What is APRS? GOOD QUESTION! And a tough one to answer to tell you the truth. Below you can read the text book answer to that question, but before you do, allow me a minute to tell you what I tell folks who ask me that question. I tell them, "It's the best fun you can have in Amateur Radio! You can track just about anything that you want, and the most fun is figuring out how you want to do it! I tell ya, there is nothing more satisfying than putting something together that involves so many different technologies and make it work for you! APRS is the combination of Ham Radio, Mapping, Global Positioning System, Tracking, the Internet and now Satellites." OK, that's what I start with and then we'd talk about APRS for an hour or more! But your here for more than my ideas of what APRS is, so read on and enjoy!
The Automatic Position Reporting Systems (APRS) was developed by Bob Bruninga, WB4APR.
To sum it up, APRS is the combination of real-time packet communications and maps. Although a GPS receiver is recommended for tracking, it is not required for most APRS operations. APRS can be thought of as a multi-user packet network using maps for a variety of amateur applications that include:
Direction Finding, Weather Reporting, Search & Rescue Operations, Emergency Management, Satellite Tracking, AMSAT Ground Station, Telemetry Displays, Airline Tracking, Local Chating, Special Event Organization, DX Monitoring and Plotting, and of course, Marine/Mobile/RV Tracking
APRS operation is coordinated in the U.S. on the 2 meter frequency of 144.390 MHz. Stationary and mobile stations alike use this single simplex frequency. Low cost, single channel, radios can be used when building your tracking system or home station. The HF frequency used as Gateways is 10.151.5 LSB. However, the bulk of APRS is on 2 meters and will be the best place for you to get started.
As mentioned above, a GPS receiver is not required for most APRS operations, however, if you want to build a tracking device, then it is vital part. The Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers are readily available and most will easily integrate into your tracker. We have compiled a list of the most common GPS's used.
APRS has grown from a simple DOS version (actually I think Bob started with the Vic-20) into versions for Windows, Macs, Palms, WinCE and others. We have compiled a complete list of the different software with descriptions of their uses.
How to get started in APRS. The first step is to decide on what software and hardware you will be using. There is a wide variety of software for several different operating systems. Hardware is also quite extensive and is mostly your preference. The basic APRS home station requires the APRS program, a TNC (terminal node controller) and a radio. That's it! Nothing more is required. However, there is one more step that you want to do, and that is to register with the individual authors. By registering, your not only helping the authors keep up with the development tasks, but also it saves your setup data and makes starting the programs much simpler. More about this can be found on the Help Files page.
I've setup Software and Hardware pages to help you make the decisions on how to get started. Although I have my own preferences of each, I have set these pages up with giving you a fair comparison in mind. So, let's get started and get you on APRS today!