgraded centre was unveiled by Kubayi-Ngubane in April 2018 and processes are currently under way to secure additional funding further to capacitate the centre for the huge task that lies ahead.

“The international community has supported South Africa’s ICAO designation, and has demonstrated confidence in SANSA’s ability to provide the services required. The process that SANSA underwent to achieve this designation has already enhanced South Africa’s reputation in the space science and technology field.”

She said since South Africa was the only African country with operational space weather capabilities, it would engage with other countries on the continent on data sharing, infrastructure hosting, training, product development, and research collaboration opportunities.

The country’s space science programme was feeding the knowledge economy and placing the national system of innovation at the centre of South Africa’s developmental agenda.

Thank you to the African News Agency for this report.

From the Jerusalem Post comes a report of a new Emergency Response Vehicle capable of providing fresh water to disaster zones. Watergen, the Rishon Lezion start-up known for its unique technology extracting fresh water directly from the air, has partnered with the Red Cross to develop the vehicle to provide fresh water to disaster zones.

Equipped with the company’s patented GENius-powered atmospheric water generator capable of producing 900 litres of water per day, the ERV will provide access to much-needed potable water supplies for communities far from population centres that are affected by emergencies or natural disasters.

“At a time when, according to international data, about two billion people in the world don’t have access to clean water, Watergen’s technology is a real lifesaver,” said Watergen chairman Michael (Micho) Mirilashvili.

“The new technological development is a breakthrough in enabling the technology to be mobilized and allowing access to clean drinking water so that it is available anywhere in the world immediately and without any installation.”

The vehicle was developed according to American Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines. It includes satellite communication capabilities, power sockets for charging communication device batteries, emergency accumulators for the supply of power, and storage for medical equipment.

An external water tank carrying up to 1,500 litres of water, a 500 litre fuel tank for long operations, emergency lighting and WiFi can also be added to the vehicle.

The ERV has already been deployed, providing clean water for emergency services fighting the deadly and destructive November 2018 wildfires in California.

Thanks to the Jerusalem Post for that one.

In that this vehicle is able to condense water out of water vapour in the air, it should be made available in all areas of our country, to be sent to any disaster situation at a moment’s notice. Let’s hope it will!

Due to recent events involving drones interfering with commercial air travel, the US Federal Aviation Administration is developing a strategy to allow wider use of counter-drone technologies across airports. In times of heightened UAV threats, the SPYNEL IR imaging camera provides an innovative approach that guarantees the ability to detect, track, and classify all types of drones.

Writing in Sensors|Online, Mathew Dirjish notes that the SPYNEL thermal imaging technology  makes it impossible for a UAV to go unnoticed. Any object, hot or cold, will be detected by the 360° thermal sensor, day and night.

Driven by unique CYCLOPE intrusion detection software, the panoramic thermal imaging system tracks an unlimited number of targets to ensure that no event is missed over a long-range and wide surrounding area. SPYNEL is thus fully adapted to multi-target airborne threats like UAV swarming.

SPYNEL is a multi-function sensor with a large field of view, enabling real-time surveillance of both airborne and terrestrial threats at the same time. The CYCLOPE automatic detection software provides advanced features to monitor and analyze the 360° high resolution images captured by SPYNEL sensors.

The ADS-B plugin enables aerial target identification and the aircraft ADS-B data can be fused with thermal tracks to differentiate an airplane from a drone. With the forensics analysis offering a timeline, sequence storage and playback possibilities, it is also possible to go back in time to analyze the behaviour of the threat since its first apparition on the CYCLOPE interface. Moreover, the latest CYCLOPE feature makes 3D passive detection by triangulation available, when using several SPYNEL sensors at the same time. The feature consists in analyzing the distance and the altitude of multiple targets, creating a kind of “protective bubble” around the airport.

A key advantage of the SPYNEL detection system for airport applications is that it is a fully passive technology, meaning it will not be a source of disturbance in the electromagnetic environment of the airport. Indeed, a concern often raised by air-safety regulators is that anti-drone systems designed to jam radio communications could interfere with legitimate airport equipment.

I’m sure airports like Gatwick will be quick to install this kind of surveillance system.

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

HAMNET Report 13 January 2019

Here’s something I’ll bet you never thought you would hear about on a HAMNET Bulletin. The Japan News carried a post this week about frogs! Apparently, regularities seen in the calls of frogs can be used to improve radio communications systems, according to the findings of a Japanese scientific team led by Ikkyu Aihara, an assistant professor at the University of Tsukuba.

The findings were published in the British science journal Royal Society Open Science issued on Wednesday. The mechanism of the behaviour is expected to help avoid so-called packet collisions, a data communication failure in smart-phones and other devices, and could eventually contribute to energy savings.

