K0GKJ – Just Another Ham
The New QTH – A Floating Shack

Handheld APRS

Here is where I was at recently (as reported by my handheld ham radio):


I was sitting on my boat, with my ham radio turned on and set to automatically transmit my APRS beacon to the world. Unlike my SPOT satellite tracker, no subscription fee, just a little amateur radio ingenuity, and it passes more information including short emails, weather info, altitude, etc.

Automatic Packet Reporting System, or APRS, is essentially a fascinating do-it-yourself position reporting technology, text messaging & information reporting network (e.g., weather, altitude, operator info) via amateur radio.

I can take it anywhere with me since its capability is built into my HT (handheld transceiver), although unlike my SPOT satellite tracker, its transmission capabilities are more similar to marine VHF, essentially local area line of sight range. Combined with Internet Igates, however, this tactical two-way real-time coverage can be essentially global.

And with cool work going on by interested hams in support of initiatives like the APRS Universal Text Messaging Initiative, any two hams can communicate essentially independent of the type of device used!

For those of you not familiar with APRS, its a pretty cool ham radio technology that’s been around for awhile, and can be quite experimental. Until recently, it required some fairly sophisticated gear that was largely “roll-your-own”, at least at the component level. Nowadays, there are more commercial offerings that require less homebrew hardware skill, but still require non-trivial operating skills.

For example, I report my GPS-derived position, either manually or automatically on a predetermined interval (from every 30 seconds to every 30 minutes) programmed into my GPS-enabled handheld transceiver (HT) and it shows up on various web sites on the internet (e.g., Google Maps), assuming my transmission(s) get picked up by a nationwide network of ham operated and owned “digipeaters”. Not unlike VHF/UHF repeaters, these stations receive and repeat packets for broadcast to other similar stations and to the Internet.

I can also send text messages directly to another ham radio operator using his or her unique ham call sign as their texting or email address.

Democratic technocracy at its best!

There is great general information out there on APRS if you’re interested. A few of the more popular references:

APRS Introduction 





Oh, and if you’re interested in the progress made on my HF station installation on the boat, check out www.oursojourn.wordpress.com.

View HF Rig in the Boat QTH
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73 de Gene K0GKJ  dit     dit



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