The BigRedBee 2m APRS tracker is a telemetry device which emits a radio pulse containing its current location. These pulses are picked up by digipeaters, special receiving devices placed on top of mountains and other high places specifically to listen for these APRS packets and then put them online. Consequentially, the BigRedBee's path can be viewed online at websites such as Google Aprs.
Image from BigRedBee.com
One Time Cost: $260
Re-use Cost: 4 lithium AA batteries
• Extremely dependable
• Extremely durable
• Easy to use
• higher one-time cost
• requires ham license
How to get a Ham License:
Ham Radio, short of Amateur Radio, is a hobby/service which users of radio equipment on ham-specific bands can practice, perform, and help others in radio related activities. Emergency communications, geo-caching, and tracking are among them.
Getting a license is not too difficult. The best place to start is by finding a Ham club near you. They will provide you will all the information and assistance you need to get licensed. If you do not know of any groups in your area, simply learn by taking the practice exam here: http://www.qrz.com/p/testing.pl. By testing yourself you can determine what you do not know, and pursue that knowledge through the internet, books readily available at a local library or to purchase, or other hams.
Once you are ready you will have to find an exam session (http://www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license-exam-session). These are offered multiple times a year in various locations across the United States. You will only need to take the test for the lowest license class: Technician. This 35 question multiple choice test and a nominal fee (~$10) will get you your license and a call sign.
Your Call Sign:
The ham radio call sign is an ID number which identifies you or your device. Make sure you write it down and keep it handy, as you will need it to track your balloon.
Purchasing the 2m BigRedBee:
Simply place an order at the BigRedBee website: http://www.bigredbee.com/zc139/. You want the 2m version. Do not get a mag-mount antenna.
Using the APRS:
The BigRedBee comes nearly ready for a trip to near space. All you need to do is:
The BigRedBee will automatically track satellites and acquire a GPS signal assuming it is outside and can see the sky. It will transmit an APRS packet at either a specified interval or at a rate based on how fast it's moving, which will all be received by digipeaters and placed online. To track its progress:
Your search should give you something like this:
You can easily zoom in, click on data points, and view your path.
Place the BigRedBee at the top of your payload box, preferably not under anything metal and with the GPS antenna facing upwards. Make sure to test that the beacon works in the box with everything turned on before sending it to space.
At the launch site:
Following the flight: