I decided to send a mesh node up on one of my quadcopters. This one isn’t all that powerful, but it has GPS guidance so it can stay in one spot while I experiment. I powered the GL.iNet USB150 Microuter with a 3.7v Li-poly pack from one of my smaller quadcopters and zip-tied it to the bottom.
I set up my laptop and Rocket M2 next to the BattleVan™ and made sure everything was connected.
I got the quadcopter up to 110m (360′) above ground level. The Microuter saw no other mesh nodes aside from my Rocket M2 — Not even the AR150 indoors.
The below graph starts at 110m, the signal spike was about 20m up in the air on the way down, not when it landed. After a while, I took off again and got to about 60m up before the low battery return-to-home kicked in. The graph ends with my drone on the ground about 3m from the rocket.
The antenna on-board the Microuter is tiny, and it’s not a very powerful radio to begin with. I may try flying the AR150 up in a similar fashion. It’ll likely involve stripping it out of the plastic case, but there would be a better antenna. I’m not really expecting to find another mesh node, even 400 feet up in the air, since the nearest nodes I know of are 8-10 miles northeast of me and I’m not using a directional antenna between sites.
It’s been a while! I moved back to the Greater KC Area after a few years in Austin. Interest in an amateur radio mesh is growing, and we have a group of about 20 active participants. While I was away, Tom K0JPR, Bill KA2FNK seemed to lead the charge.
We’ve all agreed to run AREDN-approved platforms and rely on the latest stable version of AREDN. As of today, that’s aredn-188.8.131.52 We’ve also agreed on frequency and channel width standards for the 2GHz band. We’re waiting to explore the use of 3GHz and 5GHz bands for point-to-point links, and we have a plan for building out the backbone. The backbone plan hasn’t changed much since our earlier work years ago, but thanks to the work being done in the past year, the group has a more formal relationship with stakeholders that can help us build the backbone.
The backbone sites are mostly hospitals and emegency management offices. These places are currently very busy and have restricted access for volunteer staff, so most backbone efforts are on hold.
I put together a Getting Started Guide that supplements AREDN documentation, which has become quite comprehensive. My goal was to provide some assistance in choosing a hardware platform, convey my experience setting up a mesh network to experiment with at home, and share guidance on the advanced networking aspect of managing AREDN nodes.
We’ve started holding virtual meetings every few weeks via Zoom. These meetings and their recordings are announced via our Groups.io forum and mailing list. I encourage folks to join the group and attend the meetings as they can. I know a few folks who are “Zoom averse” – I’d still recommend calling in via phone. Between the current pandemic situation and how spread out the participants are, it’s unlikely we’ll have large, in-person gatherings. We’ll probably have small, local teams working in groups to test the mesh.
While we wait for the ability to make progress on the backbone, we’re focusing on building “mesh islands” — small, neighborhood pockets of mesh nodes linked to the VPN over the Internet. Ideally, we will grow the mesh to the point where reliance on Internet infrastructure will be replaced by point-to-point mesh radio links and more .widespread coverage of the KC metroplex.