Cell phone tracking

Sparks's Avatar


05 Dec, 2017 03:16 PM

This was addressed earlier this year but I wanted to bring the topic back up since it is one of the big three things that keep us from moving to SARTopo for operations.

Right now we use TNP for planning and operations. One of the features that we've grown to use and rely on as a backup is the cell phone tracking. Where most of our callsouts occur have fairly reliable cellular coverage and this feature works quite well for us. Obviously there is an understanding that it's not perfect and in a wildland environment it's not to be relied upon as a primary source but it sure is handy as a backup.

  1. 1 Posted by Sparks on 05 Dec, 2017 03:20 PM

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    Oh, we have looked at the possibility of setting up our own javAPRSSrv-like server to support an APRS client on a smart phone but we haven't pushed through with the project just yet. This would be a stand-alone instance (not connected to the APRS-IS) so SARTopo would need to be able to consume a custom URL for that to work.

  2. Support Staff 2 Posted by matt on 10 Dec, 2017 05:40 PM

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    I hope to have a solution in place by next summer, but if you setup your own tracking network there are a handful of ways to push locations to sartopo. The offline version can be setup to forward location data to sartopo.com, and also to read several formats from a locally connected serial port, including APRS, NMEA and fleetsync sentences.

    You can also setup a "fleet" locator type on sartopo.com and push locations via (I think - if this doesn't work I can dig up a working example later):


  3. 3 Posted by maier.b on 26 Aug, 2018 04:19 AM

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    Is there a big demand for this? As a search manager or just as a person working in IC, I have never needed a minute by minute location update of assets in the field. If needed I can look up on the map and see what areas are in progress and what areas have been done. In a pinch I can radio a team for their location. I am not criticizing this request. I have seen other APRS/ real time location info threads on here. It's interesting to see what other teams are doing in other regions of the country.

  4. 4 Posted by Sparks on 28 Aug, 2018 04:03 PM

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    Well, I look at it like this:

    1) It's a safety benefit. Knowing exactly where all of your assets are at any given time, without the need to query them, is great when you have a team out searching 100 acres of wilderness.

    2) It helps operations know where assets are located if someone needs help or a priority search area comes up from planning. This isn't much different from AVL used to locate emergency vehicles for dispatch to incidents.

    3) Ops knows exactly how much of an area is completed.

    And they know all this information without having to tie up a voice communications circuit or interrupt the search team.

  5. 5 Posted by Stephen on 21 Sep, 2018 10:16 PM

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    We are in the same situation as Eric. Would like to move from TNP for a number of reasons but some are reluctant to give up the TNP app's (in my opinion very unreliable) ability to track members in real time.

    There is no need to track teams on a minute by minute basis, but it is very useful to get periodic location updates

  6. 6 Posted by jimpeeples on 07 Nov, 2018 06:13 AM

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    Our team is also working towards moving away from TNP towards using Off-line SARTopo for our operations. Most members are using Gaia on both Iphones and Androids. We are in need of methods to efficiently connect cells to import/export waypoints/tracks when teams return to base from field assignments. We are running Offline-SARTopo on a Windows 10 laptop, and have figured out how to how to use Itunes for Iphones. Any suggestions on how to perform this on Android devices with Gaia would be greatly appreciated!

  7. 7 Posted by Adam Kelly on 07 Nov, 2018 12:11 PM

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    That should be fairly easy for Android with Gaia. Finish the track, save it, export it as a .gpx file. Instead of trying to email or upload it to a cloud just export it to a local directory using a file management app like Solid Explorer. Then save it to a location on the phone that you can navigate to easily when you plug the phone into the PC using a USB cable. Put the phone into mass storage mode if necessary and then either copy and paste the file to the PC and then import it into SARTopo or just directly import it from the phone into SARTopo using the file explorer import function.

  8. 8 Posted by mark.anderson on 28 Dec, 2018 09:24 PM

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    With relation to cell forensics, you can download a shapefile from the FCC with all cell towers. Knowing the tower height, simply run a viewshed analysis to find the area(s) that are line of sight to the tower of interest, thereby eliminating areas without coverage for that tower

  9. 9 Posted by Sparks on 07 Mar, 2019 12:32 AM

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    Looks like the Caltopo app now supports location tracking! Woot!

  10. Sparks closed this discussion on 07 Mar, 2019 12:32 AM.

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