Tag Archives: Digital Operations

SOTA Activation Report: Methodist Hill North W3/PD-006

An Elecraft KX3 HF transceiver on the ground with a SOTA flag.

Portable HF setup on Methodist Hill North

Stats

  • When: 2017-12-23 from 1832Z to 1915Z
  • Where: Methodist Hill North – W3/PD-006
  • Who: Just me
  • Ascent: None (see below)
  • Equipment: Elecraft KX3, SOTABEAM MIDI antenna
  • APRS Coverage: Excellent
  • T-Mobile Coverage: Nil

I arrived at the summit a little earlier than I had originally planned only because of the littlest one’s nap time. I also didn’t hike in due to the weather, which was and is a disappointment. Nonetheless, I did wander around the activation zone a bit trying to find that perfect place to setup. Unfortunately, I had to settle for a rotten log in an area that wasn’t as thick, brush-wise, as the rest of the area.

This is the first deployment of my Elecraft KX3 and, coupled with the SOTABEAM MIDI antenna, I have no complaints. Receive noise levels were low and signals were decent. Only problem I could find in the whole mix was me!

SOTABEAM MIDI deployed in the woods.

I mentioned the weather wasn’t great. Temperatures were in the 40Fs with a breeze. There was also rain. My CW likely ranks among the worst on the air and it gets worse when I’m sitting on the wet, cold ground being rained upon. For those that worked me, thank you. For those that worked me towards the end on 40m, as we say down in the South, “bless your heart”. I was going to try some PSK31 to give my fist a break but the USB connection for the keyboard seems to make a lot of RF hash noise. Switching to voice yielded no contacts so I just packed up and headed down the mountain.

Contacts

Thirteen contacts were had over two bands: sixty and forty meters. I started with sixty meters where I put K8HU, N2ESE, W2SE, KB9ILT, N3SW, and N2GBR in the log. I moved down to forty meters and found K3TCU, KI4TN, AC1Z, NE4TN, VE2JFM, AB9CA, and AA1CQ. All contacts were CW.

Lessons Learned

First, I need lightweight gloves that will keep my fingers warm but will still allow operation of a CW key.  Even at moderately cool temperatures, my fingers were getting too cold to not make mistakes when sending CW.  Not sure what to do about my brain getting too cold to not make mistakes when decoding CW.

Second, I need to find something lightweight and flexible to sit on that will insulate my butt and keep me dry while I sit on the ground.  It was not comfortable to absorb the dampness that was the ground while making contacts.

Summary

Thirteen contacts in the log and a new summit to boot.  Overall, I’m happy with the activation and can hardly wait to do it again!

FOUND: CLOVER2 Board cables

CLOVER2 Board cableYears ago I was given a CLOVER2 board. I later gave it away to someone who was interested in trying to add capabilities to his BBS. I now have found the cables for it! I wonder if I can figure out who got the board or if someone else could use the cables.

APRS SATCOM base antennas

Years ago, Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, talked about a “good” antenna for APRS SATCOM applications.  It was a 19-inch vertical antenna that would function on both the 2m and 70cm bands, and had lobes that were up around the 30-degree mark.  Looking for information on that antenna last night I found a page Bob had written expanding on the idea.  This page provides designs for i-gate antennas on 2m and includes the 19-inch antenna as well as a new design, a 3/4-wave 2m antenna.

I’m seriously considering building one or both of these antennas this weekend to test out these antenna designs.

Apple Orchard Mountain in July 2017

Success! That’s the word I’m using to describe my latest battle up a summit. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t without some failure, but I’m willing to give this trip a grade of B. Luckily I had some help…

Stats

  • When: 2017-07-15 from 14:00Z to 20:00Z
  • Where: Apple Orchard Mountain – W4V/RA-001
  • Who: Dave KB3RAN, Ed KC3EN, Steve N3IPN, and myself
  • Ascent: 280ft in .58mi (3928ft to 4208ft)
  • Equipment: Lots (See below)
  • APRS Coverage: Excellent with nearby I-Gate
  • T-Mobile Coverage: Poor.  Could receive text messages and voicemail notifications but couldn’t make calls or send messages.  Seemed common among all carriers.  There is one spot at the northwest corner of the FAA fence that seems to get okay coverage that may work.

