Falmouth Hams Use High Tech Devices to Track Runners

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Contact: Henry Brown, K1WCC , Publicist 508-274-5644
Falmouth Amateur Radio Association


Members of the Falmouth Amateur Radio Association combined GPS (Global Positioning System), ham radio and a laptop computer to track the location of the “tired runner” vans during the recent Cape Cod Marathon in Falmouth.

The system, called Automated Position Reporting System or APRS, was developed by a Maryland ham for automated weather and vehicle tracking by amateur radio operators.
Falmouth club members installed the operation in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at Falmouth Fire and Rescue headquarters on Main St. Each tired runner van had an amateur operator on board as well as a VHF radio and GPS receiver. The VHF radio broadcast the van’s GPS position via the club’s repeater at Falmouth Hospital to the computer at the EOC. A large map of Falmouth was projected on a wall screen by the computer, with the location of each van indicated on the map within a few feet of its actual position. Knowing the exact location of the vans enabled radio operators at the EOC to more efficiently dispatch the vans to the nearest tired or injured runner. The system updated the van position every 30 seconds.

In addition to the vans, a club member roamed the race course in his own vehicle, also equipped with a GPS/radio combination.

Active during the race were 6 club members at the EOC and 26 more on the race course and at medical facilities as primary communications providers for event. The emergency amateur station at the Falmouth Hospital Emergency room was also activated.

The Falmouth Club decided to invest in the APRS equipment to enhance their capabilities during emergencies and special events such as the Cape Cod Marathon and the Falmouth Road Race. The actual APRS hardware in each van is extremely compact and unobtrusive.

The Falmouth Amateur Radio Association has long been primary communications provider for the Cape Cod Marathon, and also assists at the Falmouth Road Race, special events on Cape Cod and works with Falmouth Emergency Management during emergencies.

Anyone interested in learning more about amateur radio and its role in Falmouth is invited to attend the monthly club meetings held in the basement of Town Hall on the last Thursday of each month at 7:30 PM. FARA is one of the largest amateur radio clubs in New England, with over 200 members.

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