I have always wanted a gizmo that would allow people to track me realtime while flying. The Spot gizmo that dr has is really cool, but those of you who know me, know that I am homebrew kinda guy. That, and I hate subscription fees. (I am a wee bit on the frugal side - Thanks Mom!)
So I looked into something called APRS Automatic Position(or Packet) Reporting System. In its basic form, it uses a small transmitter to send your location (from GPS) to the internet using radio repeaters and eventually an internet connection. The information shows up on a Google maps interface on the web in near real time. And the best part - it is free! Using this system requires a Ham radio license, but I found that easy to obtain by passing a 35 question multiple guess test and paying $14.
Here is how I equipped N789PH for APRS.
1) I ordered an APRS Gizmo as a kit and built it. You can buy them assembled as well. It was fun and easy to build. I added a puck GPS and antenna. Total cost. ~$185 delivered
Here is the gizmo - it is a tiny transmitter and the device that encodes the GPS info into packets.
Here it is after I packaged it:
One more as I was programming it:
Here is my install. The thing weighs about 6 oz and is darn close to the CG. All it needs it a few milliamps of 14V when transmitting. I pirated power from the LED Nav lights.
The antenna is a homebrew design I found on the web made out of old twinlead 300ohm TV antenna wire.
If you don't want to build an antenna - help a kid get to Alaska http://www.vansairforce.com/communit...582#post199582
The install with Gorilla tape is temporary. I will glass it in now that I know it works. I was able to send signal to stations over 100 miles away with the tiny transmitter!!
Here is what shows up in realtime on the web:
here it is in a pic:
So there it is. If you like to tinker and want to save few bucks, give this a try. If you just want tracking for safety and want a turnkey and more robust solution - buy the Spot. It is good to have people know where you are.
I had fun making and tweaking this thing. I also learned about Ham radio and met some guys in the local amateur radio club. They are a lot like exp airplane guys, friendly, and looking for a better, cheaper way to do things.