APRS, Automatic Packet Reporting System, is a system for showing real-time information of use to Amateur radio operators, it was developed by American Amateur Bob Bruninga WB4APR and has evolved to a point where it can now send SMS messages using the SMSGTE service, developed separately from APRS itself, and emails through Winlink.
The system allows not only to show a station’s position on a map, either fixed or resolved through navigation satellites (usually GPS though GLONASS and Gallileo are also available), it also allows stations to message one another, publish bulletins, and send SMS and emails as alluded to above, all from an APRS enabled radio, ANY radio with the right hardware and interface.
To use APRS, you simply need a radio that can tune to the APRS frequency in use in your area, for the UK and Europe this is 144.800MHz, a TNC (Terminal Node Controller) and a means to display the information, a lot of more high-end mobile radios come with all this combined, the FTM-400XDE by Yaesu is a good example as it has a colour touch screen and onboard GPS, the addition of GPS into an APRS setup is useful in mobile installations so that you do not need to update the location manually.
You can add a map by using an Android phone or tablet, or in my setup, using the FTM-400XDE’s data port, a Windows 10 tablet and a second GPS receiver (as GPS is not built into this tablet), instructions are available online
My APRS setups
- Yaesu FTM-400XDE (RF side)
- CHUWI Hi10 Air Windows 10 tablet (for map data and fill-in beacons when FTM-400XDE can’t get to an igate or digipeater, it cannot however send packets to radio for transmission on RF, this is a limitation of the FTM-400XDE and FTM-350 which communicates in the same way, it can pass RF packets heard by the FTM-400 to the APRS-IS)
- Generic Bluetooth GPS receiver attached to car windscreen
- Alcatel 3L mobile phone (to allow tablet to connect to APRS-IS)
Normally this would be a Yaesu FT2D though an alternative setup is as follows:
- Radio-Tone RT3 Network radio
- APRSDroid (APRS-IS only)
- 3 UK data SIM in RT3
Home (in the shack)
- Windows 10 PC running APRSIS32 (APRS-IS only)
- 100Mbps Ethernet connection
I do hope to get an igate on air in my local area, I have set aside a radio for this and hope that if I can get an igate on air it will fill in a hole in APRS coverage in this area, and though I can hear APRS beacons when mobile I cannot get into igates and digipeaters reliably in the local area, and for handheld radios the situation is worse because of limited power in those radios, usually in the region of 5 watts or so, my current handheld that can do APRS over RF is a Yaesu FT2D though an alternative is listed above.
I’m now, as my job and finances permit, beginning to work on setting up an APRS igate initially at my home address though the NoV will be applied for once I know everything will be working as it should, as I have tests to carry out first.