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What is APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System)?

APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) is a digital communication protocol developed by Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, in the 1980s. It uses packet radio technology to transmit and receive information, such as location data, weather reports, text messages, and telemetry data, between amateur radio stations. The system is designed to provide real-time information about the location and status of various assets, such as vehicles, boats, or people, and to support situational awareness and communication during events, emergencies, or everyday activities.

Here are some key aspects of APRS:

  • Location Data: APRS is primarily used for sharing GPS-based location information. Amateur radio operators use APRS-enabled transceivers or devices, often in combination with a GPS receiver, to transmit their location data over the air. This data can include latitude, longitude, altitude, speed, and direction. The location information can be displayed on maps, either on local devices or via online APRS tracking websites, such as aprs.fi.
  • Weather Reports: APRS can also be used to share weather data from weather stations or personal weather devices. These reports can include information like temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed, and wind direction. This information is useful for other amateur radio operators, as well as for organizations like the National Weather Service, to monitor local weather conditions.
  • Text Messaging and Email: APRS supports two-way text messaging between amateur radio operators. This can be useful for short communication exchanges or for coordinating activities during events. In addition, it is possible to send and receive email messages through APRS using the APRS-to-email gateway services.
  • Telemetry Data: APRS can transmit telemetry data from various sensors or monitoring devices, such as voltage levels, temperature sensors, or water level sensors. This information can be used for remote monitoring and control of equipment, or to provide situational awareness during emergencies or events.
  • Digipeaters and Internet Gateways: To extend the range and coverage of APRS, amateur radio operators set up digipeaters and Internet gateways (IGates). Digipeaters receive and retransmit APRS packets, while IGates connect the APRS network to the Internet, allowing users to view and interact with APRS data online.
  • Frequency and Equipment: In the United States, the primary APRS frequency is 144.390 MHz. APRS can be used with a variety of equipment, such as dedicated APRS transceivers, traditional amateur radio transceivers with APRS capabilities, or standalone devices like the TinyTrak or Mobilinkd that can be connected to an existing transceiver.

Overall, APRS is a versatile and popular system within the amateur radio community, providing valuable information and communication capabilities for a wide range of applications. By leveraging GPS technology and packet radio, APRS offers real-time location tracking, weather reporting, and messaging, helping to support situational awareness, coordination, and safety among amateur radio operators.

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