Texas ARDF: Amateur Radio Direction Finding
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What is ARDF?

Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) is a map and compass sport where you have to find up to five radio transmitters in diverse wooded terrain. You and your other competitors are given a detailed topographic map of the competition area, but the locations of the radio transmitters are not marked on the map. You must use orienteering skills of map reading and compass use together with radio direction finding skills using handheld radio receivers to navigate through the woods and find the radio transmitters. Whoever finds their transmitters and runs to the finish line marked on the map in the shortest elapsed time wins!

ARDF has roots in both orienteering and Amateur Radio, and is sometimes called "radio orienteering." The sport is a test of your land navigation skills, including map and compass reading skills, as well as a test of your radio direction finding skills. Competitions are held in diverse wooded terrain, often a state park, national forest, or scouting camp. Working with a map and compass, you will run down trails, cross streams, and run through the woods to reach the locations of up to five low power radio transmitters. Successful runners pay careful attention to their own location and the bearings to all of the transmitters at all times, plotting them on their detailed orienteering maps. When you find a transmitter, it will be marked by a standard orange-and-white orienteering control, where you will punch in to record your visit. You need to pay attention to the time as well as your location - exceeding the time limit (typically 150 to 180 minutes) means disqualification.

ARDF competitors are divided into nine classes based on age and gender. Because the competitors themselves never transmit, only receive, you do not need an Amateur Radio license to enjoy ARDF! If you enjoy building electronic equipment, there are many kits and circuit designs for ARDF receivers and antennas. Many ARDF competitors use only home-built equipment. ARDF can be an excellent educational opportunity for young minds. Hunting hidden transmitters in the forest is a great way to involve youth in a fun outdoor activity that includes the science and technology of Amateur Radio. ARDF has a lot to offer - it is a fun, challenging outdoor skill activity for everyone!

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Send comments to: Ken Harker WM5R wm5r@wm5r.org
Last updated: 17 April 2016