Setting up Your Own APRS iGate
09/28/08; Due to a great deal of interest in setting up an iGate, and the software not being very user-friendly, I've expanded the post below with screen-shots from UI-View that detail how my iGate is configured. Hopefully this will help those who are following similar paths. This thread has also been reposted as a sticky in the APRS forum.
Since our APRS beacons are ported to the internet via receiving stations known as iGates, some APRS'ers have asked about the hardware and software requirements of setting up their own iGate. It is kinda cool to see where the packets from your own tracker have ported through your own iGate and out to the internet. An iGate is a great option for an aviator that routinely flies in a local area with a sparse iGate population. But even if your local area has lots of repeaters, the addition of an iGate only enhances the quality of APRS coverage.
An iGate doesn't require a lot of expense, just some sort of receiver, your computer with a broadband connection and soundcard, some free software, and an antenna. Put everything together and get the software sorted out, and not only will you be able to see your aircraft tracker on the internet, but also your home-based iGate!
If you are reading this article when my iGate is running, you can hit this link to see it on the map. Look for the white iGate diamond, KJ4CKK, at Athens, AL.
Here is my iGate station:
A Yaesu FT-1802M 2-meter mobile radio feeds audio into the sound card of my desktop. The mobile radio is powered by one of the old batteries out of the RV-6 which is keep charged by a wall wart Battery Tender. Since the radio only receives as an iGate, there is practically no current draw or heat produced. The sound card (actually the computer's onboard sound card) serves as the packet modem for decoding the incoming beacons. However, any receiver that will pick up 144.39 will work (shortwave radio, scanner, handheld, etc). You just need a patch cable from the "speaker out" of the radio to "line in" on your sound card.
But wait! Even the smallest receivers will work fine for an iGate. Here is another version of my station with a Yaesu VX-2R handheld transceiver:
Software is UIView32, AGWPE, and Street Atlas. Here are some links to the software and related info:
Street Atlas is used for mapping in UIView. Mapping isn't necessary just for feeding packets into the iGate but it does display the location of received stations. All this will start making sense as you work your way through the links.
An inexpensive Diamond antenna is on the roof of the house:
The iGate works very nicely and ports a lot of traffic to aprs.fi. The addition of another cable or two between sound card and radio and a little software tweaking would give the station full digipeater capability. But we have several digis in the area and I don't see a need to add another one. I don't run the iGAte 24/7, just when I go flying and any other time the mood strikes, mostly weekends so the local airborne trackers can use the iGate. But supplying round-the-clock APRS support is just a matter of leaving the radio and computer running all the time.
The iGate would probably serve most of my APRS needs by itself within 100-150 miles of my home for enroute beacons. Not sure how far out it would receive my packets transmitted close to the ground, however. There are a couple of non-iGate digipeaters close by and my station ports a bunch of their transmissions to the net.
The iGate is just my way of contributing to the local APRS network and was an interesting software exercise. There are quite a few hoops to jump through to get everything configured but if someone wants to pursue their own iGate, don't hesitate to post questions and we'll get you up to speed.
Screen shots of several config tables in UI-View:
When you get ready to run your iGate, be sure you check "Connect to APRS Server" under the "Action" menu! It may be necessary to hit this action every time you start UI-View.
I was asking for the same reasons as yours, that is, to contribute something to the APRS effort.
I'm North of Denver along the Front Range of the Rockies. There are two repeaters here and several Wx stations; but I do not see any iGates (Diamond Symbol always??). At my location I have a 50' wind-generator tower that also has my network wireless antennas on it. There is an equipment building at the base for the network systems and some energy initiatives I'm trying. Seems like a natural for an iGate also. Approximately 3 miles from KFNL.
If you check the raw packet data from your beacons you can see which stations are porting your beacons to the internet. They will be the last station in the path. I'm sure there are other ways to find iGates but I'm drawing a blank right now.
An antenna on your tower would give you a beast of an iGate. :) Any tracker line-of-sight from you would be a potential catch. The equipment requirements really are modest. Check with local hams for an abandoned 2-meter radio...it only has to receive 144.390.
Let us know how your station progresses!
Nice job Sam!
For those that are looking for inexpensive equipment that you can pick up at Radio Shack, you might want to try the following:
Antenna 19-318 $26
Scanner 20-516 $30 (Limited Availability)
Of course this system isn't going to be as robust as Sam's, and it doesn't have the capability to transmit, but it is cheap and doesn't require a license. As a bonus it looks like the scanner receives aircraft frequencies. I haven't personally used this scanner, but according to its specs it receives 144.39. You'll also need an AC adapter, and some coax and connectors. If you want to keep costs down, regular RG-6 used for cable TV will work fine for receive applications. Radio Shack sells cable TV "F" type adapters for the scanner 278-251, and antenna 278-258
For aircraft APRS operations mounting the antenna in your attic should work fine (unless you have a metal roof or metalized insulation).
P.S. You can go out and get a scanner anywhere for around $100
Sam's radio is undoubtedly a better receiver and also has transmit capability for about $140.
Thanks Paige & Sam,
I am going to talk to the local repeater clubs to get a better understanding of best areas I can contribute.
But, based on my last path when I was testing the equipment, a local iGate might be a plus:
Last path: N63TX>TP2WYV via W0UPS-5,WIDE1*,WIDE2-1,qAo,N0EB-1
Where N0EB-1 is 40 miles away down by Denver
If I do set one up, it would be on the tower (as I have metal roof) and would be dedicated 24/7/365 to APRS.
Had a chance to drill a few holes this evening and thought some of you might like to see how solid a track you can get with a local iGate working in your favor:
Of the 85 beacons posted on the network, 65 were gated through the iGate in the office at my house. Granted, I wasn't very far from the station, but having a local iGate that you know is functioning properly really increases the reliability of the track during flights in the "local" area. By the way, this flight was with the WIDE2-1 path and it worked flawlessly......as you would expect with an iGate so close.
It was a great evening, a beautiful sunset, and you can clearly see the three steep turns, followed by two wingovers, and the figure eight over highway 72. (Wow, can you imagine how an instructor could use a tracker to show a student how he flew his ground reference maneuvers??)
I still get a kick out of seeing the Smartbeaconing algorithm strut its stuff.
Awesome thread !!!
I really appreciated this thread. It got me playing with setting up a local iGate. I initially experimented with AGWPE and UIView32 (and learned a lot). Need a good sound card. The one built into my Dell Latitude just didn't cut it. Saw several other people mention that on the web. But using my desktop PC, it came right up.
Instead of AGWPE, I am now running Packet Engine Pro. It is made by the same people and is available at:
The TNC tuning wizard alone is worth the $49 shareware price. I coupled that with APRS Digi (agwuidigi) available for free at the same website to build the iGate. They fit together perfectly.
For now it is front-ended with a used RS scanner I had on the shelf. Even with the rubber duckie antenna I can receive most of the community. I plan to move it to a more permanent home in the near future.
Do you know of any Linux software to setup an iGate? I'm already running a Linux machine 24/7, so it would make a lot more sense for me to run the software there rather than having to dedicate another machine.
Anyone got Packet Engine Pro working and have a minute? ...
1. I am not **SURE** that packets are being "gated" through.
2. My "station" soes not *seem* to show up though I have pointed it to "aprs.fi"
3. Most areas seems to be working as expected and I have checked everything a dozen times or so (even read the "documentation" :)).
Anybody out there with a minute that can help?
p.s. Thanks also to you Sam for your help ... I given up and switched yet. :)
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