delara newsDelaware Amateur Radio Association, Delaware OH VOL 36 NUMBER 8
Dan Romanchik KB6NUWhile Morse Code is no longer part of military radio communications, apparently the Navy is still using it for ship-to-ship communications using signal lamps. According to a fascinating article on Wikipedia, navies have used signal lights for ship-to-ship communications since the late 1800s, and the Commonwealth Navies and NATO forces still use them to prevent foes from intercepting their messages or otherwise interfering with radio communications.The Navy no longer routinely teaches sailors Morse Code, though. So, how do signalmen keep the light on? The answer, according to a YouTube video recently released by the Office of Naval Research (see below) is to computerize it.The system they’ve developed, along with Creative Microsystems Corp., is called the Flashing Light to Text Converter (FLTC). It consists of a tablet that controls the system, a device that is attached to existing signal lamps to send Morse Code, and a GoPro camera to receive light signals. In addition to controlling existing signal lamps, they have also developed LED arrays which can be controlled electronically instead of mechanically.The Navy recently tested the system aboard the USS Stout. Sailors on the Stout sent and received messages from the USS Monterey, moored at a dock in Norfolk, Virginia. According to the article the test went very well. According to Navy engineers, sending and receiving messages via the FLTC is very similar to sending and receiving text messages with a smartphone, a skill which most sailors already have.Although the system is still just a prototype, ships could be outfitted with production systems as early as 2018. In addition to reducing the need to train sailors to send and receive messages, the Navy also thinks that the system will allow them to send messages faster than they can currently, with speeds of up to 100 words per minute or more being possible.