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  #1  
Old 10-15-2013, 05:00 AM
humptybump's Avatar
humptybump humptybump is offline
 
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Default I'll help you if you want to stand up an iGate

My iGate has been running for almost two years now. Other than a tiny bit of electricity, there are no re-occurring cost and a tiny bit of attention once in a while. My iGate fills a substantial void along the eastern seaboard - it's on track for transferring 18,000 messages to the Internet this month!

While its not a critical component of my RV-8 flying, I like having it on board and my family likes being able to see where my plane is. I also like "checking up" on friends who fly more than me ... vicarious aviation. Parents with kids who are new drivers - or will be soon - might want to consider adding trackers to their cars too

I'd like to help others who are willing to stand up an iGate. You need an amateur radio license, but thats not a difficut written test to pass and the same licence covers your tracker. If you check you local area and find there is no iGate in your area then you are a good candidate. If there is no iGate at your airport and the FBO has WiFi, then you are a good candidate (although you may need to check airport rules about the antenna). Alternately, you can set one up at home.

Here is the real world cost of equipment:
  • a 2-meter receiver (eBay has several hand held HAM radios for $50-75)
  • a permanent antenna (a new copper j-pole is about $45)
  • antenna feed cable (50ft of coax with connectors is about $25)
  • a computer with a sound card / mic input (an OLPC XO is about $50-$75 on eBay, a Raspberry PI setup can be put together for about the same)
  • an audio cable and probably a data cable or two (likely less than $10)
  • misc mounting hardware will be another $10-$20
The total $190-$250 but $225 is likely the mean cost.

The installation of the antenna is just a matter of finding a location for the antenna and running the feed line coax from the antenna to wherever the computer and radio will be. There's not much I can do here unless you are within RV distance.

Before I forget - you will need access to an internet connection too. I use low power laptops which can support WiFi or wired network. This provides a few more options for locating the iGate.

What's not included here is the cost of "elevation". If you are trying to cover a large area with your iGate, you need you antenna to be able to have a better "view" of the area. If your area is relatively flat, then you don't need much elevation but if you are in a low spot, getting some elevation will help but also cost. The simplest option is to mount the external antenna at the peak of a roof - either on top of the peak or close to the peak on the end of a building. You can see my installation is on the end of my hangar sticking above the peak. The ultimate solution is a tower but that is costly and also will increase the length of the coax feed line which in turn dictates using higher quality / higher cost material.

Tracking down the parts is pretty easy too. I'm happy to share my sources (but everything I bought came from Amazon, eBay, and my local HW store so it's mostly a personal choice)

For most, the challenge is getting the computer software installed, configured, connected to the radio, and all tuned up. Here is where I hope to help.

I'm happy to setup, configure and tune up the computer and radio and help train you with operating your iGate.

I realize this is not for everyone. But, if you are game, so am I. Even if this only nets a couple new iGates, if it fills in some voids across the country or across the globe, it will be a fun project.
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Last edited by humptybump : 11-03-2013 at 03:10 PM. Reason: added back need for HAM license for all iGates
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  #2  
Old 10-15-2013, 07:06 AM
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Thumbs up Thanks for the iGate description.

Good writeup, Glen. We have adequate iGates in North Alabama so I haven't seen a need to add another, but I have wondered what it would take. I do appreciate those who have set them up as I have my APRS tracker on with every flight.
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Old 10-15-2013, 10:55 AM
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by humptybump View Post

I'd like to help others who are willing to stand up an iGate. If you have an amateur radio license or are planning to get one the. you've got the paperwork covered. If you check you local area and find there is no iGate in your area then you are a good candidate. If there is no iGate at your airport and the FBO has WiFi, then you are a good candidate (although you may need to check airport rules about the antenna).
1) Would a restricted radio operators license work?
2) How do I check the iGate coverage for my area?

Thank You

king
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Old 10-15-2013, 12:41 PM
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Default no license needed for iGate

A ham radio license is not required to operate an iGate. A license is required to operate a digi-peater because it transmits beacons.

But if you are only receiving beacons and sending them to the internet, no license is needed.
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Old 10-18-2013, 09:01 AM
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For anyone interested, I have no idea how this is possible but you can get a NEW Amateur Radio portable transceiver for under $40. It's a BEOFANG UV5RA and its gets mixed reviews but most say its OK if you replace the antenna - which for APRS iGates you will anyway.

this particular HT has an odd choice of antenna connection so an adapter will be needed but an adapter is usually needed anyway - it's just that this adapter is not likly in anyone's junk drawer.

I'll be ordering one and will report back !
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Last edited by humptybump : 11-03-2013 at 03:12 PM.
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Old 10-21-2013, 06:02 AM
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James - sorry for the delay, I missed you question.

