As a trained severe storm spotter (not chaser) I need to make accurate position reports when I make severe storm reports destined for the National Weather Service and the county Emergency Manager (usually at the 9-1-1 call center). By training we report the distance and direction from the nearest major intersection. This is where problems can enter the equation.

These reports are via a ham radio network. The assumption is that we clearly pronounce the names of the roads we are near for example. And that we know the difference between being on a street, road, avenue, etc.. That, of course, is as long as we can see the road signs in the pouring rain, darkness and winds that we drive through. Next consideration is the guess at the distance and direction from the nearest intersection. How accurate is that in a rain storm? Then comes the issue of map location. Does the map that the person you are reporting your location to have the level of map detailed needed to locate the roads you are reporting? More importantly, does everyone in the communications network have the same level of map details?

Introducing a nice solution – APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) Connected to a GPS sensor on one side and a ham radio on the other side a TNC (terminal node controller) transmits any ham radio operator’s EXACT coordinates (within about 50 feet) to (effectively) a Google map on the internet. Anyone anywhere that has an internet connection (and many with just a ham radio station without an internet connection) can display the exact location, altitude and direction of travel (at least) almost instantly. Since Google maps are zoomable to various levels the desired level of detail is but a click or two away.

Travel path is also be automatically plotted. A nice bright blue line connects the red dots that represent the points of transmission of the APRS device. A quite nice feature of an APRS Google map (see an example at http://APRS.FI) happens when your mouse pointer hovers over one of the red transmission points. A separate red line pops up that indicates what ham radio station heard the transmission. With that information you can trace the route of the data from the GPS device into the internet.

Another nice feature of reporting data via digital data transmissions to the National Weather Service is that many people that have access to the internet Google map can view the information at one time.

As a side note, Facebook – the social network – now has an APRS application that makes these APRS maps of all of your friends available at the click of one button from your Facebook page! One possible application is to have the National Weather Service become friends for all severe storm spotters. Then they would have this data available at the click of one button!

Source by Jon Kreski

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