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Spot Messenger to APRS

Some of you would know that when I am operating in remote areas I run HF APRS from my 4WD mobile (tour vehicle) on the 40metre band. I also can run VHF APRS, plus I carry a SPOT Messenger GPS device that plots my position on a web page known as my shared page.  I’ve wanted for some time to find out if the SPOT position reports (posits) could be fed to the APRS server, so that they show up on http://aprs.fi. Well it turns out there is a gateway running here in Australia that is still in the developmental stage. Peter VK2US has set it up, and it works a treat. Below is a sceen capture from aprs of my 4WD with SPOT messenger fitted, parked in my driveway. The SPOT data is being fed to APRS by Peter’s system. Great stuff!

Below are some images and also some information from Peter’s site.


Position report from my SPOT fed to APRS Google Map



I guess you followed a link here from an APRS message that you saw that got you a little curious. Well OK here’s a brief overview of what we’ve done, and I guess why.

Firstly what is a spot? Well in it’s simplest form it is a personal tracker. This is a small handheld, or belt worn, device that will acquire it’s position from a built in GPS satellite receiver and relay this on command back via the Globalstar network. It can also provide an automated position fix every 10 minutes as well as having assistance and emergency messages available. To have a look at these things try the spot webpage.

OK, so what is APRS? Well just in case you didn’t know it’s a system we amateurs have that allows us to broadcast our position via radio so that other amateurs, well anyone that cares to look, can see as. As well as this the system also contains messaging and broadcast functionality.

Now as can be seen from the above we have two systems that are involved in the reporting and display of positions so it seems natural that the two should get together. From an amateur’s perspective here are a couple of reasons why we did this:

  1. While most of the reports from mobiles are done on VHF it has the least amount of coverage of all of the possible options. A spot will provide almost global coverage.
  2. APRS messages can be submitted via HF however the radio you are using for this becomes dedicated to the task if you are looking to run the tracking full time. A spot frees up this radio to transmit the APRS data meaning you can operate HF mobile while still letting people know where you are.

Operation is fairly straight forward and occurs in 2 steps.

We collect the data from the SPOT servers.

We submit it to the APRS network under the users callsign.

This system is still in the development stage however is showing a lot of promise. If you’re an amateur, even a foundation call, and have a spot feel free to contact me with your email address and callsign and we’ll add you to the list of units we’re watching. If you’d like a little more information on this feel free to have a look at the about page and FAQs or if you’ve just arrived here then feel free to look at the rest of our site.

Regards & 73’s


Categories: APRS
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