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. APRS has a great 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 so that they can be heard over a wide geographic area.

How to Use APRS?

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

How Does It Work?

Handheld and mobile radios work well for APRS. If you are aware of certain terms that are specific to APRS use, you can use radios or even your smartphone to transmit data.

These packets of data that are transmitted from one place to another is normally received by unconnected 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 have gateways that help share tracking information between unconnected stations.

Ever since APRS users started taking help from the internet to transmit and display their data better, 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 moving objects, or share your own location. You can also use them to share different sorts of messages in the hopes that an APRS station will pick it 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 that are 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 in a suitable way, 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 mean 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 out with APRS.

You can use the internet to access websites like or 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, which is made 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.

The Functionalities

When using a smartphone, you will also need a B-tech cable, which will 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 just to share data on emergency.


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

This is of course useful for many, from travelers and workers, to normal people who just 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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