Getting Started With APRS

Ever wanted to see what APRS is all about?  Well, the easiest way to get hooked, I mean, see it in action, is to visit this website:  Hopefully, this will center a Google map on your general area.  If it doesn’t, search on w2pe-2, for example, and this will put you in the western New York area (Erie/Niagara County line).

Now, let’s say you want your awesome callsign to be seen statically on this map.  Here is where you would simply download and install UI-View32 (you must register for FREE to use this software to send out your beacon) for your Windows machine or Xastir for Linux (any Mac folks out there?).

You can then go into the station settings and put in your callsign and setup a connection to an internet APRS server (w2pe has one, but it’s currently being upgraded and awaiting internet connection).  There are a few that are built into the software that can be used to get stations from.  Once you connect to a server you will see all sorts of stations (possibly worldwide) show on your screen and if you setup your callsign and login to the server, it will then beacon your station out on the map for all to see.

If you are successful, you are on APRS.  However, you are, technically, on APRS-IS, because you are only on the internet, not on RF.

Yet another way of beaconing on the APRS-IS system is to use your smart phone!  Both iOS and Android have apps for that.

If you desire beaconing on RF, that’s where the real fun starts.  There are, of course, a hundred ways to do that like anything else in amateur radio.

The easiest is to get a radio with built in APRS, put in your coordinates and callsign and press the beacon button!  Kenwood, Yaesu and Icom all have radios that have this feature.  I have experience with the Kenwood D7A HT and the D700 mobile.  I know of another member with a Yaesu VX-8R HT.  Of course, don’t just press the beacon button on any frequency!!!  You’ll need to set your radio to the APRS frequency of:  144.39 MHz.  Feel free to just listen to that frequency if you haven’t already and see (hear) what APRS sounds like.  If you are familiar with Packet Radio, you’ll definitely recognize the bursts of sound (or noise if you prefer!).

Another way would be to get a 2 meter radio and interface it to an external TNC, similar to the Kantronics KPC-3. This could then be connected to your laptop or desktop computer (via serial RS-232) while running UI-View or Xastir!

These are some of the ways to get a taste of what this mode is all about.  If you have questions, comments, corrections, clarifications or want more detail on anything APRS, please write a comment below and I’ll address it.

Thanks for reading and 73,


Leave a Reply