Getting There and Staying There

Picture of Ed KC3EN, Steve N3IPN, and Eric WG3K.

Ed KC3EN, Steve N3IPN, and Eric WG3K. – Photo by Dave KB3RAN.

This is a fun event made even more enjoyable by the addition of a few friends. This year, like last year, I was joined by Dave KB3RAN and Steve N3IPN. A new member of the group, Ed KC3EN, also joined us this year, and I hope will continue to be part of the team.

Since we’re so far away (about a 5 hour drive) we camped at the Peaks of the Otter Campground, the night before, which is a few miles south of Apple Orchard Mountain.  The campground is nice and wasn’t crowded.  We were able to get two sites that were adjacent allowing us to put up two tents and have the RV all together.

Steve, and his excellent fire-building skills, had a roaring fire going in no time, and pork chops were our first meal of the trip.

Overnight rain kept me in a tent and out of my hammock that I’ve been sleeping in as of late, so that was kind of a bummer.  At least we missed the torrential rainfall that hit the area earlier in the day.

Up the mountain we go

Ed, Eric, and Steve arriving at the summit with wagon #2 loaded with radio equipment.

Final push for wagon #2 as we arrive at the summit. – Photo by Dave KB3RAN

I don’t think I touched on this subject last year, probably because I was still sore (physically and emotionally) about the situation.  For this year’s readers I’ll do a recap.

Last year was our first year supporting the APRS Golden Packet event.  It was also our first time ever going atop Apple Orchard Mountain.  While we had looked at maps and measured distances and altitude changes we really hadn’t grasped the energy it would take to get two overloaded wagons up the mountain.  For the record, the distance up the road is .6 mi and the elevation change is just over 300 feet.  But last year the two wagons of gear were likely weighing in excess of 2 tons each (metric, imperial, royal… your pick).

This year we scaled back enormously.  Batteries and antenna masts were reduced and lightened.  Radio and antennas were lessened.  Oh, and we added another mule to the team (thanks Ed!).  This year we made it up to the summit much faster than last year.

The Primary Mission

Image of Eric WG3K setting up the APRS digipeater on a boulder.

Eric WG3K setting up the APRS digipeater. – Photo by Dave KB3RAN

The primary mission of this trip was to activate an APRS digipeater on Apple Orchard Mountain in support of the APRS Golden Packet event. The event takes place annually and takes fifteen teams from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Katahdyn in Maine to build and maintain a network of VHF digipeaters so that a golden packet may be passed from Georgia to Maine and back.

Last year we completed our portion of the mission but there were problems along the link (equipment and personnel) that caused a failure.  What parts we did get active worked well and we tested both 1200 and 9600 baud links.

This year we decided to do only 9600 baud links.  Unfortunately I didn’t realize that the link between us (AOMTN-5) and Hawksbill (HAWKBL-6) is quite fragile and a change in antenna made the path between us unusable for 9600 baud.  Even 2m FM voice was tough going.  Fortunately 1200 baud packet was able to get through, and everyone switching to 1200 baud allowed the entire network to connect and function.  It wasn’t too long after everyone switched to 1200 baud that news went out that the Golden Packet had been passed from Maine to Georgia and back so we were successful!  Mission complete.

Hind sight

In hind sight I should have probably walked our antenna around a bit to see if I could have found a better location while I had Hawksbill on VHF voice.  Next year I want to bring a 2m/70cm yagi to direct my power to where I want it to go instead of just having it fly all over the place.

I’m also hoping to venture back out to Apple Orchard Mountain, before next July, and test comms with Hawksbill if I can get time and another team on the distant end.

