2020-09-19 ARDF Ottawa Demonstration
Scroll down for pictures from the event!
On Saturday September 19, 2020, the Ottawa Amateur Radio Club hosted their annual “Radio in the Park” activity at Walter Baker Park, 100 Charlie Rogers Place, in Kanata South off Terry Fox Drive.
This all-day event is an opportunity for members of the local amateur radio community to come out, set up portable radio stations, and make contacts. In addition, we welcome and encourage observation and conversation with other park users to create awareness and interest in amateur radio. This year we are adding something new!
As you may know, radio transmitter hunting is a popular amateur radio activity. In Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and the USA it is pursued as a recreational activity but there is also a competitive radio sport called Amateur Radio Direction Finding (or ARDF) with international championships held in different countries on a regular basis. Unfortunately, ARDF is not well known or practiced in Canada. There are a few small groups active in western Canada, but we want to help bring ARDF back to Ottawa.
ARDF is similar to orienteering, where participants must locate a number of control markers (flags) spread out over a large park or urban area. Using a map and a compass, participants develop a strategy and then locate the most flags in the shortest period of time. With ARDF, a radio transmitter is co-located with each flag and participants use a radio receiver and directional antenna (they may also use a map and compass) to find them.
We have established a transmitter hunting program development team from the ranks of our local amateur radio operators. We plan to provide equipment, training, and expertise to enable other local groups to host transmitter hunts with their communities throughout the year (primarily May to October).
We received a funding grant from the IEEE in early 2020. Both of the local amateur radio clubs, the OARC and the Ottawa Valley Mobile Radio Club (OVMRC) , have contributed funding to assemble enough equipment for 12 individual participants (or 24 teams of 2). The activity is suitable for any age group at any fitness level, provided the participants have the ability and mobility to move over rough outdoor terrain. Participants under the age of 18 may require permission from or accompaniment by a parent or guardian. In particular, we intend this activity to support local youth groups such as Scouts, Guides, Christie Lake Kids, and the Orienteering Ottawa Club.
A Youth STEM Education Program
As well as the physical benefits, we will deliver a brief educational component that describes how the equipment works, along with tips and tricks to find the hidden transmitters most efficiently. We will relate this activity to real-world uses of the technology such as animal and marine life tracking, commercial vehicle tracking, and locating lost individuals and other assets.
To ensure that we can provide a safe environment for everyone, ALL participants must wear a suitable face mask. A limited number of masks will be available in case anyone forgets theirs. We will have hand sanitizer available for all participants. The equipment will be sanitized after every use before it is given to the next group.
There are 4 separate 1-hour transmitter-hunting demonstration sessions planned. Each session will proceed as follows as follows:
A 10-minute gap between sessions will allow one group to leave before the next arrives.
The following stakeholder communities are invited but are limited to a maximum of 10 participants per session:
The development team will be at the park for the remainder of the afternoon from 1:30pm until 4:00pm to support adhoc participation from the amateur radio community as part of the Radio in the Park event.
On Saturday September 19 2020 ARDF Ottawa set up in Walter Baker Park in Kanata for the first official ARDF demonstration, alongside the OARC Radio in the Park event. ARDF Ottawa displayed the equipment that they had purchased and built, and allowed key sponsors, target audience groups, and local area hams to try it out by searching for five mini-transmitters hidden in the park.
Since its formation, ARDF Ottawa has built a collection of world-class ARDF equipment. This includes the purchase of 12 Sniffer mk4 receivers specifically designed and built for ARDF by VK3YNG and 3-element flexible Yagis principally built by ARDF Ottawa member Emily, VE3EMI. ARDF Ottawa also arranged the bulk purchase of KC9ON offset attenuators and held a build session at the Makerspace in uOttawa in spring 2020 (just prior to COVID).
The demonstration was attended by 18 representatives from a diverse range of interested parties including the IEEE Ottawa Section (which provided most of the funding for the equipment purchases), adult leaders and Scouts from local Scouts Canada troops, organisers from the Christie Lakes Kids group, and Orienteering Ottawa leadership. Local amateur radio operators also took part. A short introductory brief was given to each group of fox hunters with an emphasis on the STEM aspects of radio direction finding and an explanation on using the equipment to find the 'fox'.
The demonstration successfully introduced the target audience to transmitter finding and created a lot of interest and immediate requests for setting up future events! ARDF Ottawa are working to organise more fox hunting events in the coming weeks, details to follow.
All current Covid 19 measures were maintained with the equipment being cleaned between uses. Masks were worn when at the registration and briefing area. All participants returned having successfully found the hidden transmitters.
The local IEEE Ottawa Section provided most of the funding for the ARDF equipment and some Section members were given a demonstration of how the equipment works and had a chance to try it out.
Scout leaders and a few Scouts learn about transmitter finding and get hands on with 3 element Yagis and Sniffer 4s. Members of Orienteering Ottawa and local hams also took part.
A sample of the map created for the radio-orienteering demonstration. The transmitters were not hidden at the centre of the circles, but could be identified from anywhere along the circumference. Base map provided by Orienteering Ottawa.
Taking all the standard precautions in these COVID days.
Roger, VA3EGY, made up the tubes to safely store the mini transmitter and allow it to be secured to a tree or fence. The transmitters are Byonics, this one with mini antenna (almost a dummy load!) to lower the ERP.
Emily, VE3EMI, did most of the work to build these awesome Yagis with flexible elements and a plate to mount the Sniffer 4.
Roger, VA3EGY, has made up an excellent carry box for the Sniffer 4 receivers and the mini transmitters.
A 3 element Yagi and Sniffer 4 all set to go find the 'fox'.
Small orange and white Orienteering flags marked the transmitter location along with a "Q" code on a label that participants had to copy down to confirm they found each 'fox'.
Transmitter locations were discreetly concealed but not too hidden. The orange and white flag indicates you have found the 'fox'.