APRS – A good reason to become a licenced Amateur Radio operator.

Amateur Radio is a pretty diverse hobby. Every issue of the Wireless Institute of Australia journal “Amateur Radio” has written on the last page :-

The Amateur Service:

a radio communications service for the purpose of self training, intercommunication and technical investigation carried out by amateurs, that is, by duly authorised persons interested in radio technique with a personal aim and without any pecuniary interest. 1.56 ITU Radio Regulations.”

That mouthful translates into everything from people tapping out Morse Code on vintage vacuum tube powered radios, to cutting edge digital/microwave/satellite experimentation. There are around 2 million licenced radio amateurs worldwide.

One of the things that keeps me interested in the hobby is Automatic Position Reporting System, or APRS.

If you've found this page because you use my OSM maps, then you'd be pretty aware that a GPS can tell you where you are. With APRS though, you tell everyone else where you are!

The concept is simple – GPS receiver + encoder + transmitter = APRS. *

As you'd expect though, the implementation is a bit more complex. There is a great network of “digital repeaters” on hill tops around the world supporting APRS, and a lot of software in microcontrollers, PCs and Internet servers making APRS the great thing it is.

To get a feel for what can be done with APRS, have a look at what is happening in Sydney right now.

With the prices of VHF transceivers and GPS engines so low, the technically savvy radio amateur could probably set up APRS in a car for less than AU$150.

To summarise then, if your only use of GPS technology is with “SatNav” devices or Geocaching, then you're missing out on a whole lot of fun!

* You'll also need a standard or advanced amateur radio licence to transmit APRS data on air. Anyone is allowed to receive APRS data. APRS data in Australia can be heard on 145.175MHz FM or 10147.6kHz USB.

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