APRS and Storm Chasing

I'm curious about how many people here have used APRS while storm chasing. It would seem that it could be quite useful in certain situations, especially since you can add some basic weather data to the position info and even exchange messages.

I've "fiddled" with it a bit myself in the past, however I've just purchased a Kenwood TMD700A with a built in TNC and GPS interface so an APRS setup will be exceptionally easy to set up.

I'd be interested in hearing about other peoples installations/experiences with APRS while on the road.
 
John,

There's a topic on APRS in the Archive forum, but it's interesting reading nonetheless: http://www.stormtrack.org/forum/viewtopic....&highlight=aprs

I've tried using APRS with AGWPE, which uses the soundcard on a computer to produce the necessary tones. With UIView32 and a GPS, you can use any ham radio to transmit and receive APRS data (and plot the stations on any particular map). I got it to work a few times, but it was rather tedious to set up, and I just wasn't able to get it working consistently. I am still interested in APRS, but I'm definately going to get a radio with APRS built-in. Here's my 'tracking' page that I set up to allow folks to 'track' me on a storm chase: http://www.tornadocentral.com/aprs.shtml
 
warning: possibly a commercial
AllisonHouse now has APRS position tracking for users of GRLevel3. You can overlay the persons current position within the radar screen. Helps with nowcasting and spotter coordination. This was specifically requested by the Indianapolis NWS office as part of their storm spotter coordination efforts.
end commercial

I'm currently working with a storm chasing team (not sure if they want me to say who so I'll leave that until later) to figure out how to get position reports of their vehicles back to a nowcaster at their forecasting headquarters.

I queried the APRS gurus on the aprsig mailing list and found out the following information about the typical "storm chasing" areas in the middle of the US:

information is dated as of late Sep 2005

If running a 50 watt radio with a good antenna and a path of
'WIDE1-1,WIDE2-2' the following *should* hold true.

- All major highways are covered as are most major cities.

- APRS coverage in Colorado dies about 60 miles east of the front range of
the Rocky Mountains until you hit Kansas.

- Kansas has near full coverage
- Nebraska has near full coverage
- Iowa has near full coverage
- Wisconsin has near full coverage
- Minnesota has near full coverage except in the north
- Missouri has almost nothing except on major roads/cities
- South Dakota has almost nothing except on major roads/cities

One thing I didn't think of is you can run APRS on 30m with an HF rig and
a Hamstick using the same tracker/gps configuration you would have used
for VHF. That would nearly garuntee a connection as it would cover
thousands of miles. The Byonics/TinyTracker supports 300baud HF. I don't
have a license for HF though so I can't help with that. :)

Even with the fairly good coverage listed above you are garunteed to be in an area that simply isn't covered (even in the states that claim full coverage).

For the chase team they are looking into Satellite tracking (think Semi truck) instead since they think it will cost about $70 bucks a month. It's worth it to them to have 24x7 coverage instead of the "on the cheap...might work" APRS network.

Nothing wrong with APRS tracking..I'll be playing with one in 2006.
 
John,

There's a topic on APRS in the Archive forum, but it's interesting reading nonetheless: http://www.stormtrack.org/forum/viewtopic....&highlight=aprs

I've tried using APRS with AGWPE

Thanks for the link Jeff; I should have consulted that first. In any case I suspect interest in this will grow as time goes by and the technology becomes more refined. I had experimented with a separate 2m radio, GPS and TNC but found the setup to be a bit cumbersome without working on it a bit. I'm looking forward to using my new Kenwood next chase season since it's alot easier to implement.

I queried the APRS gurus on the aprsig mailing list and found out the following information about the typical "storm chasing" areas in the middle of the US:

Wow, thanks Tyler! Good info there; I'll be looking forward to using this next year. I can understand the reliability issues for some folks, but it sounds like a lot of effort is going into these gateways/servers and I expect it will suit most peoples needs nicely.
 
I, too, have the Kenwood 700A and it doesn't get much simpler for plug and play APRS. I run it most of the time when I'm chasing just because family, friends, and co-workers get a kick out of following along on findu.com. Granted, in order to show up on findu.com you must be able to hit a digipeater with an internet link, but that's getting easier everyday with more digis going up. findu.com has given the ability to overlay an NWS radar for about a year now, and that is really cool for those following my moves.

