APRS in the news !

APRS demo turns into real life Search and Rescue
Source: J Scott Ratchford
Date: 4 June 2001
Well, we had a fantastic weekend with APRS at the RESCUE 2001 in Howard County, Arkansas. I early April, I was asked to come down and give a presentation about APRS on the night of 6-1-01 and possibly use a tracker the following Saturday afternoon. I passed the invite around and one other fellow APRSer, Mike, KD5DGT, decided to join in. So on Friday morning, around 11 a.m., we took off for an unknown area of the state with unknown terrain. 300 miles and 5 hours later we arrived! whew!


When we arrive the first thing we did is survey the area. It was rough! This was an area of the state that was devastated by the ice storm in late December of last year. There was debris all over the forest floor. I couldn't see how a SAR team was going to travel through that mess. 4 wheelers were out of the question and I had doubts about horses! Luckily the scenario didn't require either this year.


The command center/staging area was placed in a hole! I guess this was for creature comfort, as the camping area and pavilion where also in the hole, but it may have been a real world to, so plan for anything! With the CC in the hole, we decided we would need to put a temporary digi up above on a nearby ridge the following day for the exercise. Getting to the ridge was a different matter. The maps available were 1966 vintage topo maps and clearly outdated. So we took our GPS, marked the CC and started out. Luckily we found a old logging road that led us very near where we wanted to go.


That evening, Mike and I gave a demonstration and talk about the APRS system. Our time was supposed to be only an hour, but last two! The response was overwhelming! It was clear that these SAR teams had never seen any of this before, not even those that were hams! One SAR team was consisted entirely of hams and had not know about APRS. Our demonstration was mostly about the basics of APRS, some of the equipment and costs. With so many choices of equipment, I referred all those type of questions to internet resources. We did have on hand the Kenwood D7A, Tigertronics TM-1+, Kenwood D700A, Kantronics KPC-3+, Garmin and Pharos GPSs and some home brew equipment for them to look at. In the end, cost and weight were the biggest concern, ease of use second. As most of our equipment was basically "plug and play", ease of use became a mute point. We wrapped up our talk/demo about two hours after we started.


The following day, the RESCUE 2001 schedule was filled with morning classes and afternoon exercises (which turned interesting, as you'll soon see). Mike and I took advantage of the morning to go put the temporary digi on the hill once we had an idea of where the exercise was going to take place. Mike had all the equipment which included a 10m long tapered telescoping pole, a KPC-3, radio, and gel cell batteries (more than enough to last the day). Since it was a temp digi, we didn't care about the Beacon location information. I don't even think it had ANY location information, just a call.


After installing the digi, we setup out D7's for the teams. I used the a fresh battery for the radio and put fresh batteries in my GPSIII+. A simple connection cord and it was ready. Mike's setup used the same equipment, with the exception of an additional bag-phone battery to power all of his equipment. We set the beacon rate to 10 min (which turned out just a little too long for this short exercise, but may be just right for a "real world" application), tested the HTs and were ready for the exercise in under an hour.


When the SAR teams were combined into four groups, we picked two to place the trackers on. I placed all of my gear in an ALICE pack with one team and Mike placed his radio in a backpack, leaving the GPS for use by the team. We found out that we could change the coordinates displayed to UTM on the Garmin III and still have the correct information for APRS coming from its data port. Both coordinate systems were being used, which was very interesting, and confusing for the CC. APRS helped clarify this later in the exercise.


As it turned out, the tracking of the teams worked flawlessly! The scenario was for lost canoers and we had to place two teams across the creek from the CC to search up and down stream. The two other teams were on this side of the creek. We were not far below a dam and the search was not expected to last very long. 4 hours max. However, as the exercise progressed the dam let out a huge flow of water and we had two teams trapped on the other side! The creek became a river, the only way out was either up a 400 foot cliff face or across the river. One of the teams opted for climbing, the other couldn't do the same and required crossing the creek. Our exercise became "real world" in a hurry! As it turned out the team that had my equipment on them was the team going to cross the creek. We were able to watch and the team as they moved up and down the river trying to find a safe crossing point. Once they located a spot we used APRS to get an exact location of the team before heading off to find them. Water rescue teams were called in to bring the group across and it went without a hitch.


