The picture on the left, from APRS.fi shows the level of coverage by APRS iGates in Wasdale (A lake district valley that is home to Scafell Pike, England’s tallest mountain). You can see that the coverage is fairly limited to heights above about 400m. That really isn’t very good.
I had walked from the road north of the river Irt and up what was a quite steep hill to Whin Rigg. What makes the lack of gates even more disappointing was that there is a clear view of the Isle of Man as well as southern Scotland as you move up the ascent.
So why is it so bad? Well the geography doesn’t help. Like many hilly areas the western lakes is a series of valley that lead out to sea so when you are low there is not much scope for RF to go anywhere. this also explains the patchy mobile phone coverage. Another aspect was the stock antenna on my vx-8. It really isn’t that good compared to other larger aftermarket options.
So what? well first off we hams aren’t the only people to us APRS or a similar protocol. The mountain rescue also use a proprietary system. They must suffer with the same lack of coverage despite a sizeable array at the head of the valley.
So what do other areas use? do they use APRS in hilly areas? are there low cost self powered digipeaters or iGates about? is APRS out-dated now that digital modes are so popular (not here mind you)? I’d like to know simply because I like APRS and think its a under utilised system here in IO84, perhaps elsewhere.