Other Activities (SOTA)

Image of the SOTA flag flying from an antenna mast.It’s a haul to get up to the top of Apple Orchard Mountain. At least the road is paved, though. Of course we’re not going to go up there with only a TM-D700 and call it a day; no, we brought stuff! I believe there were five HF/VHF+ transceivers that made the trip with several antennas, batteries, poles, tents, and other accouterments. Like last year, we also decided to activate the summit for SOTA!

We were much more successful this year than last. We did have some failures, but overall I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Last year Dave had issues with his portable HF digital station but had this to say this year:

I had 15 contacts, 13 states, have 4 eQsl confirmations already and maybe picked up VT as my 49th state. Dang, could have had DE and had a WAS but couldn’t hear Bob Balint [KF3AA].

Steve also had problems last year but was busy scratching contacts onto his log while working a pile-up on 40m. He wanted to work 2m SSB but heard no one, which is unfortunate.

Image of Steve N3IPN with his 2m loop antenna in the air.

Steve N3IPN with his 2m loop antenna.

I, too, tried listening on the lower portion of 2m and didn’t hear squat which I found amazing from ~4200 feet. No beacons or chit chat of any kind. What was worse was the neighborhood RF seemed to be overloading the front end of my K1 making my Plan A QRP station completely inoperable. Thankfully I was able to borrow a 40m dipole for a few minutes and put a few contacts in the log using my FT-857D.

I was actually talking with W2SE on 40m when I had a duh moment and grabbed the microphone on the D700 and called Comers Mountain and worked their crew for summit-to-summit (S2S) credit. Hawksbill had already closed down so I missed my opportunity there, unfortunately. In the end I managed 10 SOTA contacts which isn’t too shabby.

What worked well

APRS worked really well from up on the summit.  There was plenty of digipeater coverage below and that allowed us to send spots and communicate with others well.

Dave KB3RAN sitting on a up-turned milk crate working PSK31 using a tablet.

Dave KB3RAN sitting on a up-turned milk crate working PSK31 using a tablet.

APRS2SOTA worked spectacularly!  Being able to let the chasers know what frequencies were were operating on in real time via RF was priceless.  It’s easy to use, and I was able to interact with the service using only my D72 portable radio.

PSK31.  Dave left his tablet and phone home last year but was ready this year and boy did he put some contacts in the log.  Of course you never really knew when he was working stations or just goofing off because he was always just sitting on the up-turned milk crate with the tablet in his hand looking around and chatting.

LifePo4 batteries. I purchased one of these batteries days before the expedition so I hadn’t had a chance to do anything except rig it with Anderson Power Poles and charge it up.  Turns out, the battery lasted for around five or so hours being hooked to the D700 being run on high power for the digipeater, high power on UHF for coordination with Comers, and on the FT-857D running 25-watts on HF.  When it stopped working (and boy did it stop) the voltage was a little over 8V.  It had recovered a bit by the time I had gotten home but I’ll call it a good day.

What didn’t work well

K1.  The K1’s front end seemed to be overloaded from the high-RF environment that is Apple Orchard Mountain.  Unfortunately, I had planned on this being my primary operating radio and so the antenna I had brought was specifically for this transceiver.

Cellular phones. Up on top of the summit there is either too much competition for cellular signals or weird multipath happening.  Sitting in one spot I could watch my phone go from no signal to get a 3G signal to a 4G signal to nothing all within the time-span of a minute or two.  Walking to one specific location on the summit would yield a usable signal for text messaging and maybe a phone call where the rest of the summit was useless.  This problem seemed to be common to all carriers.

2m weak signal. Not sure what was going on as last year that’s pretty much all I worked.

Ideas for next year

I’ve got a couple of ideas for next year including a better antenna to point at Hawksbill.

One thought is to attempt a microwave link to Comers (2.4GHz, 3GHz, or 5GHz).  We’ll have to coordinate some on this one.

Speaking of coordinating, others were apparently active on HF from their summits.  It would have been nice to know what summits were active and coordinate with them (maybe using our freshly-built APRS network) to make some SOTA contacts.

