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Author Topic: A new role for Amateur EmComms  (Read 40842 times)
NX5MK
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Posts: 65




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« on: March 27, 2013, 10:22:42 PM »

For all those who are able to look back over several decades of Amateur Radio EmComms and comment that the "traditional" role of it appears to be diminishing, please do read the following which may be an important but apparently often missing aspect in EmComms...

If you can, please watch the following presentation:
"Digital Amateur Radio in Support of Situational Awareness, Common Operating Picture and Community Resilience for 21st Century Emergency Communications"
by Aleks Rohde W3JAG which you can view here:
http://arvideonews.com/hrn/HRN_Episode_0045.html


Although the above video presentation points to many potential uses for HAM EmComms, I'll just focus on one:

"A picture is worth a thousand words"

Relaying pictures of events, e.g. this one:
http://greenpeaceblogs.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Hurricane-Sandy-aftermath.jpg
or this one:
http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1195049.1351695367!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/breezy-point.jpg
may be more important than a thousand words.

How would you put these situations into words? Viewing the above video presentation, you can't help but notice the call to aid in presenting actionable intelligence to EOCs.

There are approximately 700000 Amateur Radio Licensees, of which approx. 350000 are General Class or higher, which should imply that they all have access to all HF bands - allowing long distance communications. That is a very respective number, larger in fact than that of the USMC. Additionally, HAMs are widely distributed. One might even say that we are "everywhere".

Thus, we might be an even more valuable resource out in the field in relaying just one image from wherever we are to a HAM sitting in an EOC, so that we aid officials in increasing their situational awareness, thus helping them make appropriate decisions, sending help where it is needed most.

Who says that we need "only" sit in an EOC or a shelter to relay some messages if and only if some "professional" communications systems fail?

I postulate that a HAM in an EOC may be a most valuable asset in receiving images from all over one's County or State, which detail the situation most impressively.

Have a look at this app for example, which imprints the USNC / MGRS grid locator into an image, including the time and several other details:
http://hrtapps.com/theodolite/

Imagine how receiving such images in an EOC may aid in understanding in what is going on out in the County and State, especially when considering that there are so many of us HAMs dispersed over a wide area.

Maybe we are all too focused on the "relaying messages between agencies" topic and miss this  important aspect in Emergency Communication, where an image can be more than just useful.

Thus, maybe we should direct some of our attention in getting information to an EOC and not just from it to wherever...?

73 de Marcus KD0JKM
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K1DA
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Posts: 514




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« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2013, 09:00:03 AM »

Back in the late 50's the Army had the bright idea of using TV to transmit battlefield pictures back to the REMFs who could watch the going on from the safety of their bunkers.  A puff piece I saw some years ago about it showed Bob the camera man standing up behind a "big as a dormfridge" tube type TV camera while the battle flowed around him.  Yeah, right. 
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NX5MK
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Posts: 65




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« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2013, 01:45:50 AM »

Hi Charles,

Completely agree: we do not want to occupy a lot of bandwidth since we don't have too much of it, nor do movies speak the final truth. And who was talking about movies anyway?

Point is: how do you define a report of "heavy damage to buildings"? Lets say 10 Hams report heavy damage: do we really know that all reports came from legit Hams? How do you verify that this is not a hoax? How do we verify the extent of damage?

Sometimes a picture just says more than a thousand words. But maybe I am not getting the point you are trying to make?

73 de Marcus KD0JKM
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K7RBW
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Posts: 398




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« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2013, 05:37:37 AM »

Back in the late 50's the Army had the bright idea of using TV to transmit battlefield pictures back to the REMFs who could watch the going on from the safety of their bunkers.  A puff piece I saw some years ago about it showed Bob the camera man standing up behind a "big as a dormfridge" tube type TV camera while the battle flowed around him.  Yeah, right. 
Fortunately, TV camera technology has improved some since 1950 and TV cameras and remote transmitters are a lot smaller, these days.

I've also thought this would be a good application of ham radio "when all else fails." I had a SSTV link running between two UHF radios that worked pretty well. I thought that a combination of APRS on VHF and UHF SSTV images would be pretty useful for what KD0JKM is talking about. If you were really motivated, you could link the location and image together in the EOC and have geo-tagged images on their big-screen sit rep display. All the technology exists, it's just a matter of tying it together. It turns out that a while back, Kenwood actually made a HT with a camera just for that purpose (note that this model has been discontinued for a while, as well).

The utility of this would, however, be pretty short lived unless a better, digital mode is used. With SSTV, you get a 320x240 px image in about 45-60 seconds. As soon as cellphones come back online, you'll get multi-megapixel, geo-tagged images in less time. Unless you're out in some part of the world where there's good line-of-sight propagation and no cell-phone coverage (which are getting harder and harder to find, these days), such a system would be a lot of work for little utility.

So this is entirely possible (and you can do it today with OTS components), but, like so many other aspects of Ham radio, commercial and consumer technology offers better, cheaper, and more familiar solutions.
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K5LXP
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Posts: 4507


WWW

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« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2013, 06:30:28 AM »

Rather than wait for the hams to show up, regular folks can just take pictures with their cell phones and upload them to facebook or you tube.  It's a pretty common thing anymore.

