DENVER--Thales Communications announced its Project 25 radios now support GPS software, allowing users to plug in any off-the-shelf GPS unit, such as Magellan or Garmin, that outputs NMEA 0183 into a Thales P25 radio to monitor the locations and movements of users using satellite imagery or topographical map software.

Thales has pioneered the ability to send GPS location information as a quarter of second packet via a P25 voice channel. The company has offered up the GPS transmission method to all TIA P25 manufacturers free of a licensing fee, said Stephen Nichols, manager of P25 marketing with Thales. Now Thales has a working product with users, the manufacturer plans to submit this GPS transmission method to TIA as a standard way to transmit GPS, he said.

“We need mobiles and base stations to use a common method,” said Nichols.

Thales’ GPS software can transmit location information every time a user initiates a push-to-talk session or on fixed time intervals. The National Park Service is interested in the technology as a way to track rangers and keep up-to-date information on forest fires. The National Park Service recently used the GPS capability to map out the Paradise Fire in Palm Springs, Calif., by transmitting location information every three seconds from a helicopter.

Future versions of the product will include an embedded GPS receiver within the speaker of the radio, allowing location tracking while eliminating the necessity of carrying an external GPS device.