I actually found a chaser from Pennsylvania in Concordia that I wouldn't have know was there at the same time without the APRS running, pretty cool. I almost always have my APRS running unless I find a need to use the second band on the 700 for receiving other information over the airwaves.

It is also cool to be able to use APRS without the need for extra equipment, and that's the advantage of the Kenwood 700, no laptop or separate TNC needed.

Another cool feature, at least in most areas of KS is that many of the NWS offices (OAX, GLD?, ICT, and Hastings) all transmit warnings via the APRS network. I've picked up a number of watches and warnings via APRS as I make my way along I-70, especially when I'm not actually chasing.

During those trips along I-70 that I'm not "truly" chasing, I'm on my way to the in-laws in eastern Colorado (think 30 miles south of Stratton). I can vouch that coverage gets pretty spotty out there, but from time to time I can pick up a digi out of Goodland or Garden City depending on how far north or south I am. Otherwise it's pretty quiet out there.

I've had alot of fun with APRS more on the hobby end of amateur radio, but I could definitely see some uses for spotting and chasing!

Tim
 
I plan to have an APRS set up by chase season 2006. I have a laptop that doesn't have a serial port, and I use the Delorme USB earthmate GPS. This will make things interesting to set up. I'm thinking I can get UI-View to see the GPS data by changing COM port settings. Then it should be able to send that data to the TNC. Anyone have any experience with this type of scenario?
 
This is when I wish I had gone with the Kenwood and not the I-com, (the Kenwoods make is soooo easy for APRS) but I am going to try to get APRS up and running for the 2006 season. I am going to run down to the Ham radio store tomorrow and start getting the stuff I need.
 
I plan to have an APRS set up by chase season 2006. I have a laptop that doesn't have a serial port, and I use the Delorme USB earthmate GPS. This will make things interesting to set up. I'm thinking I can get UI-View to see the GPS data by changing COM port settings. Then it should be able to send that data to the TNC. Anyone have any experience with this type of scenario?

Hi Jarrod;

I did some checking and came up with this:http://www.delorme.com/support/gps/lt20001.asp?D=572

It's a serial port emulator from delorme that will allow the GPS unit to be recognized with applications that only see serial ports. Can't be sure that it will work with the scenario you described, but it sounds like a good starting point.

Good Luck!
 
Another cool feature, at least in most areas of KS is that many of the NWS offices (OAX, GLD?, ICT, and Hastings) all transmit warnings via the APRS network. I've picked up a number of watches and warnings via APRS as I make my way along I-70, especially when I'm not actually chasing.

I find that feature to be of particular interest; I can think of all kinds of potential uses for that. You could have spotter networks that would do the same for a given area, a quick and easy way to get the message out.

Cheers!
 
I plan to have an APRS set up by chase season 2006. I have a laptop that doesn't have a serial port, and I use the Delorme USB earthmate GPS. This will make things interesting to set up. I'm thinking I can get UI-View to see the GPS data by changing COM port settings. Then it should be able to send that data to the TNC. Anyone have any experience with this type of scenario?

Hi Jarrod;

I did some checking and came up with this:http://www.delorme.com/support/gps/lt20001.asp?D=572

It's a serial port emulator from delorme that will allow the GPS unit to be recognized with applications that only see serial ports. Can't be sure that it will work with the scenario you described, but it sounds like a good starting point.

Good Luck!

Thanks for the link. I thought I already had this, but apparently I had something else. This should work great I think. I am still waiting on a TNC though, so it will be a while before I can test it...
 
I plan to have an APRS set up by chase season 2006. I have a laptop that doesn't have a serial port, and I use the Delorme USB earthmate GPS. This will make things interesting to set up. I'm thinking I can get UI-View to see the GPS data by changing COM port settings. Then it should be able to send that data to the TNC. Anyone have any experience with this type of scenario?

Hi Jarrod;

I did some checking and came up with this:http://www.delorme.com/support/gps/lt20001.asp?D=572

Good Luck!

