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APRS Track Direct

APRS Track Direct is a collection of tools that can be used to run an APRS website. You can use data from APRS-IS, CWOP-IS, OGN or any other source that uses the APRS specification.

Tools included are an APRS data collector, a websocket server, a javascript library (websocket client and more), a heatmap generator and a website example (which can of course be used as is).

Please note that it is almost 10 years since I wrote the majority of the code, and when the code was written, it was never intended to be published ...

What is APRS?

APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) is a digital communications system that uses packet radio to send real time tactical information. The APRS network is used by ham radio operators all over the world.

Information shared over the APRS network is for example coordinates, altitude, speed, heading, text messages, alerts, announcements, bulletins and weather data.

Getting Started

These instructions will get you a copy of the project up and running on your local machine for development and testing purposes (but they are of course also valid for you who want to set up a public website).

Please note that the instructions is not intended to be something that you can follow exactly without any adaptions. See the instructions as initial tips on how the tools can be used, and read the code to get a deeper understanding.

Further down you will find some information how to install trackdirect with Docker and Docker-Compose.


What things you need to install and how to install them. These instructions are for Ubuntu 20.04

Install some ubuntu packages

sudo apt-get install libpq-dev postgresql-12 postgresql-client-common postgresql-client libevent-dev apache2 php libapache2-mod-php php-dom php-pgsql libmagickwand-dev imagemagick php-imagick inkscape

Install python

Unfortunately, the majority of this code was written when python 2 was still common and used, this means that the installation process needs to be adapted a bit. You might see some deprication warnings when starting the collector and websocket server.

Install python 2

sudo add-apt-repository universe
sudo apt update
sudo apt install python2 python2-dev

Install pip2 (pip for python 2)

curl --output
sudo python2

Install needed python libs

pip2 install psycopg2-binary wheel setuptools autobahn[twisted] twisted pympler image_slicer jsmin psutil

Install the python aprs lib (aprs-python)

git clone
cd aprs-python/
pip2 install .

Install python library used for generating heatmap

tar xzf heatmap-2.2.1.tar.gz
cd heatmap-2.2.1
sudo python2 install

Set up aprsc

You should not to connect your collector and websocket server directly to a public APRS server (APRS-IS, CWOP-IS or OGN server). The collector will use a full feed connection and each websocket client will use a filtered feed connection (through the websocket server). To not cause extra load on public servers it is better to run your own aprsc server and let your collector and all websocket connections connect to that instead (will result in only one full feed connection to a public APRS server).

Note that it seems like aprsc needs to run on a server with a public ip, otherwise uplink won't work.


Follow the instructions found here.

Config file

You must modify the configuration file before starting aprsc.

sudo vi /opt/aprsc/etc/aprsc.conf

Uplink examples:

# Uplink "APRS-IS" ro tcp 10152
# Uplink "CWOP" ro tcp 10152
# Uplink "OGN" ro tcp 10152

Only use one of them, if you are going to use multiple sources you should set up muliple aprsc servers and run multiple collectors. That will enable you to have different settings for different sources.

Start aprsc server

Start aprsc

sudo systemctl start aprsc

If you run multiple aprsc instances you need to select different data och log directories (and of course different tcp ports in configuration file). Running multiple aprsc instances is only needed if you fetch data from multiple sources (like both APRS-IS and CWOP-IS).

Should be possible to start multiple aprsc instances by using something like this:

sudo /opt/aprsc/sbin/aprsc -u aprsc -t /opt/aprsc -c /etc/aprsc.conf -r /logs -o file -f
sudo /opt/aprsc/sbin/aprsc -u aprsc -t /opt/aprsc2 -c /etc/aprsc2.conf -r /logs2 -o file -f

Installing Track Direct

Start by cloning the repository

git clone

Set up database

Set up the database (connect to database using: "sudo -u postgres psql"). You need to replace "my_username".

CREATE DATABASE trackdirect;

CREATE USER my_username WITH PASSWORD 'foobar';
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON DATABASE "trackdirect" to my_username;

Might be good to add password to password-file:

vi ~/.pgpass
Increase performance

It might be a good idea to play around with some Postgresql settings to improve performance (for this application, speed is more important than minimizing the risk of data loss).

Some settings in /etc/postgresql/12/main/postgresql.conf that might improve performance:

shared_buffers = 2048MB              # I recommend 25% of total RAM
synchronous_commit=off               # Avoid writing to disk for every commit
commit_delay=100000                  # Will result in a 0.1s delay

Restart postgresql

sudo /etc/init.d/postgresql restart
Set up database tables

The script should be executed by the user that owns the database "trackdirect".

~/trackdirect/server/scripts/ trackdirect 5432 ~/trackdirect/misc/database/tables/

Set up OGN device data

If you are using data from OGN (Open Glider Network) it is IMPORTANT to keep the OGN data updated (the database table ogn_devices). This is important since otherwise you might show airplanes that you are not allowed to show. I recommend that you run this script at least once every hour (or more often). The script should be executed by the user that you granted access to the database "trackdirect".

~/trackdirect/server/scripts/ trackdirect 5432

Start the collectors

Before starting the collector you need to update the trackdirect configuration file (trackdirect/config/trackdirect.ini).

Start the collector by using the provided shell-script. Note that if you have configured multiple collectors (fetching from multiple aprs servers, for example both APRS-IS and CWOP-IS) you need to call the shell-script multiple times. The script should be executed by the user that you granted access to the database "trackdirect".

~/trackdirect/server/scripts/ trackdirect.ini 0

Start the websocket server

Before starting the websocket server you need to update the trackdirect configuration file (trackdirect/config/trackdirect.ini).

