In the face of the severe heatwave affecting much of Central and Western Europe, France, Spain and Portugal have been experiencing many wildfires this week. In Spain, temperatures in the low 40’s Celsius were measured on several days of the week.
According to the Portuguese National Authority for Emergency and Civil Protection (ProCiv), 10 major fires have been burning across Portugal, and a total of 144 fires were registered on 9 July. These fires were mainly located in the central part of the country in the districts of Leiria and Santarém, involving 1185 firefighters, 237 vehicles, and with assistance from 15 fire-fighting aircraft.
On 9 July, Portugal activated the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) and made a request for assistance for 1 Aerial Forest Fire Fighting Module. In response, the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) invited Spain to mobilise 2 Canadair airplanes, which were deployed to Portugal on the morning of 10th July.
Portugal continues to face an extreme fire risk in the upcoming days compounded by high temperatures, strong winds, low relative humidity and drought conditions. Considering this and the actual operational situation, the general response level was raised on 11th July from orange to red, and a Civil Protection Contingency Declaration Situation was issued.
As of 12th July at 7.00 UTC, there are about 27 wildfire events (of which three were active and ongoing and two were under control) across Portugal, including two events located north of Lisbon Capital City. Portuguese authorities have mobilised more than 2 000 firefighters. At least 26 people have been reported injured.
And, in France, forest fires have been affecting south-western France over the past 24 hours, causing evacuations and damage.
According to the Operational Centre for Inter-ministerial Crisis Management (COGIC), as of 13 July, there were two main active fires. So far, the burnt area is of approximately 1 400 hectares. For both fires 230 firefighters, two Canadair and two other aircraft were deployed.
COGIC reports around 6 000 evacuated people in one temporary accommodation centre in the area of La Teste-de-Buch municipality. In addition, the same source reports 520 preventively evacuated people in other areas.
By Thursday, Spain was reporting that several forest fires had reportedly broken out across Spain, resulting in evacuations. Firefighting operations continued to be hindered by weather conditions and lack of visibility limiting the performance of aerial resources.
According to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), the fire risk was expected to be “extreme” to “very extreme” from 13-15th July over most of Spain, including the abovementioned areas affected by the ongoing fires.
Our man Greg Mossop G0DUB of IARU Region 1 has issued a directive about a “digital check-in exercise” he proposes to hold in our region from 08h00 to 11h00 UTC on Saturday July the 30th.
The objectives are to encourage the use of digital modes for message passing, to practice relaying messages that may have been received on other modes ( e.g. SSB/CW), and to reinforce the fact that the message format should not change between transmission modes or relays.
Frequencies to be used are those appropriate for the digital mode in question, according to band-plan convention, and the idea is that stations should send messages in plain text IARU format to one of the following destinations;
The Subject line of the message must be in the format “//WL2K R/ G0DUB Chester GBR” allowing the message to be sent through ‘hybrid mode’
The Winlink protocol should whitelist the destination email address, set the message priority and show the callsign and city of the destination.
The body of the message is as described below.
APRS messages should follow the format specified in http://aprs.org/doc/APRS101.PDF page 75 entitled “NTS Radiograms”.
Between 11h00 UTC and 14h00 UTC, G0DUB will review all messages received and prepare responses/comments which will be sent from 14h00 UTC.
Participating stations should check in again with their digital systems between 14h00-17h00 UTC to pick up those responses.
Messages should be sent in plain text format, the content is not critical in this exercise. The key feature is that the message format is followed.
He then lays out an example of the format the message should follow, based on the specification mentioned above.
Stations will receive feedback that their original message was received correctly. If no feedback is received then the originator should email firstname.lastname@example.org to report that two-way communication failed.
After the test, information will be compiled on how many messages were exchanged and how many were successful in meeting the exercise objectives.
We wish all participating stations success in formatting and sending their messages successfully, with a view to getting used to the protocol needed to ensure that the message is correctly received.
With the geostationary QO-100 satellite fresh in South African radio operator’s minds at present, an interesting article in Hackaday.com this week, by Dan Maloney gives us food for thought.
The problem is that Software Defined Radios which will transmit at 2.4 GHz, and receive at 10.45 GHz are few and far between, if price is any objection. The most available system is the ADALM PLUTO, which will do the job relatively cheaply, but at the price of frequency stability.
Dan says he was pleased to see that the problem of SDR frequency stability was tackled by using a GPS-disciplined oscillator. The setup uses the ADALM-PLUTO SDR transceiver and a precision oscillator from Leo Bodnar Electronics. The oscillator can be programmed to output a rock-solid, GPS-disciplined signal over a wide range of frequencies. The Pluto has an external oscillator input that looks for 40 MHz, which is well within the range of the GPS Disciplined Oscillator.
Setup is as easy as plugging the oscillator’s output into the SDR’s external clock input using an SMA to UFL jumper, and tweaking the settings in the SDR and oscillator. Not all SDRs will have an external clock input, of course, so your mileage may vary. But if your gear is suitably equipped, this looks like a great way to get bang-on frequency.
Hackaday.com’s blog for 13th July includes a decent picture of the PLUTO and the oscillator, and a video of the Leo Bodnar Oscillator in use.
It is an exciting area to be investigating, and IARU Region 1 is lucky to have the availability of the Qatar Es’hail 2 satellite parked in geostationary orbit above us for continuous use.
This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.