I've tried using that utility, but it seems to be extremely buggy. It can start passing out the NMEA/GPS data, but it usually closes after 5-15 seconds of being open. You have to open the utility up again, which means it'll start all over in trying to lock on to satellites, only to close again after a few seconds of working correctly, etc. I suggest Franson's GpsGate program, which does work as advertised (unlike the DeLorme utility).
 
Since I've never really found success using APRS via the ham radio, I decided to see what I could do using the inputpos CGI script available on findu.com . Essentially, this script allows you to enter your station position on the internet. I modified a VB2005 program so that, if I have a GPS position, my APRS position will be updated either every 2.5 minutes (if I'm moving >10 m/s) or every 5 minutes (if speed >10 m/s). Since I've had very good data coverage during the past several storm chases, I expect this method to be much better than my old laptop-to-radio method. Of course, I need to have an internet connection for this method to work, but I still expect it to be much more efficient than in years past. In addition, I made a Google Maps page to show my current position (with the infowindow showing lat, lon, and date of last report). Check it out at http://www.tornadocentral.com/aprs.shtml
 
Originally posted by Jeff Snyder
Since I've never really found success using APRS via the ham radio, I decided to see what I could do using the inputpos CGI script available on findu.com .

That brings up some interesting possibilities Jeff; I think we'll see more of that kind of approach becoming very popular when wide area wireless internet becomes an affordable reality.. especially since only a small segment of the population are hams.

In the meantime, I would prefer to use the no-cost radio approach rather then burning up cell phone plan hours. Besides, it's fun!
 
Lots of hams use methods that don't use laptops. Just radios and "tracker" devices to send out the GPS data. I however want my laptop to do it, because half of the fun/usefullness is being able to see other stations nearby.
 
One of the problems a buddy of mine has is that other chasers or "chasers" can see where you are. So if they know your APRS ID, and know you know what your doing, they like to follow you. I don't know how much of a real-world issue this is, but that's why he got rid of his.
 
The Kenwood 700 has an answer for the "followers". It has a setting that with which you can adjust the ambiguity(sp) of your position to a more general description. Granted, it won't keep all followers away once they id you vehicle, but it could make it a bit harder on them.

Then again, if you don't want to be tracked, you don't have to run APRS I suppose. Sounds like your friend figured that out :wink:

Tim
 
Originally posted by Mike Gauldin
One of the problems a buddy of mine has is that other chasers or \"chasers\" can see where you are. So if they know your APRS ID, and know you know what your doing, they like to follow you. I don't know how much of a real-world issue this is, but that's why he got rid of his.

That's an interesting point, however it's going to depend on who you are and if you experience these kinds of things. I can imagine that the DOW team or similar would have that kind of consideration to make. Not a worry for me though.. nobody knows who I am which suits me just fine.. :)
 
Originally posted by John B Erwin
Not a worry for me though.. nobody knows who I am which suits me just fine.. :)

I know what you mean :) I don't think I'll do APRS unless there's something else that gets tied in with it that I want. I'm fine with GPS.
 
I've never really thought about people following you, but I think most people who use APRS are just hams having fun with it. I can't wait to get started.

Honestly though, I think APRS can be really helpful for spotting. It would be nice to know where other mobiles are set up. It would be even nicer for the net control operator.
 
APRS in chasing

The crew I chase with has used APRS since 2003, and one of the useful aspects is the ability for "lab support" to see your location in the big picture, and with overlaying a NWS radar someone on the phone can give you a quick heading on where to go when you lack data on the road. Digipeater coverage seems to be improving, although it seems like you drop off the proverbial "radar" in parts of western KS. A neat toy for folks back home to track your location though! -DC
 
I have the Kenwood D-700 in my vehicle and use the D7 for portable tracking. I highly recommend them for anyone who want to get serious with APRS.
I also have been experimenting with TinyTracker. It is much less money and much smaller. It uses software on your computer to program the parameters and I use UI-View to track designated APRS signals during chases and Skywarn/RACES events.

Tinytracker can be found here: www.byonics.com

Here is also a good link explaining the use of UI-View and APRS in general. ftp://ftp.xmission.com/pub/users/d/dbares...-View_intro.pdf The author, Carlton Doe, is an expert on APRS and an Extra Class HAM.
 