One also has to consider just what real benefit a detailed survey like this might provide.  If it is reported via voice comms that a particular area has suffered extensive damage, I'm not sure it really matters what kind.  It's effed up and a hi-def image of the damage isn't going to un-eff it up any quicker.

It should also be considered that in a widespread disaster like Haiti or Sandy (or Katrina, or name your disaster) that there's only so many rescue/recovery/aid resources to be had.  Even if you had one ham per square yard with a perfectly working communication system, you're not going to impact the outcome much.  It's not a revelation to report damage and injuries or whatever from inside a disaster zone.

In short order, if it doesn't exist already, fleets of drone aircraft can be deployed anywhere on short notice with airborne repeaters to supplant or replace any communications system there is (military, public safety, cellular, etc), and take all the hi-res images you could want.  That should pretty much seal the fate of ham radio Emcomm as first responders.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM

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W1JKA
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Posts: 1773




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« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2013, 08:47:44 AM »

  I don't know how drone aircraft got into the topic but since it did wouldn't you think the military would just jump at the chance to use us combo ham/RC aircraft fliers as reserve backup pilots at the various U.S. Drone control bases? Tongue
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AA4PB
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Posts: 12899




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« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2013, 11:12:15 AM »

The gov't propably pays way over $200K for a drone - I'm sure they'd love to hand the controls over to a hobby RC pilot  Wink
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KG4RUL
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« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2013, 02:00:58 PM »

And what is wrong with analog, Amateur TV (ATV) at 440 MHz?  A 20W transmitter with omnidirectional antennas at the transmitter and receiver site is good for 10-12 miles.  Use directional antennas and you can just about double that distance.  Our EOC has a 150' tower so if I used our 40' tower trailer, the LOS between them is over 20 miles (fairly easy to achieve in the relatively flat, South Carolina, Low Country).  Live, full motion video, with sound and you can feed the video IDer card with GPS data.  What more do you need?
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KA4NMA
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Posts: 348




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« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2013, 06:48:36 PM »

Domestic drones are not the same as military drones.  Domestic drones are oversized RC aircraft with a camera and short flight time (some as low as 15 minutes).

Randy Ka4nma
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K1CJS
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Posts: 6045




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« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2013, 04:11:37 AM »

I wonder why some people are continually trying to reinvent the wheel.  Not, mind you, that such re-invention is bad in itself, some really good and NEW ideas come out of such thinking, but some of these "brainstorms" that come out here and on other fora stem from looking at how something is done--then trying to inject ham radio into the methods already in use!  WHY?

There are plenty of uses for ham radio in emergency communications already--and plenty of uses for other radio communications methods too.  It isn't necessary--or desirable--to have a ham radio alternative for everything that goes on--yet that exact thing seems to be the bane of all those organizations and groups that think that if ham radio doesn't have specific purposes for every band and frequency made available to it, all those bands and frequencies will be taken away.  And that in itself is baloney. 
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KO3D
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Posts: 49




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« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2013, 09:45:53 AM »

I think we should justify our ability to operate remote controlled aircraft by instituting a new EMCOMM program called Television Amateur Radio Drone Service (TARDS). If we do not use our privileges to operate remote controlled aircraft, they will be taken away and given to other services. As you know, we must justify all of our frequencies for EMCOMM use in order to keep them. Ham radio is not a hobby, it is a life-saving service for "when all else fails."

I suggest that each TARDS ham pass an ARRL online course with a printable certificate. They can then run blue power point slides at their local ham club detailing the program between the J Pole demo and the tin foil hat tune up.
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K1CJS
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Posts: 6045




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« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2013, 04:23:06 AM »

I think we should justify our ability to operate remote controlled aircraft by instituting a new EMCOMM program called Television Amateur Radio Drone Service (TARDS)....

Good one!  I love it!!!
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W5LZ
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Posts: 477




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« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2013, 03:21:50 AM »

And after miniaturizing the circuitry it could be the 'Personalized Emergency Television Amateur Radio Drone Service', or the 'PETARDS'...
 - Paul
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K1CJS
Member

Posts: 6045




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« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2013, 04:51:37 AM »

And after miniaturizing the circuitry it could be the 'Personalized Emergency Television Amateur Radio Drone Service', or the 'PETARDS'...
 - Paul

And if you didn't miniturize it and used older transistorized components, you could call it the "Retro Emergency Television Radio Drone Service or......  ;-)
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KD8DVR
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Posts: 30




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« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2013, 02:24:17 PM »

I fly RC helis.  I have one with a camera.  I'm certain I could send one up and then take some stills and put them out over SSTV with a nice "Television Amateur Radio Drone Service" banner.  They'll figure out the acronym and get a good laugh.  Maybe even get some TARDS decal and bring the heli to some local ham club meeting.....

I better watch it..... my copter does have some flashy lights... the local whacker group could elect me president Sad
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All items presented here are personal opinion only and may or may not deviate from actual fact.
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