Part 2 - Logistics Series
Tracking responder vehicles in a disaster
Amateur radio (also referred to HAM radio) utilizes a number of logistics enabling technologies which act as a force multiplier when it comes to responder logistics. One of those technologies is APRS (Automated Position Reporting System). An APRS station is essentially a small computer with a GPS is attached to a radio and beacons out the devices current position at intervals. It doesn't rely on any infrastructure but can make use of an internet connection when available. An APRS station connected to the internet is called an IGATE and relays APRS radio traffic over the internet to other IGATES which increases the range of APRS dramatically.
In order to use APRS you need to have a FCC Amateur radio license, however a ham radio licencee simply needs to configure an APRS beacon and doesn't need to be present while its in transit. Meaning if you have only a handful of licensed amateur radio operators, you can potentially track a small group of vehicles and/or teams.
APRS provides some important tactical benefits when managing resources in the field.
- A visual situational aid showing you exactly where your resources are on a map with accuracy
- Ham radio APRS users can broadcast GPS coordinates of weather, obstructions, and other situational awareness map objects
- The ability to send short text messages to resources (depends on the beacon)
- Access to APRS weather stations in the region
- Ability to send (not receive) short internet emails
APRS devices available for purchase
- Yaesu VX8gr Analog handheld radio
- Yaesu VX8r Analog handheld radio
- Yaesu FT1D Digital handheld radio
- Yaesu FT2D Digital handheld radio
- Kenwood TH-D72A
Stand alone APRS beacons ($80-$200)
- AP510 AVRT5 AVRT6 and AVRT7 - Chinese low power APRS beacon
Cell phone APRS apps (when cell internet is available) ($0 or more)
- Android - AprsDroid (Free) * Reccomended
- iOS - APRS Packet - ($.99)
- iOS - APRS.fi - ($6.99 + subscription)
Permanently vehicle mounted mobile APRS
If you need range then purchasing a larger vehicle mounted APRS mobile radio can cost you from $300 to $600 or more. The higher power radio is the main cost factor.
- Kenwood TMD710GA ($570)
- Read-Only : APRS.fi
Do it yourself
You can throw together an APRS rig in any number of ways that I will not cover in this article.