Packet collisions occur when multiple devices simultaneously emit radio waves that interfere with each other, preventing the sending and receiving of data. The reduction of such collisions is key to improving telecommunication technology.

According to the team’s announcement, the scientists recorded and analyzed the sounds of three Japanese tree frogs. They found that a group of frogs delays, or “trolls,” the timing of their calls so as not to interfere with each other, and the group overall regularly switches between calling together and resting together.

Aihara, who specializes in mathematical biology, noticed the state of frogs’ singing can be likened to the transmissions of wireless communication equipment, and re-created the patterns of their trolling in mathematical formulas. The team used a computer to install the formulas into 100 devices and had them correspond with each other in a simulation.

Devices set next to each other began delaying the timing of their transmissions and avoiding packet collisions, just like the frogs’ trolling. Furthermore, the mechanism of calling in chorus, involving the repetition of simultaneous transmissions and rests, was seen among the devices as a whole. The team also found that the mechanism helped reduce power consumption.

“The sudden increase in IoT [internet of things] devices will cause packet collisions and massive power consumption,” said Keio University Prof. Satoshi Kurihara, who specializes in complex network science. “Many of the mechanisms possessed by living creatures are efficient, and can be useful for developing equipment that is inexpensive and has better energy-saving performance.”

I wonder whether this technique could not be employed by hasty users of our repeaters, to prevent doubling!

News from the medical front concerns the World Health Organisation’s drive to eradicate Polio throughout the world. In that Polio only occurs in humans, and can only be spread from human to human, all that has to be done is to isolate the last human case of Polio on earth, prevent any further spread, and the disease will be eradicated. Who’s Director General, Dr TA Ghebreyesus spent 4 days recently in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the last two countries where Polio cases were reported last year, and he highlighted Who’s commitment to its final eradication.

He said: “We must all give our best on this last mile to eradicate polio once and for all. My wish for 2019 is for zero polio transmission. You have full WHO’s support to help reach every child and stop this virus for good.”

Smallpox was declared eradicated in this way in 1980, after the last case was identified and isolated in Somalia in 1977. Like Polio, Smallpox occurs only in humans, and is transmitted from hand to mouth or by droplet infection from an infected person’s exhaled air. Polio immunisation in children is still given, but Smallpox vaccination is no longer required.

If you’d like to ogle stations of other radio amateurs around the world, consider logging in to the Facebook group called “Ham Radio Show and Tell” launched by Kevin Duplantis W4KEV in Tennessee. As you’d expect, it is a site to show off your shack, mobile installation, or anything ham radio that you’re proud of. So let’s see who’s going to be the first South African to feature the station he is proud of.

On Friday evening, the Southern Coast of the Western Cape was suddenly faced with three massive and very fast-moving fires. From videos seen, it even looked as though the intensity of the fire had generated firestorms, intense winds which further fanned the flames. There was a forecast for strong South-Westerly winds, and the fire and the wind seemed to combine to worsen the disaster.

Fires had been burning around the Southern tip of Africa ever since New Year’s eve, and fire-fighters have been fighting and monitoring hotspots ever since. Suddenly, on Friday evening, three fires flared up, and within hours, about 50 houses had been destroyed, countless vehicles burnt out, and entire coastal villages evacuated. Franskraal was badly affected, as well as Betty’s Bay, and suburbs of Hermanus ordered to be evacuated, as the flames neared them.

Grant Southey ZS1GS, Regional Director for HAMNET Western Cape ordered a net to be established amongst available operators in the Peninsula, and along the coast as far as Hermanus, in case help was required. Some areas consumed in the fires had lost power due to damage to wiring, and the possibility of no communications was rearing its head.

Very swiftly, some ten amateurs were to be heard on the 145.600 MHz repeater on Sir Lowry’s Pass, and HF comms were established on 80m. By about 21h00 on Friday evening, the chatter on the repeater had died down, and so had the fires a bit, thanks to some life-saving rain along the coast, which helped to dampen the strength of the fire.

Unfortunately the 145.725MHz  repeater outside Hermanus is not within range of the Peninsula operators, and the UHF link with the 145.600MHz repeater is unserviceable at present, so no contact was directly possible with Hermanus amateurs. Callsigns heard on 80 and 2 metres included ZS1DDK, ZS1SBM, ZS1KP, ZS1PDE, and ZR1FR, and ZS1OR and ZS1TR were also heard on 2 metres. Thank you to you all for being available. Thankfully, you were not needed.

Saturday’s social media were full of pictures and videos of the raging inferno. So far, no lives have been lost and the Overstrand Fire Authorities are reporting that the fires are under control and being monitored.

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

HAMNET Report 6 January 2019

In this, the first edition of the Hamnet Report of 2019, I’m very pleased to quote fully the greetings message from Greg Mossop G0DUB, the Emergency Communications Co-ordinator for the International Amateur Radio Union Region One. He wrote this as 2018 was drawing to a close on the evening of 31 December, and I quote:

“As 2018 ends I would like to thank all of you, and your families, for your support again this year.