Anyway, I’m excited about what 2018 will bring.

Heading up to Apple Orchard Mountain this weekend.

Like last year, I’ll be heading over to Apple Orchard Mountain to support the annual APRS Golden Packet Event.  My friends Dave KB3RAN and Steve N3IPN are once again part of the team with the addition of Ed KC3EN joining us for the long slog up the mountain.

In addition to operating APRS, we’ll also be active on HF and VHF+.  You can watch for spots from us on the SOTAwatch2 site.

Changes from last year

Last year we didn’t quite know what to expect; we ended up bringing way too much stuff and it was all way too heavy.  This year weight is a primary concern and we don’t plan on making the same mistake again.

My friendly postal carrier dropped off a box just yesterday which contained the new heart of my station.  I’ve heard good things about these new LifePO batteries so I figured I’d get one to try it out for myself.  So far I’m impressed.  I’ve not really put it under a load test, yet, but if it really gives me the watt-hours that it says it will at ~3 lbs, I’ll be ecstatic!

Another change is that I’ll be bringing my Elecraft K1 with SOTABEAMS Band Springer Midi antenna.  This is an extremely lightweight HF setup and has proven itself to work quite well (you can read about my adventure activating Emmaville Mountain North up in Pennsylvania with this setup).

Listen for us!

We’ll be on the air from the summit starting Saturday, 15 July 2017, morning (likely around 1400Z) and will stay on the air until early to mid afternoon.  I’ll be chirping on APRS (WG3K-7) if you need to get a message to me while we’re up on mountain!

73!

Activating Apple Orchard Mountain (W4V/RA-001)

On Saturday, 16 July 2016, Dave KB3RAN, Steve N3IPN, and I hiked up Apple Orchard Mountain (SOTA W4V/RA-001) to activate it for the Appalachian Trail Golden Packet event.  While we were there we took advantage of the altitude and activated the summit for Summits on the Air (SOTA), National Parks on the Air (NPOTA), and the CQ WW VHF Contest.

Getting to the summit

Steve N3IPN and Eric WG3K hauling their gear.

Steve N3IPN and Eric WG3K hauling their gear.  Photo by Dave Hardy KB3RAN

Wow, getting to the top isn’t easy.  First we took way too much stuff.  We were, however, prepared for most anything.  Suffice it to say we’ll be better prepared for hiking and less prepared for anything next time we activate a summit.

We were originally hoping that one of the existing tenants on the mountain could have allowed us access by vehicle to the top but everyone was otherwise engaged and so we were left to drag everything up the service road to the top on foot.

The service road is a nice, paved road of approximately six-tenths of a mile in length.  It is grueling carrying a bunch of stuff to the top, however, and it took us around 45 minutes to traverse the distance hauling our wagons.

Convenient vehicle parking is available just north of the service road along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Setting up the gear

Eric gets the APRS digipeater on the air.

Eric gets the APRS digipeater on the air. Photo by Steve Hempling N3IPN

Our first priority was setting up the APRS digipeater for the AT Golden Packet event (as AOMTN-5).  We were running late so we wasted no time putting the antenna up ~12 feet in the air and powering on the radio.  We were rewarded by hearing packets coming through from both Northern Virginia to our north and Comers Rock to our south.

Because we had setup the station quickly we didn’t get an opportunity to look around and determine if there was a better location for our station.  Turns out we were close to the summit but needed to continue a few hundred yards further to reach it.  After catching our breath and regaining a little strength we picked up the APRS digipeater, feedline, and antenna and moved it to the summit.  I don’t think the performance of our setup improved but the views certainly did!

Panaramic shot towards the northwest from Apple Orchard summit.

Panoramic shot towards the northwest from Apple Orchard summit.  Antennas are up and rain is approaching!  Photo by Eric Christensen WG3K

There isn’t much shade on the summit so it’s important to either bring some sort of shelter or move off the summit a bit.  Just to the north is a rock pile with several trees growing that could offer some shelter if needed.