After the exercise turn real world rescue operation, we were able to replay the tracks and shown how well the system worked. Many of the SAR folks were very impressed and we expect to hear from them soon as they add APRS to their equipment.


Bottom line, the weekend was a success for both SAR and APRS. It was abundantly clear that APRS has a place in SAR and will be a very useful resource for the SAR teams. Of those teams that didn't have hams on-board, we asked them to look at becoming ham radio operators and to look for hams in their area for help. I am sure that hams would be more than happy to help if asked. And if your asked to help, jump in there with both feet! You'll learn something, they will learn something, and hopefully we can get more exposure to groups like these.


Satellite data clear trucker in the killing of Jersey woman in Ark.
Source: Newark [NJ] Star Ledger
Date: 15 September 2000
Investigators cleared a long- haul trucker of suspicion yesterday in the murder of Kristin Ann Laurite, the New Jersey woman whose throat was slashed near an Arkansas rest stop as she traveled cross- country last month. Data from a global positioning system device atop Robert Ezagui's truck showed he did not stop at the highway rest area where Laurite, 25, was last seen alive, Conway County Sheriff Mark Flowers said. The records, subpoenaed from the trucking company that employed Ezagui, indicate the 48-year-old Texan drove straight from Little Rock, where he stopped for gas, to Joplin, Mo., where, Ezagui maintains, he had dinner with his son. By communicating with satellites, GPS units record a user's precise location, route and stops. ''Those things don't lie," Flowers said yesterday in announcing he will not pursue charges against the trucker.

APRS data gets ham out of speeding ticket
Date:18 Aug 2000
Yesterday i went to court for a speeding ticket 73 in a 50 in a construction zone no seatbelt. Well I went to plea my case and showed the judge my aprs track log form my home station I was on the other side of the road that the infracton occured on and my track log only show me going 56 miles and hour. still got my license no points and the speeding ticket was thrown out of court . still have to do 90 days probation on the seatbelt or that ticket goes on my record but maybe its not always true that big brother has better toys than us 73 all kb9lnc

APRS helps recover stolen car
Source:WB4APR / APRS documentation
Date: October 1996
Now, the Oct 96 San Diego California Responder newsletter reports, as Scotty Leikett, W8KXX, was going to bed, he looked out his window and noticed that his APRS-equipped car was missing. One glance at his computer terminal showed that the vehicle was across town and moving! He notified the San Diego Police Department, but the dispatcher would not believe that an owner had the ability to track his stolen car by radio.

When the policeman arrived, Scotty explained the ARPS system and showed him the car's symbol with the unique amateur call on an APRS city map. The officer relayed the precise location to the police cruisers. As it happened, the stolen car and a police cruiser were stopped at the same red light with the thieves were still in the car. Surprised at the officers' sudden attention, the culprits made an illegal left turn and the chase was on. Soon after the crooks abandoned the car and escaped, leaving a hand gun behind.

The car was recovered without major damage thanks to APRS and ham radio.

APRS exposes Vancouver theft ring
Source:KD4RDB's not so perfect memory (if your's is better, please email me)
A ham's van was stolen by some teen agers. When the location of the van was reported to police, it was discovered that the van was being used to transport stolen goods around town.

Cows in space!
Source:Gerry Creager N5JXS
Gerry, my favorite aggie (actually, he's the only Aggie I know ), has been using APRS to track cattle. Cows in space. APRS isn't just for people!

Put APRS links on your web page
Source:Earl Garber, N3EG
Date:September 2000
I just put a hidden tracker in my car , and already have one in the work van . I'm hoping that by giving out the findu URLs, a few non-hams will become more interested in sitting down and taking a test - remember the old days, when R/C pilots would get a Tech license just to get off 27 or 75 MHz?