On 30-May-2017, I dropped by HAM Radio Outlet on my way to Los Angeles and picked up the Yaesu FT1XDR.
I purchased this GPS analog and digital transceiver to learn and participate in APRS. You can check out APRS at APRS.fi.
I got rid of the stock antenna and bought a BNC adapter and replaced the stock antenna with the Diamond RH77CA; and, of course, the transceiver sends and receives a stronger signal and covers longer distances.
I considered getting the Yaesu VX-8DR and the Yaesu FT2XDR; but, I picked the Yaesu FT1XDR because of its proven reliability and ease of use. Most importantly, it has a built-in GPS. The Yaesu VX-8DR requires the operator to purchase a GPS device, bracket, or hand-held speaker mic with the GPS attached to it.
The GPS setup for the Yaesu VX-8DR is cumbersome and a waste of money. Also, the way it sticks out doesn’t suit my mobile needs — my mobile activities would break-off the GPS off its bracket.
I use a speaker mic, but I don’t want a GPS device attached to the mic; because, sometimes I don’t want to use the speaker mic; hence, with this configuration, if I don’t use the speaker mic, then I don’t get to have GPS unless I attach the GPS bracket (it doesn’t come with the GPS — additional cost — dumb!) to the body of the transceiver, which makes it big and cumbersome.
Unfortunately, I read way too many negative reviews about the Yaesu FT2XDR about not being able to lock on to a GPS signal, repeater signals, and digital repeaters. I also read about the difficulty of the Yaesu FT2XDR not being able to lock into APRS.
I wanted the GPS integrated into the device; and, I wanted reliability and ease of use to operate the GPS and APRS features; hence, the Yaesu FT1XDR was my choice.
The Yaesu FT1XDR had glowing reviews regarding its reliability and ease of use of the GPS and APRS.
My Yaesu FT1XDR has extended frequencies; so, it transmits and receives beyond the listed frequencies of 144 MHz to 430 MHz.
So, what is this APRS? Well, you can read about it here: Wikipedia APRS.
As you have learned, APRS is a HAM tracking and communications network. My iPhone 7 Plus can track my location, and I can send text messages, make calls, send pictures, and send my location to people I wanna send it to.
So, why would I need APRS?
I grappled with this question, and I even sent my question, “Can anyone tell me the benefits of APRS?” to the Twitterverse.
APRS sends information at 1200 or 9600 BAUD — WTF? Thats like clacking to rocks together and calling it a lighter — sure, I can start a fire with it, but it’s gonna take me a few hours if I’m lucky.
Well, if you’re stranded in the wilderness and need to start a fire without a lighter, then having access to striking two rocks together to get a fire started is better than nothing. So, I guess if the cell network is down or not available, then APRS would be a welcomed back-up to signal for help.
Is this all APRS is — a back-up to the mobile cell network?
Initially, I answered this question in the affirmative; however, that changed the moment I engaged with it today, 31-May-2017.
Here are some of the reasons that I believe APRS is it’s own stand-alone application that supersedes and is more valuable than the mobile cell network.
APRS has EMERGENCY BEACON.
In the event a HAM operator is in trouble, the operator and send out an EMERGENCY BEACON (signal), and it will alert the APRS.fi network — mobile phones don’t have that feature.
APRS publicly tracks all HAM operators registered with APRS. Let’s say you go skiing, and like me, you decide to ski off the tails to make your own trails; and, like me, you get lost. With APRS, search and rescue people can go to the APRS network and locate you, as long as you have your HAM transceiver and your APRS-mode is set on. Mobile phones can’t do that — mobile phone users have to grant access to other people to follow a particular mobile phone user — there’s no public tracking.
Of course, organizations, like the FBI and CIA can subpoena your mobile phone’s data, which includes your location, but that takes time. With APRS, the location is instantaneous and tracked in real-time.
APRS keeps a log, about 30 days, of your movements. So, if you get lost or kidnapped, search and rescue personnel can get your APRS packets, and back-track your location for the past 30 days and narrow their search mission to find you. Mobile phones can’t do that.
The biggest advantage of APRS is…it works without the cellular network. If you go to the desert, APRS can work — most likely, your mobile phone will not due to lack of coverage. Hell, you don’t even have to go to the desert to experience no cell coverage — go to a park in Lafayette or Orinda, California, and you will experience zero cell coverage. I was on a film-shoot over there, and my iPhone 7 Plus didn’t work. I had my Yaesu VX-6R, and I was able to make contact with other HAM operators in the thick of the woods. If I was in an emergency, I’d be able to communicate out of the woods.
So, these are just a few major distinguishable features that separate APRS from the mobile cellular network; and, in many cases, better than the mobile cell networks.
Also, I think I’m done building out my HAM hand-held transceivers.
I’ve got two Yaesus, four Motorolas, and one Baofeng — stick a fork in me — I’m done buying transceivers.
Oh — my wonderful mobile, portable, and base unit, my Yaesu FT-857D with extended frequencies.
/s/ Alfonso Faustino (K6ASF)