“Looking back through the mailing list traffic, it has been quite a busy year, but we have not made a lot of noise about this 🙂

“There were a number of exercises held by you all, some looking at technological disasters like power failures, which have the ability to cause great disruption to the communications networks the public have become dependent on. I lost count of who has had this kind of exercise, but South Africa, Austria and Belgium come immediately to mind.

“Other exercises have had a very international feel with co-operation between the Netherlands, Poland and Germany testing their cross-border links. Others like Spain have had a sequence of exercises around the theme of Net Control which have been supported by the use of media like YouTube to spread training to their operators. We even had ARON in Slovenia streaming a training session live to the web, which set a good example for others to follow.

“We were always ready to respond to events, but there were not too many in our Region, so the focus again is on the countries around the world who are more affected by natural disasters, and the best help we can give is to raise awareness to give them clear frequencies.

“2019 begins with a fresh start as I begin to organise the next meeting of Emergency Communications Co-Ordinators in Friedrichshafen on 21st June. I will also be tidying up the mailing list, updating all the records I have for your countries and, now that there is some interest being shown from other Regions again, also thinking about the next GlobalSET, so we will have a lot to do 🙂

“I hope you all have a happy and healthy 2019.

“73 and Happy New Year,

“Greg, G0DUB.

Thank you, Greg, and your kind greetings are reciprocated from South Africa!

Now, further news of that tsunami I reported on last week comes from the Weather Network.

They report that  authorities around the globe are working on how they can prepare for the kind of freak tsunami that battered coasts west of Jakarta last month.

The Dec. 23 tsunami killed around 430 people along the coastlines of the Sunda Strait, capping a year of earthquakes and tsunamis in the vast archipelago, which straddles the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire.

No sirens were heard in those towns and beaches to alert people before the deadly series of waves hit shore.

Seismologists and authorities say a perfect storm of factors caused the tsunami and made early detection near impossible given the equipment in place.

But the disaster should be a wake-up call to step up research on tsunami triggers and preparedness, said several of the experts, some of whom have travelled to the Southeast Asian nation to investigate what happened.

“Indonesia has demonstrated to the rest of the world the huge variety of sources that have the potential to cause tsunamis. More research is needed to understand those less-expected events,” said Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at the University of Southampton.

Most tsunamis on record have been triggered by earthquakes. But this time it was an eruption of Anak Krakatau Volcano that caused its crater to partially collapse into the sea at high tide, sending waves up to 5 metres (16 feet) high smashing into densely populated coastal areas on Java and Sumatra islands.

But the eruption didn’t rattle seismic monitors significantly, and the absence of seismic signals normally associated with tsunamis led Indonesia’s geophysics agency (BMKG) initially to tweet there was no tsunami.

Muhamad Sadly, head of geophysics at BMKG, later told Reuters its tidal monitors were not set up to trigger tsunami warnings from non-seismic events.

Scientists have long flagged the collapse of Anak Krakatau, around 155 km (100 miles) west of the capital, as a concern. A 2012 study published by the Geological Society of London deemed it a “tsunami hazard.”

Anak Krakatau had emerged from the Krakatoa volcano, which in 1883 erupted in one of the biggest explosions in recorded history, killing more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunamis and lowering the global surface temperature by one degree Celsius with its ash.

Some experts believe there was enough time for at least a partial detection of last week’s tsunami in the 24 minutes it took waves to hit land after the landslide on Anak Krakatau.

“The tsunami was very much a worst-case scenario for any hope of a clear tsunami warning: a lack of an obvious earthquake to trigger a warning, shallow water, rough seabed, and the close proximity to nearby coastlines,” said seismologist Hicks.

Thank you to theweathernetwork.com for these extracts.

With the start of the New Year, comes the need to round up volunteers for the early sporting events of the year that HAMNET supports. In the Western Cape, our first event is the 99er Cycle Tour around Durbanville, in the direction of Wellington, westward through Philadelphia, and via the N7 back to Durbanville. This event is organized by the el Shaddai Christian School in Durbanville, and takes place on Saturday morning the 9th of February this year.

HAMNET Western Cape is thus looking for the “Usual Suspects” to volunteer their services, and make contact with me in the next two weeks, so I can develop the Operations Plan. We usually have about 14 volunteers so please don’t be shy in stepping forward. We also welcome brand new amateurs, who may, if they wish, ride with an experienced operator to get the feel for these things, with a view to themselves becoming a rover in future years.

I’ll have more details of this in Wednesday the 9th’s HAMNET Western Cape Bulletin, which will be transmitted on  the 145.750MHz repeater at 19h30 Bravo that evening. Please feel free to call in during the bulletin to indicate your presence.

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