HAM APRS Tracker – Byonics to the Rescue – sort of

APRS Tracker Issues – an Amusing Response.

APRS Trackers are used by HABworx for our non commercial payloads. We have experienced a few issue with degrading of the transmitted signals over time. This story is a pat on the back for HABworx, but a costly pat on the back.

In Australia to use an APRS tracker you will need a “full call sign” for an amateur radio operator. A foundation or other license is not good enough. We use these trackers by always ensuring that we are not putting it on to a commercial payload, or that the commercial payload agrees to space in their payload for community experiments. We always use 2 trackers and they simply may be a pair of SpOT trackers or a spot tracker and APRS. At times we have even used 2 APRS trackers with different SSIDs (identifying codes)

My High Altitude Balloon (HAB) work just got made a little easier. My old trackers were all starting to fail. I just took delivery from Byonics of one of their MT2000 HAM radio APRS trackers. This is only for licensed Ham Radio operators and it is a sweet device for its size. It can output over 2W of power and has a full transceiver on board. It is easily configurable and runs off 5v to 12v. I think power output is a bit less than 500mw at 5V. It is as light at anything and easily programmable as I also bought the USB cable – a 9 pin D connector for RS232 slips over the end and I will solder it in place. I usually slip a VHF antenna right on the end (red cover cap) and I will solder the special GPS receiver in place on the board. There is still a connector on the GPS unit. It should be noted that these GPS units are configured to work above 60,000 ft as most GPS stop there. Don’t try using the GPS in your phone for tracking on a balloon!

Hey, before I go too far with the Tracker, here is a video from one of our flights. Made for MYOB, it shows the quality of our work. This payload was extreme and we built it on the spot from a wooden frame prepared the night before:

I suggest that you click full screen to get the real impact of this video! In fact go to YouTube and it is really HD

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvWjNYja8xA

The payload had 8 cameras 3 power banks, 6 voltage regulators, 1 actuator and 2 trackers. One camera was a Fly360 x 240 camera.

Back to the tracker:

https://www.byonics.com/mt-2000

Here is what they say:

The Micro­Trak 2000 (MT2K) is a frequency agile, 2 Watt, programmable miniature APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System) transmitter utilizing a TinyTrak3 controller chip and is capable of operating from 144 to 148 MHz.

Just plug in a GPS receiver, such as the Byonics GPS5, add a SMA antenna, and start tracking!

  • No need to tie up an expensive radio for APRS tracking
  • Simple 2 wire GPS connection
  • Supports all the latest Byonics TinyTrak3 features.

Note the special GPS block in the picture below. That is what to look for:

Byonics MT2000 APRS Tracker

APRS Tracker Failures – Why?

We could not get an answer to this question because we are simply too good at recovering the units.

We insulate them with bubble wrap, but the super low temperatures in the jet stream (-50ish C) seem to affect the devices over time. Several have died. When I asked Byonics the question as to why, it appears no one can answer me. It seems customers always loses their trackers and we seem to only notice this problem because we have never lost a payload and keep using them. It looks like they only last about 10 flights with super low temperatures and super low pressure. If this works as expected, then I will have to order more. Everyone else loses them by this time. I expect it is a temperature issue and we will try and compensate of update our units after about 7 flights.

Configuring your APRS Tracker

The important parameters to specify for preconfiguration when ordering from Australia for a MT2000 balloon tracker are:

Your HAM radio Call Sign with the appropriate SSID. Mine is VK2URB-11

The Digi Repeater parameters:  WIDE 1-1

The Australian APRS frequency:  145.175MHz

Transmit interval:  every 20 seconds – no receiver check

Symbol:  /o balloon

Any appropriate text:  mine is “UpLift Balloon”. Keep it short as it makes the transmit packet bigger.

Watch out – other countries use different frequencies

Autumn is a Time for Advertising

IMG_4479Balloons and Advertising

Interested in using HAB services for advertising? Read on, but first a quick update on our balloon stock. Due to an illness in the family, we have moved HAB product to be a  a team commercial effort to ensure that our customers are well looked after.

We currently have 800 gram and 1,500 gram Totex balloons. This is the original stock from last year and we are nearly out. They are still under 12 months old and new stock is on the way.

We are also able to supply (for rent) CB radios to help with your communications and HAM radio tracking systems, (We need to prove that you are a HAM operator before I will release them). We can rent almost anything including Spot trackers. We can even organise supply of helium tanks, regulators and other components.

We are preparing a range of new products to form a complete starters kit for HAB flights in Australia.

Advertising and Corporate HAB

Want to create TV advertising or other media? We specialise in meeting the needs of the corporate sector. Ask us for a quote for your advertising needs. We look after, TV science, live events, relays from the stratosphere or “near space”, corporate branding, photography, animated models and just about any advertising you can imagine. We have worked with teams of 40 in the field and can arrange catering, accommodation, toilet facilities and much more at our country launch site at Rankin Springs of other locations around the state or country. We can even handle bookings for flights in other countries through our network of HAB providers. Animated moels can be expensive and take months to complete, but flights of a basic nature can be organised quickly and if the weather is on our side, some flights can be organised within a matter of weeks.

Although no one can guarantee 100% recovery of your payload, we do have guarantees in place to re-fly your payload should certain failures occur. We often can do that on the same day or next day depending on arrangements. Payloads of up to 1kg are normal, but payloads of up to 4kg are possible and even larger payloads can fly, but may require the use of specialist balloons that have to be hand made for the job.

We can work with drones or even supply some drone services.

Speak to us about your needs. Advertising is our business.