What Is APRS and How To Use It?


APRS or Automatic Packet Reporting System is used for real-time communication to share information of immediate importance in a local area. APRS ensures digital communications, as it is an amateur radio-based system.

This system transmits data ranging from GPS coordinates to queries and commands. The automatic packet reporting system has many uses for people, as it can transmit various types of data and even provide information that can be displayed on a map.

This makes finding important sites extremely easy. Other than that, new uses for APRS are cropping up all the time. So, let’s discuss how this system really works.

The system transmits information in the form of packets. There are APRS sending devices or trackers that collect required data and form packets with them.

These packets are then transmitted using APRS stations to “digipeaters,” which repeat the data to be heard over a wide geographic area.

How to Use APRS?

Using an Automatic Packet Reporting System can seem like a complex task, especially if you are new to this type of data sharing. But when you understand what types of instruments can be used and how, this process will seem much easier.

How Does APRS Works?

Handheld and mobile radios work well for APRS. If you know certain terms specific to Automatic Packet Reporting System use, you can use radios, or even your wireless stations normally receive these packets of data transmitted from one place to another lived by wireless stations. What this means is that there is no guarantee which station will receive and transmit the data. However, the digipeaters mentioned above, which listen to and filter out data, can be very specific.

These usually decide where the data should go or if the same packet has already been transmitted. APRS also has gateways that help share tracking information between wireless stations.

Since APRS users started taking better help from the internet to display their data, things have gotten much easier. There are now apps and websites that help with APRS mapping and the transmission of emergency messages and data.

Devices You Can Use

Now, you can use your computer, laptop, or mobile phone to track locations and move objects or share your own location. You can also use them to share different sorts of messages hoping that an APRS station will pick them up.

One of the few things you need to use for APRS is a TNC or Terminal Node Controller. This works as a medium that receives digital data from computers or other devices transmitting information and encodes them into audio tones that can be aired over FM radio.

Any APRS data that is being shared and transmitted gets ejected into the internet stream. There, it is presented to a user appropriately so that it can be easily understood.

For APRS mapping, the tracking data is usually represented by various specific symbols. These are called APRS symbols. Regular APRS users understand what each symbol means, but there can also be guides for that. Different APRS devices, radios, and trackers use different symbols, numbers, and letters.

Websites and Apps for APRS

If, as a beginner, you want to play around and start working with APRS, you can do so quite easily and learn as you go. If you own a smartphone, you’re already kind of set for starting with APRS.

You can use the internet to access websites like http://www.findu.com/ or http://aprs.fi/ that will give you information on a certain location, its movements, sites, etc.

If you are using your phone, you can also download apps like APRSdroid, specifically for android mobiles. For iPhone users, the alternative is APRS Pro Deluxe. These apps help the phone emulate a TNC, so you don’t necessarily have to get an individual one.

But if you want to, you can get a standalone TNC which can be fairly costly. Otherwise, some radios and tracker boxes have built-in TNC, which can also be used for APRS mapping. Either way, a TNC is necessary.


When using a smartphone, you will also need a B-tech cable to connect your handheld radio to the smartphone. The radio will transmit audio messages, while the smartphone will show the map and any other details presented by the app or website of your choice.

Once upon a time, APRS was used for long-distance races to track moving objects like people, cars, boats, etc. Now, it can be personalized to locations, family cars, or to share data on emergencies.


A user can look up a location using the internet and any APRS website or app to collect it. You can watch the traffic, and learn about the existence of different sites and buildings. You can even track the weather in different areas using APRS.

This is, of course, useful for many, from travellers and workers to normal people who want to track their cars or need weather forecasts. At a time when everyone uses smartphones, APRS has become very handy to everyone. Just a little understanding of its processes can help you use it well.

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