I also think the main chasers use of APRS would be for nowcasting. If you're near other digipeaters, this could be a real handy tool for nowcasters. It would cut down on frustration of having to tell your nowcaster exactly where you are, and have them find it on the radar. Now there are ways to put your position on the radar. For those of us like me who can't afford to get live data in the field, APRS could be the best way to get data, provided you have someone who can track you back at home.
 
Originally posted by John B Erwin+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(John B Erwin)</div>
<!--QuoteBegin-Jcook
I plan to have an APRS set up by chase season 2006. I have a laptop that doesn't have a serial port, and I use the Delorme USB earthmate GPS. This will make things interesting to set up. I'm thinking I can get UI-View to see the GPS data by changing COM port settings. Then it should be able to send that data to the TNC. Anyone have any experience with this type of scenario?

Hi Jarrod;

I did some checking and came up with this:http://www.delorme.com/support/gps/lt20001.asp?D=572

It's a serial port emulator from delorme that will allow the GPS unit to be recognized with applications that only see serial ports. Can't be sure that it will work with the scenario you described, but it sounds like a good starting point.

Good Luck![/b]

I am in the same boat with trying to get APRS up for me in the near future. The radio I have only accepts a headphones style jack from a GPS receiver. I dont know how this will work if someone is using USB DeLorme GPS map program. Is it possible to connect the radio in for APRS using those two peices of equipment? I dont want to shell out and spend the money for a mobile GPS jus to have APRS. I will soon be buying USB DeLorme Street Atlas. Please let me know if you are successfull. Im hoping Ill get mine working with a little help from you guys.
 
Originally posted by Gerard Jebaily+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Gerard Jebaily)</div>
Originally posted by John B Erwin@
<!--QuoteBegin-Jcook

I plan to have an APRS set up by chase season 2006. I have a laptop that doesn't have a serial port, and I use the Delorme USB earthmate GPS. This will make things interesting to set up. I'm thinking I can get UI-View to see the GPS data by changing COM port settings. Then it should be able to send that data to the TNC. Anyone have any experience with this type of scenario?


Hi Jarrod;

I did some checking and came up with this:http://www.delorme.com/support/gps/lt20001.asp?D=572

It's a serial port emulator from delorme that will allow the GPS unit to be recognized with applications that only see serial ports. Can't be sure that it will work with the scenario you described, but it sounds like a good starting point.

Good Luck!

I am in the same boat with trying to get APRS up for me in the near future. The radio I have only accepts a headphones style jack from a GPS receiver. I dont know how this will work if someone is using USB DeLorme GPS map program. Is it possible to connect the radio in for APRS using those two peices of equipment? I dont want to shell out and spend the money for a mobile GPS jus to have APRS. I will soon be buying USB DeLorme Street Atlas. Please let me know if you are successfull. Im hoping Ill get mine working with a little help from you guys.[/b]

Gerard,

I recenlty tried out my mobile APRS set up using a Delorme USB Earthmate with my laptop, and a KPC-3+ TNC. It works great! The trick is to use UI-View32 as your APRS software. This way you don't even need to hook the GPS up to the TNC like most people do, the software will take the NMEA string from the GPS and send it to the TNC itself, thus you don't need to worry if you don't have serial ports (I don't). Once you have UI-View32 configured propery, it works out fine.

BTW I am using that emulator from the above link, and it works fine for me. I have my GPS set up as COM3, and any application can share the data. For instance, I tested it with UI-View and Delorme Street Atlas using the data simultaneously. I was impressed.

Hope this answers some questions.
 
Originally posted by Gerard Jebaily
I am in the same boat with trying to get APRS up for me in the near future. The radio I have only accepts a headphones style jack from a GPS receiver.

Hi Gerald;

It sounds like you have the Kenwood TM-D700 Tranceiver. In order to hook everything up in the scenario you describe you'll need to get a SERIAL based GPS unit. I chose the Garmin GPS18PC "puck" for my installation; I simply made an adapter for the "headphone" type connector on the radio. You can get puck-type GPS units for cheap off of e-bay or other sources.

You may be able to hook everything up as Jarrod suggests above, however I'm not sure having not done it that way with this equipment. I would suggest getting a serial GPS unit to leverage all of the features that the Kenwood radio offers.
 
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