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  #1  
Old 03-05-2010, 08:58 PM
Sam Buchanan's Avatar
Sam Buchanan Sam Buchanan is offline
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Default Byonics MT-RTG aprs tracker review

Herein are my initial impressions of the Byonics MT-RTG (Ready-to-Go) aprs tracker. Since this tracker is basically a repackaging of proven components, I have no reason to believe the initial tests won't be validated during longterm use.

One objection to installing an aprs tracker that is sometimes presented by prospective users is a reluctance to delve into geekdom and software setup. The traditional trackers are quite easy to configure, but I guess even that degree of customization is intimidating to some.

The Byonics MT-RTG is the answer to those who express technophobia but still wish to have the safety enhancement of an onboard tracker. The heart of the MT-RTG is the TinyTrac3 encoder which carries well-proven technology. This encoder is paired with a ten-watt transmitter and regulated power supply which provides a package that is RTG (read to go).



Since the tracker is delivered with the user's callsign and a generic config that is suitable for aviation tracking, there is no need to crack open the case or do any programming. However, the RTG is fully programmable like the other Byonics trackers for the user who wishes to customize the config. The software and user manuals are downloadable from the Byonics website.



One end of the high-impact plastic case carries an SMA antenna connector.





The other end has a standard 6 pin mini DIN connector for the supplied harness for 12v aviation or auto bus power and serial GPS data input. Since this is a readily available connector, it will be easy to fabricate a harness if a particular installation requires customization. The serial connector is also used for custom programming like the other Byonics trackers. Also visible in the photo is the dual-color LED that indicates valid GPS data and transmitter operation.

The MT-RTG is available either with just the harness, or as a bundle that includes the GPS2 mini GPS receiver/antenna and a 20" magnetic base transmitting antenna.

So....what we have is a very neat package that is about as close to plug-n-play as we can get. How does it fly?

Very nicely, thank you. I slapped a magnetic 5/8 wave antenna on top of the car and took to the road to see if the little black box could land some beacons on the local digis. It had no problem hitting a couple of digis about thirty miles away.

The MT-RTG was tested in the aircraft with a belly-mounted VHF-band whip antenna. The first flight was with the Byonics GPS2. The second was with the Garmin GPS35 that usually provides data for my tracker. In both cases the MT-RTG delivered flawless tracking.

Aprs tracker packaging has been advanced several steps with this tracker. It is compact, ruggedly housed, preprogrammed, offered by a reputable vendor, and based on proven components. And the icing on the aprs cake...the price including the GPS and antenna is under $200!

From now on, the MT-RTG is the device I will recommend to pilots who want the easiest aprs tracker installation for their aircraft.

Highly recommended.
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Last edited by Sam Buchanan : 08-27-2016 at 08:16 PM.
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  #2  
Old 03-06-2010, 12:42 AM
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Sam, great report, nice pics; and Allen...home run, brudda!

I had a lot of fun packaging my MT8000FA, but the more I see of the RTG, the more I like it. The package is so small (even with both the tracker and power supply in it), and the ability to remotely connect the DB-9 and power plug (or hard wire the power/ground if desired) make this tracker package, as Sam called it, pure plug and play, easily mountable or hide-able, with as low a hassle factor as I can imagine. Just way cool!

I'm thinkin' you're gonna have to crank up the production floor for this baby!

Nice work!

Cheers,
Bob

PS: Sam, I was waiting to see if you tested the whole package...and put the mag-mount antenna on your airplane! (Heck, if Allen can put a CI-122SP on his mini-van, why not do a little quid-pro-quo!? Allen, how did your wife take to that antenna after all?)
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  #3  
Old 03-06-2010, 06:18 AM
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Sam Buchanan Sam Buchanan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rvmills View Post
PS: Sam, I was waiting to see if you tested the whole package...and put the mag-mount antenna on your airplane! (Heck, if Allen can put a CI-122SP on his mini-van, why not do a little quid-pro-quo!? Allen, how did your wife take to that antenna after all?)
Bob, I don't have the mag mount antenna, but even if I did, I'm not sure what I could "mag" it to.

Since it has a 20" radiator, it should work fine once a mounting scheme is devised.
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  #4  
Old 03-06-2010, 07:47 AM
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It does not look like the transmit power is programmable. 10 Watts in an aircraft would be considered an abuse of the amateur radio airwaves by some.

I like the concept of the self-contained module, but I wish there were transmit power settings, or a lower power version for airborne applications. In my opinion, one or two watts would be plenty.

There have already been complaints in the ham community in my area-- some valid, some not. Some complaints are that APRS Tx only does not follow the 'listen before talking' protocol, but this argument is invalid for low power FM transmitters due to FM capture effect. High power transmitters that can reach hundreds of miles can swamp a lot of 300 mW transmitters in a wide region, however.

A listen before talk protocol (CSMA/CA) is also a problem with a wide mix of transmit powers in an area.

At any rate, I hope our abuse of APRS does not lead to its demise.

Vern
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  #5  
Old 03-06-2010, 10:20 AM
VHS VHS is offline
 
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Default 10 Watts abuse?

