The Polaric Tracker developed by LA3T was just the right APRS tracker for search and rescue services. Now the question is, could we take this a step further and develop a new tracker which is even more advanced, yet simple to use and easy to assemble for amateurs?
I believe so. The idea is to use modules. There are a lot of modules and small boards available that can do advanced things, but which are affordable and easy to use. Thanks to the hacker/maker/learning/hobbyist communities like e.g. Arduino, advanced electronics has become quite available:
- Microcontroller module like e.g. the Teensy 3.1. This is based on ARM Cortex M4 and is powerful and affordable. It can be programmed with Arduino tools or more advanced RT OS platforms.
- Radio module like NiceRF SA818. Affordable and small footprint.
- GPS module.
- WIFI module like this one based on ESP 8666. Quite cheap and open in the sense that we can develop our own software for it. It communicates with the microcontroller via serial comm. or SPI.
- A bluetooth module may also be considered.
PA module from e.g. Mitsubishi to produce up to 7 watt RF output.
- Micro SD adapter.
And of course we need a proper battery, a solid enclosure, antenna, plugs, voltage regulators, etc.. Modules could be mounted on a PCB with a reasonable small footprint.
Much of the work is probably software development which of course will be free/open source as much as possible.