The way I check for iGates in a particular are is pretty simple (and not 100%, but good enough).
  1. open a browser to aprs.fi
  2. enter the name of the town or ZIP of the area of interest
  3. look for the iGate symbol (a black diamond), this is a good starting point but not all stations providing iGate service use this symbol and not all stations using this symbol are functioning iGates
  4. look for all of the stations (especially symbols of cars, trucks, etc) and hover the mouse over them
  5. some stations will display a 'path' to the digipeter and iGate they used
  6. repeat this around the area of interest and you will see most of the iGates


click for larger image

the green, yellow, and red, circles represented identified iGates and I've colored them relative to my perception of how well and how much traffic they are gating to the internet.
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Last edited by humptybump : 10-21-2013 at 07:42 AM.
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Old 10-21-2013, 07:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by humptybump View Post
James - sorry for the delay, I missed you question.

The way I check for iGates in a particular are is pretty simple (and not 100%, but good enough).
  1. open a browser to aprs.fi
  2. enter the name of the town or ZIP of the area of interest
  3. look for the iGate symbol (a black diamond), this is a good starting point but not all stations providing iGate service use this symbol and not all stations using this symbol are functioning iGates
  4. look for all of the stations (especially symbols of cars, trucks, etc) and hover the mouse over them
  5. some stations will display a 'path' to the digipeter and iGate they used
  6. repeat this around the area of interest and you will see most of the iGates

I'll try to create an example graphic and show a sample of results.
Glen,

Thanks I was able to follow your directions and see what is or is not in my area.


Jim
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Old 10-21-2013, 08:06 AM
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Default IGate

Hello Glen,

I am interested in the iGate setup for my place. Could you do a brief summary of the equipment required at my airstrip and in my plane? I typed my zipcode into APRS.FI and found a weather station about two miles down the road, could that be used to track my plane?
I attempted to talk my wife into going to your place yesterday to see your setup we were already in KROA. Somehow she found lunch more interesting than invading a grass strip. Sometimes I don't understand her priorities. In my mind we were already half way there. We did have a nice weekend of flying anyway.

Marvin

UPDATE: I typed APRS equipment into the search function and got a lot of info on how they are setup in aircraft.
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Last edited by M McGraw : 10-21-2013 at 08:30 AM.
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Old 10-21-2013, 12:47 PM
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Default

Hi Marvin - the trackers for your airplane are pretty standard - the only question to ask yourself is if you want a j-pole antenna in your wingtip or a whip antenna on your fuselage. the same question turned around is whether you want your tracker in your wingtip or your fuselage.

As for the iGate, the first message in this thread lists all of the parts (not the software). I'm in the process of building a new iGate (part as as an exercise for others but also I'll offering the finished setup at 'cost' if someone wants it - it will be preconfigured and tested with everything but the external antenna and feed coax since those are site specific).

I like very lightweight software but that is because it translates to a "little bit of Linux". If that's a non-starter then I can make suggestions for people but I don't have any familiarity. The reason I went with Linux is that is works with old, cheap, low powered computers/CPUs. For example, I built my iGate with an old OLPC XO-1 laptop and aprx software. I just bought one off of eBay for $46 and will use it to build this iGate. So for less than $50 it has screen, keyboard, wifi, battery, etc. and all that I need to add is an 1/8" audio cable and a handheld radio/receiver.
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Old 10-21-2013, 02:01 PM
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M McGraw M McGraw is offline
 
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by humptybump View Post
Hi Marvin - the trackers for your airplane are pretty standard - the only question to ask yourself is if you want a j-pole antenna in your wingtip or a whip antenna on your fuselage. the same question turned around is whether you want your tracker in your wingtip or your fuselage.

As for the iGate, the first message in this thread lists all of the parts (not the software). I'm in the process of building a new iGate (part as as an exercise for others but also I'll offering the finished setup at 'cost' if someone wants it - it will be preconfigured and tested with everything but the external antenna and feed coax since those are site specific).

I like very lightweight software but that is because it translates to a "little bit of Linux". If that's a non-starter then I can make suggestions for people but I don't have any familiarity. The reason I went with Linux is that is works with old, cheap, low powered computers/CPUs. For example, I built my iGate with an old OLPC XO-1 laptop and aprx software. I just bought one off of eBay for $46 and will use it to build this iGate. So for less than $50 it has screen, keyboard, wifi, battery, etc. and all that I need to add is an 1/8" audio cable and a handheld radio/receiver.
Hello Glen,
If you have the finished setup you mentioned at some point in the future, I would be very interested. LINUX works fine for me. It has been many many years, but I'm sure I can figure it out again. I saw your wingtip J-pole antenna setup in a diferent post. I plan to do likewise in my right wingtip. I have already used the left wingtip for an Archer setup. I will check back with you when you are ready. All I have completed are the wings so no hurry
Thanks Marvin
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