Understanding the Basics of APRS and How to Get Started in APRS
Over the weekend, I got the chance to go to the Chattanooga Hamfest where the focus this year was “Preparedness Through Communications & Self-Reliance”. I was caught off guard (camera not setup very good for recording) and pleasantly surprised with the presentation on APRS given by Kenny Witt, KC4OJS and Bill Lewis, KM4KMO. This was a very informative presentation (see video below). More video clips on that presentation and another coming out soon.
1. What is APRS?
APRS stands for Automatic Packet Reporting System. It is a system that has been used by amateur radio operators to transmit real-time data about their position, speed and direction. If you desire more can be sent and received, like weather, messages and emergency information.
A basic station consist of a capable transceiver that is mounted in a vehicle and used to transmit the information over VHF. This allows it to be tracked on a map in near-real time.
2. What do you need to get started with APRS?
**For basic operation, an amateur radio operator who wants to use APRS just needs a capable radio and antenna.
Some APRS capable mobile transceivers (I am not recommending these, do your own research and please watch the video below) are:
- Yaesu FTM-400XDR
- Yaesu FT-2DR C4FM
- Kenwood DM-D710G
- Kenwood TH-D72A
- Anytone AT-D868UV
- Anytone AT-D578UVIII (I own this one)
The radio is used to transmit and receive the APRS signal.
For anyone wanting a more sophisticated and fully functional station you’ll need more than just a radio and antenna. To build a fully capable APRS station you’ll need a laptop, sound card and transceiver. It can be done very inexpensively. More on that later.
3. Where can you find a map of the world’s current active stations?
The aprs map is a collection of all the active stations with their call signs and location. You can find an aprs map online. Go to APRS.fi.
4. How do I find my own position on the map?
In this section, we will explore how to use APRS.fi to find your location on map.
For Hams that use APRS this is a very common task, but most people may not know how to do this. So, how do we use APRS.fi to find our position on a map?
It is actually quite simple. All you need is an internet connection and a web browser and you are good to go! Go to the website and enter the callsign of the station you want in the search field.
5. What is an example of useful data that can be provided by an APRS station?
An example of useful data that can be provided by an APRS station is the location of an accident or the location of an emergency shelter.
APRS stations transmit data over a radio network. They are popular among amateur radio enthusiasts as they provide a way to share information about their location and status with others who may be nearby. The station transmits information about its location, speed, heading, and altitude. See the video below for more examples. You can also find out more on their website.
This presentation at the 2022 Chattanooga Hamfest was given by Kenny and Bill. In this clip Kenny describes some real world do’s and don’ts.
More video to come.
I’ll have more on this topic in an upcoming video. You can follow Mr. B. and myself on our travels using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and/or YouTube.
If you have any questions about APRS, please ask them here. I prefer the comment section here or in YouTube over e-mail because your comments and questions will help others as well.
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Stay in touch, stay safe and best 73,
Chattanooga Amateur Radio Club
Automatic Packet Reporting System Website
** Terminal Node Controllers (TNC’s) are also popular in APRS. For a complete system as mentioned in the videos you’ll need a radio, soundcard and computer. If you’re going mobile you’ll probably want a GPS device.