Tuesday, October 14, 2008


A couple of weeks ago I volunteered to help out with a session on APRS at SARCity, an annual search and rescue conference in Barstow. I'd actually been to SARCity twice before, as an Explorer with the Santa Maria SAR team, so I was looking forward to seeing what had changed in the 15 years or so since my last visit.

Originally the class was supposed to be on K9 tracking, but thanks to some cancellations I wound up doing the whole 90 minute session myself and had the focus of the class shifted to general APRS use for SAR - I'm really not a dog person and didn't have much to show in that area.

Byonics and BigRedBee gratiously loaned me examples of their latest integrated tracker/transmitters, and I tried to keep the talk vendor-neutral. I had one of the first prototypes of my transceiver package there, but it's programmed for 12.5 kHz channels and won't tune 144.39 Mhz, so I didn't have it running as part of the demo. The final, 5 kHz/6.25 kHz radios are due in this week - I'll try to get something posted on them soon.

The class went pretty well, I think. I managed to run a bit over my time limit without really looking at my talk outline. This is probably the third or fourth time that's happened - I think I need to learn to just put the outline away once I'm satisfied with my slides and know what I want to talk about.

In all, the weekend was a blast. Surprisingly, I didn't see anyone I recognized from the Santa Barbara County team. Which was probably just as well, I suppose. There are some great people on that team, but I'm still bitter about how my association with the team ended and there are a couple of people I'd rather not have to deal with. I can't even write about it without getting angry all over again, so I'm not going to try to explain.

It was very gratifying to hear from members of several other teams that they thought I had something valuable to contribute to SAR, though. I've been invited back to talk again next year, so hopefully next time I'll have a lot more to demonstrate and I'll be able to do some more hands-on exercises.

Maybe I'll be able to overlap it a bit with the GIS track put on by ESRI - from my motel room in Barstow I was able to hack together a new output module for the Tracker2 that produces the same format as the Thales radios they had already interfaced to ArcMap, and on Sunday morning we were able to successfully plot APRS stations. ArcMap/ArcView/ArcGIS and that whole family have a steep learning curve and a hefty price tag, but apparently ESRI has some sort of grant program for SAR teams, and they're so far beyond the usual mapping applications most teams use that there's really no comparison. Assuming you've got a ton of computing power and a trained operator, anyway.


gpsguy said...

Need to look at Quantum GIS (QGIS) as a multi-platform app. ESRI's the big dog but not really Open Geospatial Consortium-compliant as much as they claim to be.


Stan said...

Your link to SARcity should be http://sarcityusa.org.