Other users of the summit

There is no shortage of antennas on Apple Orchard Mountain.  As this is the highest summit in the area, at 4215 feet, so many people want their radio systems up there.

Many antennas on Apple Orchard Mountain

Some of the antennas on Apple Orchard Mountain.  Photo by Eric Christensen WG3K

One user of concern for SOTA activators is the WA1ZMS 2m beacon on 144.285MHz.  Due to the proximity of this auxiliary station the weak-signal portion of the 2m band is likely unusable.  We were lucky that WA1ZMS was able to turn off the beacon for the AT Golden Packet event since the frequency used was close to the beacon’s frequency.

Contacts

AT Golden Packet Event

The mission was to link up the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  Using fifteen digipeaters, we pass messages along the Trail to prove that we can setup an ad-hoc network on short notice.  We were successful in seeing sites 3 through 12 this year.  We also tested 9600 baud which also worked well.  Simplex voice communications were used to help coordinate the event on UHF.

SOTA/NPOTA/CQ WW VHF

We also activated for SOTA, NPOTA, and CQ WW VHF Contest.  Conditions weren’t great and most of my contacts on 6m and 2m were limited to a few grid squares around.  I did manage one contact out to the Midwest but most of my contacts were very much local.

It was fun giving out W4V/RA-001 for SOTA and TR01 for NPOTA.  I also worked a station that had 432MHz capabilities even though it wasn’t for the contest; I’m all about putting the contacts in the log.

The antennas used were a Buddipole 2-element 6m yagi and horizontal loops for 2m and 70cm.  The radio was a Yaesu FT-857D.

Contact Summary

  • Six Meters – 10 Contacts
  • Two Meters – 9 Contacts
  • 70 Centimeters – 1 Contact
  • Voice – 18 Contacts
  • CW – 2 Contacts

Other missions

Another mission that I was successful in was updating OpenStreetMap data for the area.  Updating this information will hopefully provide others wishing to activate the summit with better cartographic information.


View Larger Map

Summary

I haven’t talked about Dave and Steve’s attempts at activating the summit.  In spite of good radios and antennas the contact count wasn’t great.  Part of the problem was that we didn’t have any way of self-spotting on the SOTAwatch2 site meaning that their QRP signals just couldn’t be found easily.  Hopefully we won’t have this problem next time.

Oh, did I mention six meters was open?

Turning on the radio this morning I was surprised to hear Puerto Rico coming in loud and clear on 50.125MHz. Once I had KP4EIT and HI3TEJ (Dominican Republic) in the logs I checked the DX Cluster to check the activity. There appeared to be many other stations from the Southeastern United States working towards the Caribbean. A few hours later the Sporatic-E opening moved towards the west and soon I was working into the Midwest and into Eastern Canada.

I did check two-meters but never heard any activity.

Image represents contacts made from FM18rq.  Station locations represent grid locator (grid square) center.  C=CW, S=SSB, J=J65A or J9

The twenty-three contacts, representing twenty-one grids, I put in the log were made using mostly CW with SSB, JT65A, and JT9 rounding out the rest of the modes.

Beacons

During a lull in activity I rolled down to the bottom of the band to check for beacons:

DX de WG3K: 50007.7 VA2ZFN/B FM18<EM92 1845Z 2016-07-12 18:45:00
DX de WG3K: 50059.0 VE3UBL/B FM18<FN03 1839Z 2016-07-12 18:39:00
DX de WG3K: 50067.5 N8PUM/B FM18<EN66 1827Z 2016-07-12 18:27:00
DX de WG3K: 50073.0 K0KP/B FM18<EN36 1825Z 2016-07-12 18:25:00

Reverse Beacons

I also took a look at the Reverse Beacon Network and found that I had been heard a few times:

