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)(currently not in car as vehicle changed in 2021 and holder not installed)
- Generic Bluetooth GPS receiver attached to car windscreen (currently removed as car has been changed in 2021)
- Oppo A72 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 have an igate running at home in my kitchen, callsign MB7UCG, that works for handhelds and low power mobiles around town, sometimes distant packets can be heard by it if transmit power is sufficient and a clear take-off is available, this is in my kitchen and the antenna on the ledge outside the kitchen window, the radio is a Leixen VV-898 set at 5 watts