The Future of DX-ing and DXCC: ROBOTS!
I’ve been grappling with this for a few years, ever since I was involved with fund raising for VK0EK. I don’t think the average DX-er really knows what a big job it is.
The funniest thing about this blog post is that it came about while sipping a very nice Uinta Detour Double IPA and just sitting back and thinking – musing about the URAT Maker project this summer and about recent posts where I discuss leaving DXCC and moving on to the Maker world. I asked myself “Why do I feel I have to leave one and move on?”
In another (guest) blog post – Mike, KJ4Z discussed how he developed a “suitcase DX-pedition” which he calls a DX-podition. This means you could hitch a ride to Bouvet Island and deploy this box and antenna and then the world can start making QSO’s with it. Pay someone to drop it off and then pick it up on the way to and back from dropping off scientists at Neumeyer Station or wherever in Antarctica. Pay them $50K – no more $740,000 or $400,000 DX-peditions. The NCDXF doesn’t deplete its bank account in 5 years. And I am inflating that figure – you probably could do this for less.
Of course, remote haters hate this. OOOT’s, curmudgeons and those who can’t handle (the more than silent march into the future) will be left by the wayside – to grow carbuncles and moss on their North Facing Souls. Too bad. SAD. Hate to say it – they will be SK in 10 – 20 years (maybe me included) – what then? Time waits for no Ham . . . .
So – Mike has developed the technology, and I have the idea for the NEW DXCC Program – gamification using DATA. Here’s how it works:
- DXpods are deployed anytime and anywhere. They are certified by a digital Hash – which is a Primary Key in a database
- They are assigned a “point level”. Deploying in France is much lower than say Bouvet point wise
- You work them maybe like FT8 or in some way that they record your QSO using the finest in whatever succeeds Arduino and Raspberry Pi plus SDR technology
- You call the robot – the robot never calls you. If you make the QSO – you get that graded point
Data can ensure that this is equitable, and we can even use GPS to ensure that we don’t saturate or overload some geographic area with an advantage.
I left DXCC Challenge because if you are on the West Coast you are totally screwed on 160 or 6M. If you live in EU or the East Coast – you have an HF advantage and that sucks royally.
Data is the new currency that levels the playing field and keeps us all honest.
But more importantly – its exactly how we attract the schmarty pants who I work with who are my kids age and who love Maker and don’t even know what Ham Radio is, let alone DX-ing or (GASP) DXCC.
To recap, this solves quite a few problems:
- The declining number of DXCC participants as Boomers leave the ranks. You would attract the type of people who Make fighting robot cars to compete as robotic remote beacon “data pingers”. When I make a QSO with a Mega DXpedition, it takes less than one minute for both parties to exchange 599 TU, and the TU is wasted time. It’s already robotic
- It continues to advance the radio art by involving Makers who are the best candidates for building what will be more and more processor based radio gear. With SDR, and new digital modes, this has already begun
- It keeps the cost down and lowers that barrier to entry which I feel is going to really start being a “blocker” to DXpeditions and sooner than we think or hope. If you look at who funds the Lions share of these DXpeditions, it’s Boomers. If you want Millennials to carry this on and continue to fund this activity, you need to reach out to Makers, not Emcomm-ers
- There will still be people going to places and activating entities. But say a single person going on the next Swiss Organized ACE program has a ham along for the trip (the last one circumnavigated all of our Sub Antarctic entities), that person works SSB, and her DXpod faithfully hands out digital QSOs so she hands out several more times the Q’s than she would alone. Also, because she is a scientist, the Bot hands out QSOs 24/7 when she is working or sleeping. Even mega DXpeditions could use this
- The ARRL might have to start allowing docked ships to count. If their digitally secure log contains grid square data, which is guaranteed by the pod constantly receiving GPS data, then the rule that you have to step foot on land becomes a silly old antiquated rule. This is digital proof you were there. Maybe the CQ Field Award would become a lot more popular
- Solar trickle charged bots might offer 3 to 6 months of 24/7 QSOs with places like Heard Island or South Sandwich. Sure, send a team there as usual, leave the bot and have the scientists pick it up in a year or whatever. If it dies, it’s point grading changes. Maybe our points system even becomes more dynamic and then the program no longer is based on how long you live. Maybe the last person standing is 18 years old at Visalia?
- If entities change, no problem. In fact this eliminates the Gerrymandering” that we have witnessed as past entities like Okino Torishima were added. Heck you could add any entity where a bot could survive. Install a bot on a pole strapped to Scarborough if you like. Ask the Military to deploy it for you as they fill Scarborough in with concrete to make an airfield and base!
- Low power and weak signals work fine. No more need to lug tons of crap. It could be as lightweight as a SOTA activation. Those with HOAs and those living in retirement communities only need a small rig and simple wire in the attic or tree or flagpole
- You could compete using your Android or other Schmart Fone. In fact, you could keep your robotic station on 24/7 and ssh into it
anytime like I can my Raspberry Pi
- If some entities couldn’t be activated (i.e. Turkmenistan or whatever) so what? The point grading system changes so its not a factor at all in the scoring. Not sure exactly what I mean – except the algorithm no longer rewards those who are really old and who have just been in the program longest – anyone can be the top dog
Im sure I’ll think of more, but the best part of all of this is that it becomes a dynamic program. As it is, DXCC is static. When you’ve worked them all, you are done. If we make it dynamic, where I can wake up and all of a sudden my score changes, I’d have a constant imperative to get on the air.
I also just answered a question that I did not exactly ask, but over a beer it did pop out – “What would keep you in the DXCC Program forever?”