The Internet assists our main goal for now...
As amateur radio operators we would like to accomplish our task of linking the whole state APRS network with radios but currently this is not possible. Without the support of amateurs from areas not currently represented, local goverment agencies, and commercial tower services it is impossible to get our VHF radio signal into every county, let alone all areas of all FL counties. We are far from accomplishing our goal but we have a great start considering the handful of volunteers we have for such a large state. Steve Dimse K4HG took his love for programing and the internet and has made it much easyer for us to fill in these despreatly needed areas. Using APRSserve and several volunteers we are able to pass information from our radio network, to the internet, and then to other regions of the state which previously were isolated from the others. The Miami Museum of Science is one supporter of APRS that has helped us to a level that we cannot even start to explain. APRS as a whole world wide has benifited from their kind offer of a dedicated connection to the internet. Because of this dedicated connection Steve is able to run his APRSserve software and allow people world wide to link their APRS regions together. Using a simple computer Steve is able to take the information sent to him from several similar PC's all over the country and world and send it back out over the internet. The stream of data sent by his server differs in that it includes all the data that has just been sent to him and also local APRS information that was received on a VHF radio at the Museum in Coral Gables FL.
So what does this accomplish ? Well it does many things and the list keeps growing.
1) Weather reports from automatic amateur weather stations all over the globe that are heard by radio in some distant country, state or from right here in FL will be sent over the internet. This information can be viewed by anyone in the public that has access to the internet but most of all by the National Weather Service in Miami FL and the National Hurricane Center also located in Miami.
2) The National Hurricane Center in Miami, callsign W4EHW has their own APRS station set up 24hrs a day 7 days a week. During severe weather amateur operators manning the station can issue warnings, advisories, updates and most any other data via radio.This data would then be received by the radio co-located with the server at the Museum and then sent out over the internet. This will allow emergency communicators located at NWS offices, Emergency Operations Centers and other locations receive the information right on their maps.
3) During times of rest or during the aftermath of a natural or man made disaster moving objects connected to a radio and GPS can be tracked. These objects can be aircraft patroling a wildfire area, tractor trailers with relief supplies, vans full of relief workers and even an amateur shuttling supplies back and forth from a hospital to a staging area. While we are not assisting in a disaster we can still use and try out new things with our network, click below and you may just see one of us working or going to get groceries. If you get an error message when you click below chances are that our mobile units have not been on the air for at least 8 hours.
Why do we need the internet if we are amateur RADIO operators ? Well the problem unfortunatly is simple, we do not have locations everywhere in the state to install our equipment. The internet is our only way to get some information back and forth from areas like Miami to Orlando and Jacksonville, or Palm Beach County to Pinellas and Orange County. We need our antennas to be as high as possible so that we can span the extermely long distances encountered in this state. A VHF radio properly installed at 200ft. may be able to give us a range of 40 miles one way. This means we must find the resources to install equipment every 80 or so air miles (with some exceptions) for the area we want to cover. A real life example is some equipment we have located in Homestead at over 1,000 ft, this will just reach our equipment in West Palm Beach at 200ft. BUT that equipment allows us to connect the Fort Myers area with the Upper Keys, Miami, Broward County and most of the time Palm Beach County.
With the assistance of anyone who can provide us just a little room in some of the following areas we will not be as dependant on the internet to get our information across the state.
Remember in time of emergencies the phone lines and internet servers will not necessarly be there, that is why we need a primary plan of VHF and shortwave amateur radio to provide our information link. The internet and possibly satelite phone modems will be a backup for our radio path since they are dependant on many other factors.Nobody knows what fate towers, phone lines and commercial power will have so we must be ready to have alternate means of passing our information to necessary agencies.