Friday, April 24, 2015

AREDN first site on the air

I've installed the first of what I hope are many AREDN (Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network) mesh nodes. This site is located on a large grain elevator in Heyworth, IL. It's at the 150 foot level, with two yagi antennas. One antenna is pointed north towards Bloomington, and the other is pointed northeast.

I'm still going some testing with the antenna configuration - with guidance from the AREDN group, it looks like I need point both antennas in the same direction to take advantage of how 802.11 works. I wanted to try to reach two distant locations with this node...the better way to do that is to have two nodes with directional antennas - at least that's what I'm going to try next.

The node is made up of a Ubiquiti Rocket M900 node, two RP-SMA to N jumpers, and two yagi antennas. The node is fed with a CAT5E cable that provides Power over Ethernet (POE) up to the node, and data in both directions. This arrangement results in very little loss - there's nearly no coax. 

This site also houses a UHF analog repeater and the KD9AKF D-STAR repeater. Using vlan capable switch, I am able to create a connection to the internet from this mesh node. It isn't meant to be a replacement for personal use internet - but having the ability to route to and from the internet means I can access services from either side of the mesh as allowed by amateur Part 97 rules.

What's next? I'm working on two more nodes - one is a portable setup that I'm still experimenting with. I'm going to try a 12 mile link to the top of a parking garage sometime. What's interesting to me is playing in the 900MHz ham allocation. So far, 900MHz for this application behaves much more like microwaves than UHF - it does penetrate some structures and obstructions. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

A getting started guide for AREDN

I'm enjoying experimentation with AREDN. Using off-the-shelf equipment, you can build a mesh IP network running in ham frequency allocations. Getting started is a bit tricky at the moment...I've joined the project team to help with some documentation and to do some release testing. Here's a link to a Getting Started guide I'm working on.

If you're interested in playing with mesh networks, take a look at the guide and let me know what you think!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Getting Started with AREDN

This is a work in progress....some pictures still need to be added. Let me know your feedback!

You've read enough of the documentation about AREDN that you're ready to give amateur radio mesh networking a shot! Well welcome aboard! This guide will give you some basic information about getting your first nodes up and running. There are a number of links in the contents below. Please read them all...they are all important!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Using COTS with AREDN

I've always been fascinated with wireless communications. I'm the kid that had all of the CB radio walkie-talkies torn apart on the toy room floor. Last year I really got hooked on QRP...I've made a number of 5W CW contacts, along with tons of 5W PSK31 QSOs. My latest adventure involves these two new acronyms - COTS and AREDN.

COTS stands for Commercial Off-the-Shelf equipment. And AREDN stands for Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network. I'm taking network equipment that was designed for commercial use in the 900MHz, 2.4GHz, and 5GHz bands and using it with a different firmware set on our US amateur radio frequency allocations. 

AREDN is the new kid on the block in this arena...a group of developers that had been working the the Broadband-Hamnet/HSMM-Mesh team started off on their own. They are developing some features that aimed at improving the manageability, stability, and flexibility of a mesh data network built using Ubiquity Networks COTS gear. 

My fellow Central IL ham friends and I have just completed a successful installation of the WX9WX Raspberry PI based D-STAR repeater. While doing this install, I found two very large 800-900MHZ antennas abandoned by Nextel. I have this disease...I can't let an antenna lay around unterminated. So I'm off on my next quest to build a data network using the AREDN firmware, focused initially on a 900MHz backbone. 

So far? So good. Flashing the first device was a piece of cake. Another ebay purchase yielded some nice 900MHz yagi antennas, and another has another device on the way. This should be fun! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

K1N - The ham stuff was easy

I'm not a big gun DXer at all. My HF station consists of a KX3 and a windom up 40 feet in the trees. But when Craig, K9CT and Jerry, WB9Z from the K1N Navassa Island DXpedition came to town I made sure to clear my calendar. I was fortunate enough to work them on ssb from KE9UA's house and then again on CW with 10W when my replacement KX3 arrived. Meeting them in person was a treat, and hearing about their adventure was inspiring.

There were just under 40 hams in attendance at the local steakhouse in Normal, IL last night, ready to swap stories and hear all about K1N. I knew we were in for fun when Craig started the evening with audio from their side of the pile-up. I'd listened to some audio from DXpeditions before...but nothing like this. It was just a wall of noise...and every once and a while a few letters could be heard. CW was just as bad - like a continuous tone with a few blips - nothing sounded like letters to me.