Portable Ammo Can APRS iGate

Portable Ammo Can APRS iGate – 8 Watt HT, Ammo Can, Raspberry Pi, Xastir

Started: 3/25/17

These instructions below are for my setup of an Battery Powered, Portable, APRS iGate, using a Raspberry Pi 3, Baofeng 8 Watt and and TNC-PI running Xastir. The goal is for it to run remotely, unattended.

Total price is $350 and can be put together in about a day. No soldering is involved. If you are proficient in soldering and making your own cables, you can save maybe $100).


Hardware Setup:

  1. Wash, clean, and dry ammo can…
  2. Cut Plastic Storage Container
    • I used a sterilite plastic container that was the perfect width for the bottom of the box. I cut the top and front to make a perfect tray that would slide into the ammo can.

  3. Attach the TNC-Pi to the top of the Raspberry Pi, then place the Pi in a case if you have one.
  4. Test fit everything on your tray
      1. Place and fit components on the tray. Make sure USB/HDMI/Power and Memory connectors for the raspberry pi are accessible, Baofeng screen is viewable, baofeng antenna connector facing hinge, power button for battery pack is accessible.

  5. Mount
    1. Velcro, Zip Tie, or Hot Glue stuff into place to keep it secure.
  6. Connect cables. USB Power (Battery Pack->Raspberry Pi), Battery Eliminator (Battery Pack->12V Adapter->Baofeng Battery Eliminator), Baofeng PTT Cable (Baofeng Radio -> TNC-Pi)

Software Setup:

  1. Download and setup the latest version of Raspbian. This guide was based on ‘Raspbian Jessie with Pixel 2017-04-10’
    1. Install Raspbian Jessie with Pixel, following these instructions.
    2. Boot up, connect to wifi.
  2. Setup the TNC-Pi, following their instructions. Pages 13-15 will get the AX.25 tools installed. Here is a brief summary that applies to the pi3 based on the 4-17-17 instructions. refer to the above link for updated instructions:
    1. Make sure your Pi is up to date
      1. sudo apt-get update
        sudo apt-get upgrade
    2. All pi’s need this change:
      1. sudo leafpad /boot/cmdline.txt
      2. remove:
      3. console=serial0,115200
        1. Note: If you miss the above line, Xastir will transmit fine, and may actually receive. It will probably cause a interface error in Xastir
      4. sudo leafpad /boot/config.txt
      5. add:
      6. enable_uart=1
      7. save, quit.
    3. Pi 3 needs the following changes:
      1. sudo leafpad /boot/config.txt
      2. add:
      3. dtoverlay=pi3-miniuart-bt
      4. core_freq=250
      5. save, quit.
      6. sudo leafpad /lib/systemd/system/hciattach.service
      7. add:
      8. [Unit]
        ExecStart=/usr/bin/hciattach /dev/ttyS0 bcm43xx 921600 noflow -
      9. save and quit.
      10. reboot
    4. Install & setup Xastir
      1. sudo apt-get install xastir
      2. Run Xastir and setup
        1. sudo xastir
          1. Note: If you skip sudo on the previous step, you wont be able to start the interface.
        2. First time you run Xastir, you wil get a config screen. (Or File->Config->Station) Enter your callsign in the callsign box.
          1. Enter your latitude and longitude
          2. Pick a symbol
          3. Enter HAAT info if you have it and any comments. Click OK.
        3. File->Config->Defaults
          1. Fixed Station
          2. We want to iGate, so Select ‘Allow RF to Inet traffic ONLY’
          3. Select OK.
        4. Adding the TNC-Pi Interface (Source)
          1. Interface->Interface Control, Add
          2. Select ‘Serial KISS TNC’, Add
          3. Port: ‘/dev/ttyAMA0’
          4. Port Settings: ‘19200 bps’
          5. Since we are planning on setting up an igate, select ‘Allow RF to Inet traffic ONLY’
          6. Leave the rest at their defaults, click OK.
          7. Select and start the interface?
        5. Adding the Internet Server (Source)
          1. Interface -> Interface Control, Add
          2. Internet Server, Add
          3. Enter you pass code in the passcode box
            1. Open a new terminal window
            2. Type ‘callpass XXXYYY’ where XXXYYY is your call sign
            3. It should return a number. This number is the same in all APRS applications.
          4. Change the filter parameters if you want. m/500 means that it will return 500km of APRS stations. I turn this down to 100 to save bandwidth.
          5. Click OK.
          6. Select the interface and click start.
        6. File -> Config -> Save Config Now
  3. To Run Xastir:
    1. sudo xastir