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Author Topic: Non-RF APRS for non-hams  (Read 19457 times)
N7SMI
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« on: May 25, 2013, 04:05:20 PM »

I'm helping coordinate support for a public service event involving many mobile support vehicles. Many will have APRS. We have set up a custom map to monitor APRS-enabled vehicles so anyone can monitor their location. We'd like to be able to monitor ALL vehicle locations, even those of non-hams. Mobile apps like OpenAPRS, PocketPacket, etc. allow you to send position data entirely via the internet and a mobile phone, iPad, etc. NO RF IS USED OR REQUIRED, so they are clearly not violating FCC rules.

So the question... is there anything wrong with a non-ham setting up this software for their use?

All they need is a tactical call and passcode to send data via APRS-IS for others to monitor their position on APRS.fi, etc. Because absolutely no RF is involved with them, I see nothing wrong with this, unless there's some APRS policy against it.

Thoughts?
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K7RBW
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« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2013, 09:03:07 AM »

Check out the limitations and requirements at http://www.aprs-is.net/ to see if that works for you.
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N7SMI
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« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2013, 05:09:13 PM »

Check out the limitations and requirements at http://www.aprs-is.net/ to see if that works for you.

That doesn't exactly clear things up. It talks about "non-amateur radio content", but doesn't really define it. It does say "APRS Objects are specifically apropos for non-amateur radio information." and we'll be creating APRS objects for tracking non-hams, so this suggests it is appropriate.
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OH7LZB
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« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2013, 10:58:32 PM »

All they need is a tactical call and passcode to send data via APRS-IS for others to monitor their position on APRS.fi, etc. Because absolutely no RF is involved with them, I see nothing wrong with this, unless there's some APRS policy against it.

Hi, I'm Hessu, OH7LZB. I run the aprs.fi service.

While your users would not be directly breaking FCC rules, packets appearing on the APRS-IS are often transmitted back to RF by transmit-capable gateways ("TX igates") to support worldwide two-way text messaging, for example. In a simple example, your users with tactical calls and nice mobile clients could send an APRS text message saying "hi Hessu" to OH7LZB and it would magically be transmitted by a local igate radio over here in Finland.

If non-amateurs would be allowed on the APRS-IS their packets would sometimes be transmitted on RF, making the *gateways* break their licenses and local regulations in most countries, including the US and Finland.

Due to this non-amateur users are not allowed to connect to the APRS-IS. Please don't do it, even if it would be technically easy to do. You'd create a headache for many gateway and system operators, myself included. Thanks!
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OH7LZB
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« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2013, 11:02:42 PM »

Forgot to insert a possible solution for your requirements:

Many APRS software packages include terms in their licenses saying that they are for Amateur Radio use only. But some do not (the aprsc IS server and aprx igate for example), so it's possible to set up an "APRS-IS"-like network of your own, which is not connected to the amateur network, and play with that. It won't have aprs.fi, but you can run other clients on it to produce mapping. Disable passcode validation on the server so that users will not need to be given passcodes that would work on the real APRS-IS.
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N7SMI
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« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2013, 07:30:31 AM »

Hessu-

Thank you for the clarification. I see that this would be an issue if a local igate were to transmit the non-ham data.

And thank you for the tip about setting up a non-RF APRS-like system for tracking. This sounds like it would take some effort, but may be a possibility. We have another possible alternative we're going to try. Thanks again!
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K0JEG
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« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2013, 09:10:19 AM »

Maybe take a look at Google Latitude for your non-ham users:
http://www.google.com/intl/en/latitude/intro.html

APRS-FI even has a way to show latitude users on their site:
http://wiki.ham.fi/Aprs.fi_Web_stations#Updating_using_Google_Latitude
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K5LXP
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« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2013, 08:05:06 AM »

Why not put amateur licensed APRS trackers in all the vehicles?

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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N7SMI
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« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2013, 07:59:34 AM »

Why not put amateur licensed APRS trackers in all the vehicles?

I'm no expert, but I think the legality of this would be a bit questionable seeing as the hams would not be in control of the transmitters, and I don't think they'd want to be responsible for transmitters in someone else's vehicle anyway.

I was able to work out a pretty simple solution. They just have to have a web browser open on a GPS-enabled mobile device (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.). I use geolocation to show their real-time position on a Google map. I also added paths for the race course, feed zones, etc. I collect their positions from the geolocation API and transmit them via AJAX to a central database every 30 seconds when moving. I combine this data with the APRS.fi data for APRS-enabled vehicles to create placemarks for all vehicles so anyone viewing the map can view (near) real-time locations for all support vehicles.

This works pretty slick. Of course they have to have a mobile device powered on all day and have data connectivity, but this is much easier for non-hams than getting licensed and installing an APRS tracker. :-)
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K5LXP
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« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2013, 08:42:56 AM »

I think the legality of this would be a bit questionable seeing as the hams would not be in control of the transmitters,

97.221(b): A station may be automatically controlled while transmitting a RTTY or data emission on the 6m or shorter wavelength bands

I think that pretty much covers it.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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N7SMI
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« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2013, 08:15:07 AM »

I think the legality of this would be a bit questionable seeing as the hams would not be in control of the transmitters,

97.221(b): A station may be automatically controlled while transmitting a RTTY or data emission on the 6m or shorter wavelength bands

I think that pretty much covers it.

97.3: (6) Automatic control. The use of devices and procedures for control of a station when it is transmitting so that compliance with the FCC Rules is achieved without the control operator being present at a control point.

These rules include being able to terminate transmissions, monitor them, etc. I'm not sure how this would be possible with a transmitter that is entirely under the control of a non-ham.
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K5LXP
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« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2013, 01:02:09 PM »

I'm not sure how this would be possible with a transmitter that is entirely under the control of a non-ham.

It's not under the control of a non-ham.  It's under automatic control.  In fact, you want to absolutely ensure that no one can futz with the tracker and override the automatic control you've implemented.

97.3: (6) Automatic control. The use of devices and procedures for control of a station when it is transmitting so that compliance with the FCC Rules is achieved without the control operator being present at a control point.

and,

97.109 Station control.   (d) When a station is being automatically controlled, the control operator need not be at the control point.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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AA4PB
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« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2013, 03:26:32 PM »

It seems to me that APRS (position reporting only) could be considered a beacon under 97.203. As such, it can be under automatic control. It does require that you have a way to turn it off if instructed to do so by the FCC. Assuming that you have some access to the vehicles or can contact the driver by cell phone or some other means that probably qualifies. Part 97.203 doesn't specify that you have to turn it off remotely or a time limit for doing so.
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K1CJS
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« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2013, 04:42:09 AM »

I'm not an APRS user--and not an expert by a long shot--but I have heard of such things as a dad using APRS (Tiny-tracker, interface and radio) to locate a car that their teenager has out at night.  The transmitter sent out APRS under the dad's callsign and was remotely controlled (turned on or off) by him.

If a unit were made to do the same and could be used for no other purpose, it should be considered as being in accordance with the part 97 regs, and non-hams could carry it to report their position.
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KG4RUL
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« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2013, 05:12:27 AM »

Some previous thread that are on-point for this topic:
http://www.eham.net/ehamforum/smf/index.php/topic,3346.0.html
http://www.eham.net/ehamforum/smf/index.php/topic,28711.0.html
http://www.eham.net/ehamforum/smf/index.php/topic,3339.0.html
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