DX de K9IMM-#: 50098.0 WG3K CW 25 dB 16 WPM CQ 1717Z 2016-07-12 17:17:42
DX de WE7L-#: 50097.90 WG3K CW 16 dB 16 WPM CQ 1707Z 2016-07-12 17:07:47

Operating Portable from Apple Orchard Mountain

During the weekend of July 16th I plan on being atop Apple Orchard Mountain, in Virginia, operating in the AT Golden Packet event as well as doing some VHF+ work while I’m there.  I’ll be accompanied by Dave, KB3RAN, and Steve, N3IPN, who are planning to operate QRP HF voice and digital.  This should be a fun adventure…

Supported Events

Expected Operating Frequencies

AT Golden Packet

  • 144.340MHz – AT APRS
  • 444.925MHz – Coordination
  • 144.390MHz – US APRS

General Operating

  • 50.185MHz USB +/- or 50.096MHz CW +/-
  • 144.285MHz USB +/- or 144.060MHz CW +/-
  • 432.100MHz and up
  • 14.060MHz PSK? +/- (KB3RAN)
  • Another HF frequency (N3IPN)
  • 144.390MHz – APRS (WG3K or WG3K-6 and/or WG3K-7)

 

Managing resources during Public Service events using APRS

Picture of Mark Freeze shadowing Zoe during 2016 Raleigh Tour de Cure

Mark, WD4KSE, shadowing Zoe during the 2016 Raleigh Tour de Cure. – photo by MotoPhotoMe.

Over the weekend I helped support the American Diabetes Association‘s Raleigh Tour de Cure – a two-day charity bicycle ride that allows riders to choose between 80 and 100-mile courses each day.  I’ve been supporting this ride for many years, and, thankfully, we’ve been using the same route for the last few years which makes it easier to come up with a communications plan each year.

Over the years I’ve watched other people’s techniques for managing resources.  One guy kept his notes on a knee board and used some sort of shorthand notation that no one could figure out during the brief glances we were allowed.  In years past I’ve enjoyed using a small whiteboard to keep track of where my Support and Gear (SAG) vehicles were.  This year, however, I decided to do something a little different.

The Goal

2016 Raleigh Tour de Cure course map with rest stop objects.

Raleigh Tour de Cure course map with rest stop objects.

The goal of my madness is to make sure I had SAG vehicles “patrolling” between rest stops where we knew bicyclists were located.  The Raleigh Tour de Cure has six rest stops with those doing 100 miles doing a loop that takes them back through rest stops five and six before heading to the finish.  Altogether, there are eight segments of race course that need to be covered.  Each SAG is assigned a segment to run in a particular direction.  In this way, it is hoped that a SAG will go past a certain point every ten to fifteen minutes (we don’t want a rider to have to wait a long time for a SAG).  Luckily not all eight segments are occupied at the same time which reduces the overall need.  This year we managed to do it with five SAGs, one doctor, one motorcycle SAG (who also had a photographer riding backwards taking pictures of the riders for MotoPhotoMe), and two shadows.  We could have used more but this is a great crew, and everyone worked together as a team flawlessly.

Past Management Tool

Like I pointed out earlier, I used to use a whiteboard to keep track of who was where and to make assignments when a SAG made it to their next rest stop.  My chart looked something like this:

 RS  | SAG
--------
S->1 | 1↑, 2↓, Last Rider
1->2 | 3↓
2->3 | 4↓, First Rider

This means that between the Start and Rest Stop 1 I have SAGs 1 (running backwards from 1 to the Start) and 2 (running forwards from the Start to 1), between Rest Stops 1 and 2 I have SAG 3, and between Rest Stops 2 and 3 I have SAG 4.  I try to stagger SAGs going between the same rest stops to add patrol coverage.  When SAG 1 reaches Rest Stop 1 the expectation is that they will call me on the radio and let me know they’ve arrived.  I will then give them a new assignment (it could be patrolling back towards the Start line or moving on to Rest Stop 2).  A whiteboard makes it easy to make these updates and keep everything in order.