When the user interacts with the map we want it to be populated with objects from the backend. To achive good performance we avoid using background HTTP requests (also called AJAX requests), instead we use websocket communication. The included trackdirect js library (trackdirect.min.js) will connect to our websocket server and request objects for the current map view.

Start the websocket server by using the provided shell scripti, the script should be executed by the user that you granted access to the database "trackdirect".

~/trackdirect/server/scripts/ trackdirect.ini

If you have enabled a firewall, make sure the selected port is open (we are using port 9000 by default, can be changed in trackdirect.ini).

sudo ufw allow 9000

Start generating heatmaps

When you zoom out the map, it is usually too demanding to render all the objects on the map, instead we have to show something else. What we do is that we show a heat map that tells the user where in the world we have the highest APRS activity.

I recommend generating new heatmaps once every hour in production (I suggest that you schedule it using cron). The script should be executed by the user that you granted access to the database "trackdirect".

~/trackdirect/server/scripts/ trackdirect.ini ~/trackdirect/htdocs/public/heatmaps

Generating heatmaps might take a while, look in log file to see the current status:

tail -f ~/trackdirect/server/log/heatmap.log

Trackdirect js library

All the map view magic is handled by the trackdirect js library, it contains functionality for rendering the map (using Google Maps API or Leaflet), functionality used to communicate with backend websocket server and much more.

If you do changes in the js library (jslib directory) you need to execute to deploy the changes to the htdocs directory.


Adapt the website (htdocs)

For setting up a copy on your local machine for development and testing purposes you do not need to do anything, but for any other pupose I really recommend you to adapt the UI.

First thing to do is probably to select which map provider to use, look for stuff related to map provider in "index.php". Note that the map providers used in the demo website may not be suitable if you plan to have a public website (read their terms of use).

If you make no changes, at least add contact information to yourself, I do not want to receive questions regarding your website.

Set up webserver

Webserver should already be up and running (if you installed all specified ubuntu packages).

Add the following to /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.conf. You need to replace "my_username".

<Directory "/home/my_username/trackdirect/htdocs">
    Options SymLinksIfOwnerMatch
    AllowOverride All
    Require all granted

Change the VirtualHost DocumentRoot: (in /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.conf):

DocumentRoot /home/my_username/trackdirect/htdocs

Enable rewrite and restart apache

sudo a2enmod rewrite
sudo systemctl restart apache2

For the symbols cache to work we need to make sure the webserver has write access to our htdocs/public/symbols directory (the following permission may be a little bit too generous...)

chmod 777 ~/trackdirect/htdocs/public/symbols

If you have enabled a firewall, make sure port 80 is open.

sudo ufw allow 80


If you want to set up a public website you should install a firewall and setup SSL certificates. For an easy solution I would use ufw to handle iptables, Nginx as a reverse proxy and use let’s encrypt for SSL certificates.

Schedule things using cron

We recommend that your schedule the heatmapcreator shell script to be executed once every hour. If you do not have infinite storage we recommend that you delete old packets, schedule the script to be executed about once every hour. And again, if you are using OGN as data source you need to run the script at least once every hour.

Note that the collector and wsserver shell scripts can be scheduled to start once every minute (nothing will happen if it is already running). I even recommend doing this as the collector and websocket server are built to shut down if something serious goes wrong (eg lost connection to database).

Crontab example (crontab for the user that owns the "trackdirect" database)

10 * * * * ~/trackdirect/server/scripts/ trackdirect.ini ~/trackdirect/htdocs/public/heatmaps 2>&1 &
40 * * * * ~/trackdirect/server/scripts/ trackdirect.ini 2>&1 &
0 * * * * ~/trackdirect/server/scripts/ trackdirect 5432 2>&1 &
* * * * * ~/trackdirect/server/scripts/ trackdirect.ini 2>&1 &
* * * * * ~/trackdirect/server/scripts/ trackdirect.ini 0 2>&1 &

Server Requirements

How powerful server you need depends on what type of data source you are going to use. If you, for example, receive data from the APRS-IS network, you will probably need at least a server with 4 CPUs and 8 GB of RAM, but I recommend using a server with 8 CPUs and 16 GB of RAM.

Getting Started - Docker

There is everything prepared to run trackdirect inside of some docker containers. As there is a Docker-Compose file the setup is very simple and fast.

Install Docker and Docker-Compose

Install docker and docker-compose from the published websites.

Config file

Adopt your config in config/aprsc.conf and config/trackdirect.ini. In trackdirect.ini search for 'docker' and change the lines as described in the comments.

Run Docker-Compose for development containers

To startup trackdirect in an development container run this docker-compose command:

docker-compose up

If you want to run the container in daemon mode add -d to the command.

Run Docker-Compose for the last published docker images

@peterus is creating regular docker images from this repository. With the release Docker-Compose file you do not need to install and compile everything by your own.

docker-compose -f docker-compose-rel.yml up


  • Rewrite backend to use Python 3 instead of Python 2.
  • Create a REST-API and replace the current website example with a new frontend written in Angular.


Contributions are welcome. Create a fork and make a pull request. Thank you!


These software tools are provided "as is" and "with all it's faults". We do not make any commitments or guarantees of any kind regarding security, suitability, errors or other harmful components of this source code. You are solely responsible for ensuring that data collected and published using these tools complies with all data protection regulations. You are also solely responsible for the protection of your equipment and the backup of your data, and we will not be liable for any damages that you may suffer in connection with the use, modification or distribution of these software tools.