HAMNET Report 10th July 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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