HAM Radio 101

Ham Radio 101: Mapping APRS in the Car

APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) is such a handy thing to have in your vehicle, and it’s not only about vehicle tracking. It is a single information resource data gatherer where everything that is happening on ham radio in the surrounding area can be announced and updated in real time. The real-time data you see on an APRS-capable radio’s front panel is very useful when participating in an event, emergency, net, and other situations.

The APRS channel is also a place to tell other hams what you might be doing that could be of interest to them. Much more than GPS coordinates, it provides a situational map display of what is happening in the local area, along with information on activities and how to contact other operators.

But what if you don’t have time to scroll through the large amounts of information that come in on your APRS connection? Callsigns with location information, position, and other important facts can clutter up a radio display quickly.

One way to handle all that data is by using an external GPS with mapping software, something I mentioned in my “Mobile Installations for Beginners” article.

My Kenwood D700 has a TNC built into the radio. Using an old Garmin Nuvi 300 series and GTRANS Garmin to NMEA translator cable, I can see all the stations using APRS on an actual map. One could also use those locations as map points for the GPS to drive to if it was in a place necessary to pick up a hurt or stranded person at a public service event. The Nuvi 300 series screen is a bit small, though. It is harder to tell where people may be, but it gets the job done.

But what if you want something bigger? How about an iPad with an iPad mount for viewing APRS locations?

You can run APRS from your radio, complete with send and receive, while using an app on your tablet to display both your send and receive items along with information from others.

There are always ways to overlay particular APRS stations on a map using a combination of software and hardware. Arduino is also a popular option for developing APRS and other solutions.

APRS is a great tool filled with many capabilities!

Questions? Share them in the comments below or email me at KE8FMJ@gmail.com

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