Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) is an amateur radio-based system for real time tactical digital communications of information of immediate value in the local area. In addition, all such data is ingested into the APRS Internet system (APRS-IS) and distributed globally for ubiquitous and immediate access. Along with messages, alerts, announcements and bulletins, the most visible aspect of APRS is its map display. Anyone may place any object or information on his or her map, and it is distributed to all maps of all users in the local RF network or monitoring the area via the Internet. Any station, radio or object that has an attached GPS is automatically tracked. Other prominent map features are weather stations, alerts and objects and other map-related amateur radio volunteer activities including Search and Rescue and signal direction finding.
APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System), is a digital communications protocol for exchanging information among a large number of stations covering a large (local) area, often referred to as "ey-pers". As a multi-user data network, it is quite different from conventional packet radio. Rather than using connected data streams where stations connect to each other and packets are acknowledged and retransmitted if lost, APRS operates entirely in an unconnected broadcast fashion, using unnumbered AX.25 frames. APRS packets are transmitted for all other stations to hear and use. Packet repeaters, called digipeaters, form the backbone of the APRS system, and use store and forward technology to retransmit packets. All stations operate on the same radio channel, and packets move through the network from digipeater to digipeater, propagating outward from their point of origin. All stations within radio range of each digipeater receive the packet. At each digipeater, the packet path is changed. The packet will only be repeated through a certain number of digipeaters -or hops- depending upon the all important "PATH" setting. Digipeaters keep track of the packets they forward for a period of time, thus preventing duplicate packets from being retransmitted. This keeps packets from circulating in endless loops inside the ad-hoc network. Eventually most packets are heard by an APRS Internet Gateway, called an IGate, and the packets are routed on to the Internet APRS backbone (where duplicate packets heard by other IGates are discarded) for display or analysis by other users connected to an APRS-IS server, or on a website designed for the purpose. While it would seem that using unconnected and unnumbered packets without acknowledgment and retransmission on a shared and sometimes congested channel would result in poor reliability due to a packet being lost, this is not the case due to the fact that the packets are transmitted (broadcast) to everyone, and multiplied many times over by each digipeater. This means that all digipeaters and stations in range get a copy, and then proceed to broadcast it to all other digipeaters and stations within their range. The end result is that packets are multiplied more than they are lost. Therefore, packets can sometimes be heard some distance from the originating station. Packets can be digipeated tens of kilometers or even hundreds of kilometers depending on the height and range of the digipeaters in the area.
When a packet is transmitted, it is duplicated many times as it radiates out, taking all available paths simultaneously, until the number of "hops" allowed by the path setting is consumed.
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