I know we have covered this ground in lots of forums before, but it may be time to revisit it. Your inference that having a transmitter at altitude allows it to hit digipeaters at enormous range is quite correct, and the corollary to that, is that the tracker at altitude can detect very low power transmitters at enormous ranges. This would mean that at altitude, your tracker would be hearing signals so loud and clear from ranges out more than 15% over the horizon, that it would never allow a transmission. I can easily provide transmitters that will never send a signal-I have boxes of dead ones! I fear that their utility would be questionable.

The key to polite operation of an airborne tracker is not so much in the power, but in the settings. Sending beacons too often and using overly wide digipaths ( The number of times you allow your transmitter to be retransmitted by digipeaters) are what make for abusive operation.

If your goal is to avoid hogging time on Digipeaters, you could just delete the digipath altogether, and rely on I-Gates to port your data over to the APRS-IS system. At altitudes over a few hundred feet, this would be a wonderful, thoughtful thing to do, that is unless of course your altitude is low because you are embedded in the side of a mountain or something. The digipeaters allow the APRS tracker to act as a supplement to Search and Rescue. On the Search side, at low altitude operation, the track drawn on the map can help HQ people determine if an airplane has actually covered an area to be searched.

The MT-RTG has a fixed power output. We have found that with power variable devices, some people will try to set the power and deviation without having any test equipment to do so. (And vice grips don't count) This keeps us from having to do a lot of repairs from end-users trying to set the power to "11" on the 10 scale or assuming that all the way counterclockwise will be low power and the opposite will be high power. You need actual electronic expertise and equipment to make meaningful adjustments, and many of our clients just want to plug it in and turn it on. The MT-RTG is as close to that as it comes.

Now knowing hams, I did make a simple concession to their desire for controls. I left a pair of pads on the board allowing an external switch to be used to select a secondary configuration. You could switch between a set of values with no digipath info, so you will only hit I-Gates, and a second path with a more conventional path setting, for use at low altitudes, or for your car if you keep it set up as portable.

73,

Allen
VHS
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  #6  
Old 03-06-2010, 03:20 PM
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mburch mburch is offline
 
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Hi Allen,

The Garmin aviation GPS units (all the x96 models) output a proprietary NMEA sentence ($PGRMH) that contains the aircraft's current height above the ground. If you ever create a tracker that has software-adjustable power output, you could potentially listen for this height value and dial down the transmitter power as the airplane gets higher off the ground.

Free idea, worth at least as much as you paid for it!

FMI: http://www8.garmin.com/support/pdf/NMEA_0183.pdf

cheers,
mcb
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  #7  
Old 03-06-2010, 07:07 PM
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N42AH N42AH is offline
 
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Thumbs up RTG Received yesterday...Flown today

I did a quick and dirty temp install last night and flew the RTG today on our trip to see the grand kids in Pinehurst, NC.

With the GPS laying on the dash, cig adapter plugged in and the mag mount in the cockpit off I went.

This little guy dropped my first bread crumb as I was barely airborne (20 feet) from SC99. My AIO never could do that.

Up until the cig adapter backed out this little guy worked flawlessly. This unit, properly configured and utilizing Smart Beaconing, will be a friendly and great addition to the airborne APRS community. Can't wait to get the proper install completed. ETD from KSOP back to SC99 is scheduled for around 12:00 hrs so we shall see how it works tomorrow with the cig adaper securely attached.

This is a must have for every RV'er.

Now all we need is a dedicated APRS site for our APRS equipped RV's so we can easily spot those that are aviating.
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  #8  
Old 03-06-2010, 07:18 PM
VHS VHS is offline
 
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Default Rubber Ducks?

We have had a number of people ask us about substituting the rubber whip antenna we ordinarily provide with the MT-AIO on the MT-RTG. I am not sure if it will present any problems, but if anyone with the gear gets a chance, and could do a quick fly/function test, I would greatly appreciate it.

Sam, Thanks for the great review! Your name shall live forever in the halls of Valhalla!

Allen
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  #9  
Old 03-06-2010, 08:18 PM
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638RS 638RS is offline
 
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Default Aviation APRS site

Steve,

Here is a site dedicated to aviation APRS.

http://www.mail2600.com/cgi-bin/everyone.cgi
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  #10  
Old 03-07-2010, 05:44 PM
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N42AH N42AH is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by N42AH View Post
I did a quick and dirty temp install last night and flew the RTG today on our trip to see the grand kids in Pinehurst, NC.

With the GPS laying on the dash, cig adapter plugged in and the mag mount in the cockpit off I went.

This little guy dropped my first bread crumb as I was barely airborne (20 feet) from SC99. My AIO never could do that.

Up until the cig adapter backed out this little guy worked flawlessly. This unit, properly configured and utilizing Smart Beaconing, will be a friendly and great addition to the airborne APRS community. Can't wait to get the proper install completed. ETD from KSOP back to SC99 is scheduled for around 12:00 hrs so we shall see how it works tomorrow with the cig adaper securely attached.

This is a must have for every RV'er.

Now all we need is a dedicated APRS site for our APRS equipped RV's so we can easily spot those that are aviating.

My flight today was a perfect APRS flight. The new RTG worked perfectly. I just noticed that I have the wrong icon for my aircraft. I'll fix that before the next flight.

And Richard thanks for the link to the aviation site. Looks like it will track all aircraft when they have the little airplane icon setup. Nice tool.
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