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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

PicoAPRS v2 Review & Test

Last night at the second to last monthly OMARC Membership meeting of 2017, some who attended got to see the tiny PicoAPRS unit I recently acquired thanks to a HRO gift certificate I won at the annual Society of Cable Telecom Engineers Cable-Tec EXPO I attend annually for professional (bill paying) reasons.

I have had my eye on this APRS device since learning about it from Ralph DK5RAS who I met while debunking the Baofeng DM-5R's inability to function as a true tier 2 DMR radio (thread about that here).



Ralph pointed me to his friend Taner, DB1NTO who was the miracle worker behind this super tiny APRS device and I just knew I needed to get one after we went off on to typical ham hobby tangents. The day has finally come!

What is the Pico APRS?

APRS is short for "Automatic Packet Reporting System" which Bob WB4APR developed 21 years ago! APRS takes 1200 baud packet data and allows users to send and receive short messages back and forth along with location and other telemetry data like weather.

APRS created a resurgence in the use of packet radio which started decline due to the uptake of the internet, which shifted how many ham radio operators shared data wirelessly for many years before we all had broadband high speed (or even low speed) internet.

The PicoAPRS is the smallest 2m band transceiver, modem, GPS, user interface and power source in one nice tiny enclosure

Yes, that is a regular size push pin for scale. The antenna attached to the SMA connector I have is bigger than the PicoAPRS unit!

Key Features of the Pico APRS
Easy to navigate menu system with two buttons 
Low and High Power Transmit Power (0.5W/1.0W) 
Frequency agile between 144-146 MHz 
Built in GPS 
Audible Message Alert via Morse Code 
Ability to act as a KISS TNC when connected via USB to a computer when used with popular software such as APRSISCE 
Ability to reply back and receive messages. This is a two-way communication device. 
Highly portable (and possibly easily misplaced)
There are many more details on the Pico APRS website here:

http://www.db1nto.de/index_en.html

What do I plan to use this for?

As a dedicated data communication "pager type" device that can be relayed from my home, mobile or other digipeaters. 
Backup GPS location finding device thanks to its ability to set a way point and compass bearing while hiking. 
Alternate and fun way to receive and transmit packets to the International Space Station and 3 other APRS satellites 
Experiment with a getting picked up on the Outernet APRS feed.

This is also much, much, MUCH smaller than MPET and Arduino TNC box I built and we may be starting to see a few new projects for those looking for other things to do with the MPET.

Here is a short video of messaging in action with the Pico APRS. Off to the side I was using the previously reviewed Mobilinkd TNC.




Given all the additional APRS related satellites now in operation, I am getting back into APRS after many years. Look out for a review of the Kenwood TH-D74 in an upcoming review which is a 144, 220, 440 APRS radio with bluetooth, APRS, GPS and Icom D-Star capability.
My upcoming review will focus on using pretty much every feature other than D-Star.
I will also be doing a quick write up on how to use a DMR radio to report its position into the APRS infrastructure

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