Rapid Radio Deployment

Somewhere on the drive between Cincinnati and my home I was listening to Episode 30 of the QSO Today podcast, an interview with Greg Lane, N4KGL. Lane is active in a particular facet of the hobby that was completely foreign to me — RaDAR, rapid deployment amateur radio.

I probably shouldn’t even be writing about this given my total lack of knowledge on the subject material, but I found it interesting enough that I wanted to share what I was able to glean about it from the podcast interview and a subsequent Web search.

The notion of taking ham radio to the field is certainly nothing new. But like so many of our activities, it seems possible to put a twist on everything we do in an effort to make it a bit more interesting. Making a game out of any routine task has the effect of adding variety — the spice of life!

In the case of rapid deployment of radio, enthusiasts take their gear to the field, make five contacts, then must walk a minimum of one kilometer, equipment in tow, where they can attempt five more contacts. Though it wasn’t clear, I suppose this continues until exhausted or a predetermined period of time has passed and then results are compiled and compared with others online.

It sounds simple enough but the practice doubtless drives out inefficiencies in portable design. Given that the operator has to manually lug radio, batteries and antenna to each new location, there’s a heightened emphasis on ultra lightweight and clever design. I’m guessing that consideration is also given to minimal creature comforts, like carrying along a chair, logbook and perhaps even something to improvise into an operating “desk”.

Transceiver, antenna tuner, ear-buds, batteries, Morse key, feed line, and an antenna seem like the minimum criteria, along with logbook, writing utensil, and some method to determine GPS coordinates. Elecraft’s KX3 with built-in antenna tuner, batteries, and CW paddles seems to be a popular choice, though many operators are using even smaller trail-friendly gear. And using resonant antennas eliminates the need for an antenna tuner.

Continuous improvement and clever creativity seem to be key elements of success for this particular facet of amateur radio.

If the challenges seem endless, consider the rewards. The operator can choose where to operate from and it’s safe to assume that would be removed from man-made noise. Hanging out in the woods, on the beach, at a local park — these all seem like better places to spend you spare time than inside a radio “shack”.

Having the sun on your shoulders and your toes in the sand while working some distant station is the ultimate dream of every intrepid radio amateur.

And who hasn’t taken a good look at the burgeoning size of the average ham lumbering the hamfest aisles?

I think it safe to say that every one of us could benefit from getting OUT OF THE CHAIR and moving. How clever that this practice integrates ham radio and taking long walks in the great outdoors.

[This article first appeared in CALLING CQ – Number 46. You can subscribe to this weekly letter about amateur radio, without cost, by following this link].

Author: Jeff Davis