APRS, Really? Yes!

Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS)?  You’ve probably heard of it.  Bob Bruninga, WB4APR?  You might have heard of him.  You may have even dabbled with APRS.  Maybe you found it fun but never really found the “utility” or “function” in it beyond that.  Here are a few “Did you knows….”.  So here we go ….. did you know:

  • APRS has been around for 25 years now?
  • positions can be viewed on websites like APRS.FI?
  • it has MUCH more function that simply passing position reports and for tracking mobile stations?
  • it is a two-way tactical real-time digital communications system?
  • it has a station to station messaging capability?
  • you can send SMS text messages (2-way!) over APRS?
  • you can send short e-mails over APRS?
  • you can send LONG e-mails over APRS through your “Winlink” account? What?
  • you can use something called “Voice Alert” to let you know other APRS users are in your vicinity and ready to talk?
  • you can call “CQ” worldwide over APRS?
  • you can send bulletins and announcements over APRS?
  • you can place objects over APRS, like “downed tree” or “closed bridge”, etc.?
  • you can work satellites with APRS?
  • you can use SkyCommand over APRS?
  • you can do group messaging over APRS?
  • you can query the QRZ database over APRS?
  • there is free software to use with APRS, like APRSISCE/32 and others?
  • you can plot DF bearings on APRS?
  • there are MANY more things you can do with APRS?

OK, so there’s a lot of info there, and there’s much more to be mentioned.  Unfortunately, APRS has been overlooked by many for so long that in many respects it has fallen by the wayside to a degree.  This is unfortunate because it can be a valuable and fun tool that we should keep alive and well.  Make no mistake about it, it has a role in EMCOMM and we are tooling ourselves up to use it more effectively here in Anchorage and with ARES.

Over the course of the next couple weeks, I’ll spit out some more detailed information about APRS.  In the meantime, go grab that old 1200 baud terminal node controller, pair it up with a 2-meter radio, roll to 144.39 MHz, and get started!  Check out applications like APRSISCE/32 (a simple web search will help you find it) and give us a shout if you need some help setting up.  Feel free to drop by the RSOC on a Working Wednesday or on a Saturday as well.  Send an e-mail to if you need more info or help with APRS.


Kent Petty, KL5T
Vice President