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How to Use the MicroTrak AIO Beacon


    The MicroTrak All-In-One Ham beacon 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 MicroTrak's path can be viewed online at websites such as Google Aprs.  


One Time Cost: $260

Re-use Cost: 8 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:  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 (  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 Byonics MicroTrak:

            Simply place an order at the Byonics website:  You want the MicroTrak AIO version 2, the one with the rubber duck antenna.  Do not get a mag-mount antenna. 

            When you place your order, give Byonics your ham radio call sign, and if you want, an SSID number 1 to 12 which would differentiate your beacon if you are using more than one with the same call sign (Ex:  KJ6MOT-2 or KJ6MOT-11). 

Using the MicroTrak:

            The MicroTrak comes prepped and ready for a trip to near space.  All you need to do is:

  1. Attach the antenna to the SMA jack at the top of the yellow case by screwing it on
  2. Open the lid of the yellow case
  3. Insert 8 AA batteries (normal ones work fine on the ground, but use lithium batteries for near space)
  4. Flip the power switch to on (NEVER DO THIS WITHOUT THE ANTENNA!)
  5. Close the lid

The MikroTrak will automatically track satellites and acquire a GPS signal assuming it is outside and can see the sky.  It will transmit an APRS packet every 2 minutes, which will be received by digipeaters and placed online.  To track its progress:

  1. Go to
  2. Enter your callsign or callsign-SSID
  3. Select the time period (Show last: 1 hour, 24 hours ....)
  4. Hit search
Your search should give you something like this:

You can easily zoom in, click on data points, and view your path.


Balloon Launch:

            Place the MicroTrak in your payload box, preferably not under anything metal.  Make sure to test that the beacon works in the box with everything turned on before sending it to space.


            At the launch site:

  1. Turn your MikroTrak on following the instructions (make sure the antenna is attached!)
  2. If you have an I-phone, check online to see if packets are getting through
  3. If you can't, call someone with internet
  4. package it up with your balloon stuff and launch


            Following the flight:

  1. Calmly get somewhere with internet
  2. will automatically track your balloon.
  3. If your balloon is stagnating at around 14324 ft, this is a weird bug with the byonics beacon.  Just wait it out, the stream will correct.
  4. When the balloon climbs above 60,000 ft, contact will be lost.  This is due to a government regulation on GPS to not work above 60,000 ft.
  5. After burst, the balloon will drop below 60,000 and transmit again
  6. Track where it lands, note the final gps lat/long, and travel there to get your balloon


      After a successful retrieval:

  1. Turn off your beacon
  2. Export your data from google aprs by hitting "Google Earth KML."
  3. Open it up in Google Earth, and see a nice 3D plot of your balloon's travels!
Jul 26, 2010, 11:06 AM