The Beeline GPS is a completely integrated  RF transmitter, GPS and RF antennas, GPS Module, and battery all in one small package.  Features include (From the Big Red Bee website):

  • Optional Digital Telemetry Package: hardware G-switch for launch detect, up to 4 digital inputs
  • Lithium-Poly battery lasts for more than 8 hours.
  • Transmits on ANY frequency in the 70cm band (in 125 hz steps) (33cm band optional)
  • APRS compatible -- uses standard decoding hardware
  • Integrated active GPS patch antenna -- external antenna available
  • Power Management:  User programmable transmit rates
  • SMA RF antenna connection
  • Field-upgradeable firmware
  • Range:  20 miles line of site.
  • Flight data stored in non-volatile memory -- compatible with Google Earth
  • 1.25" x 3", weighs about 2 ounces, and fits in a 38mm body tube(or a 54mm nose cone)
  • Transmits latitude, longitude, altitude, course and speed.
  • On-board non-volatile memory that stores coordinates for download after your flight.

Usage of the Beeline GPS requires a suitable receiver and APRS packet decoder (or TNC).  Most 70cm amateur radio transceivers will work using the audio output of the radio along with a PC and soundcard with standard APRS software, or a dedicated decoder like the PicPac or TinyTrak 4 from Byonics.  Some radios have the ability to decode APRS messages such as the Yaesu VX-8R or the Kenwood TH-D7.  I prefer the Kenwood as it has a built-in TNC and includes other features.  The TH-D7 has been discontinued but Kenwood now has the TH-D72 as a replacement with even more features.  (This means that there are a lot of used TH-D7s on the market.)

Big Red Bee also provides software for communication with the Beeline GPS to set-up parameters, and download data.  The connection to the Beeline GPS is provided via USB cable and a removable USB interface and charger board.  Using the communicator sw allows one to set parameters such as frequency, packet xmit interval, packet on-board storage interval, APRS SSID & symbol, and more.  You can also read data from the on-board eeprom which is stored in .kml format for import into Google Earth.

The GPS communicator program is designed to work only under Microsoft Windows.  However, I was able to get it to work just fine under SuSE Linux 12.1 using Wine.  I first made sure to patch my version of Wine to include USB support.  To do this I executed the following sequence of commands:

git clone git://source.winehq.org/git/wine.git ~/wine-git
cd ~/wine-git 
git branch usb-1.3.37 wine-1.3.37 git checkout usb-1.3.37 wget ftp://ftp.etersoft.ru/pub/people/amorozov/usb/1.3.37/0001-Add-support-of-native-Windows-drivers-for-USB-tokens.txt wget ftp://ftp.etersoft.ru/pub/people/amorozov/usb/1.3.37/0002-Re-generate-some-files.txt git am 0001-Add-support-of-native-Windows-drivers-for-USB-tokens.txt 0002-Re-generate-some-files.txt ./tools/make_makefiles ./configure make depend make make install

Note there may be a newer version of Wine than listed in the code above.  Just substitute the new version numbers in each line.

You will need to have installed wine, as well as the git sw version control software.

I also had to install libusb-devel package, as well as flex, bison, and several other development packages per requirements by the configuration script.

I had problems getting the sw to work at first but, after a quick email exchange with Greg at Big Red Bee, I learned of the following sequence:

A recent bug report has resulted in  change in the firmware (version 2.11).  End result is that you have to click "read" between 5 and 10 seconds after applying power.

1) Fire up the BeeLine Communicator software.
2) Attach the serial/USB converter to the Beeline, and to the PC via USB cable, and select the correct COM port.
3) Apply power to the BLGPS
4) Count to 6 (6 seconds)
5) now hit read.

When starting the BeeLine GPS Communicator it requires the selection of the COM port.  In order to get the program to recognize the port I had to run (as root):

ln -s /dev/ttyUSB0 /dev/ttyS0

I also needed to grant user permissions to the /dev/ttyUSB0 and /dev/ttyS0 ports:

chmod 666 /dev/ttyS0

chmod 666 /dev/ttyUSB0

This was required in order for the program to see the serial port (ttyS0) as the USB0 port (the location of the Beeline.

Here's a picture of Communicator running under Linux:

beeline communicator under linux