The benefits of using such a system is that it’s simple and easy to manage, allows a quick look to see your needs for coverage, and allows you to make other notes (e.g. who has already had lunch, special assignments, where is the lead and last riders).  The drawback is that there is no record keeping with this system.  You can’t go back and see who was where when.  Keeping up with this information would require a completely separate form and would likely slow you down.  Also, because all this information lives locally on a whiteboard there is no way to share this information with anyone else if, for example, you need to step away from the radio for a few minutes.

Using APRS to manage the resources

This year I decided to use my APRS client, Xastir, to manage my resources.  Some of the SAGs ran APRS trackers (thanks to the Raleigh Amateur Radio Society (RARS) for letting us use their trackers!) in their vehicles which meant I didn’t have to update their locations and I always knew where they were.  The other resources I had I simply used objects on the map to track where they were located (approximately) and moved those objects when they provided an update.  It looked something like this:

APRS map showing SAG objects

APRS map showing SAG objects in motion between rest stops.

I could also put requests for service on the map (e.g. bicyclists that had contacted us via phone or SMS to say they needed assistance) and be reasonably sure I was sending the closest SAG to them.

Because I was the only consumer of this data (this year) none of the objects I created were actually sent over the air or to the Internet.  I could have easily shared this information over the air or the Internet to others and I hope to do so in the future.

Oh, I should point out that one of the SAGs, Moto 1, used APRSDroid on his cellphone to provide his location.  This was problematic as there were many places along the route that didn’t have any cellular connectivity much less sufficient data connectivity.

We also didn’t have sufficient APRS infrastructure to cover the entire route.  This was mostly remedied by the addition of a tactical digipeater.  I’m hoping to establish a new permanent digipeater along the route in the future.

What other benefits can APRS bring to the table?

Beyond keeping track of everyone’s location, either in semi-real-time or by moving objects around the map, APRS can provide information sharing to other stations that need to know what’s happening.  By pushing objects to the network, one can inform all participants of resources and needs (this requires some sort of display to consume this information).  Also, the voice frequency can be kept clear of routine requests by using the text messaging capabilities of APRS.

Record keeping can be done in a not-so-detailed way by having the APRS client record all traffic to disk.  This means that every movement, addition or deletion of an object, and every message would be recorded.  While not as detailed as formal messages, or even keeping a detailed log, it does provide some tracking that, if needed, might be helpful.

Conclusion

Using APRS to manage public service events could prove to be helpful.  It doesn’t necessarily require buy-in from everyone involved but would benefit from others participating.  I didn’t go into all the features that APRS could bring to the table but, rather, touched on the ones that I felt were important.  I’m hoping to extend this article in the coming months to bring more thoughts on the subject.

Thanks

I’d like to thank the volunteer hams that came out and participated in this two-day event:

  • Photo of Doctor Playford roaming the rest stops.

    Doctor Playford, KM4NWC, roaming the rest stops.

    John Snellen, AI4RT – SAG 1 (RARS Public Service Coordinator)

  • Wallace Smith, KJ4UKV – SAG 2
  • David Krum, NW3U – SAG 3
  • Joe Sheets, KJ4LZM – SAG 4
  • Bruce Buck, KC4UQN – SAG 5
  • Tom Byrum, N3TCB – Moto 1
  • Lubov Byrum, N3BOV – Photo 1
  • Dr. Scott Playford, KM4NWC – Doc
  • Bill Cole, KG4CXY – “Jim” (founder of Carolina Helping Hams)
  • Mark Freeze, WD4KSE – “Zoe”

Notes

  • Yes, I realize all the maps used in this article don’t contain roads and such.  While this information was available to me I really didn’t need it as I had the route and rest stop data staring at me.  If I needed the road-level maps they were just a couple of clicks away.
  • The APRS network frequency, 144.390MHz, is quite busy and I wonder if building a separate network on a different frequency would benefit the event.  Think ALOHA.
Photo of SAG vehicle at finish line

FIN