Google Earth Boat Position Tracker
Mentor:Chris Peoples, Physics Teacher, Sunny Hills High School
The goal of this summer project was to create a low-cost tracking device that can transmit its location to a remote computer without utilizing 802.11 wireless networks. Each of forty different boats during the SolarCup boat racing competition in May 2014 will be able to transmit its location back to a central computer. The range of each radio transmitter must stretch across a lake with a diameter of approximately 2 kilometers, and the total price of each tracker must be less than $100. The OpenTracker APRS tracking device was decided upon as the main device, as it was inexpensive and could be configured through USB, a welcomed interface tool. APRS, or Automatic Position Reporting System, is a digital communications information channel used by amateur radio operators to transmit location data. A computer connected to a special microcontroller is required to receive location data transmitted from the device, and using a mapping program, the computer can display location. Commercial APRS programs decode the location data and plot the coordinates on a map, but are very limited in that they use 2-D, low-resolution maps. This project’s aim was to use the APRS standard to transmit location data, and write new code that links the boat location data to Google Earth, a powerful 3-D geographic tool, effectively making a digital map of the lake that can display 40+ real-time positions. Using C++, I created a program that can parse text files that contain location data, and sort it using the tracking device number that can be assigned to it. It converts the data to a format that Google Earth can open and display on the map. When all programs are running simultaneously , it creates a unique visualization of happenings in real-time, complete with icons, labels of all boats, on a high-definition screen.