I was inspired by the constant stream of search and rescue operations on the television show "North Woods Law". Each week they struggled to find lost people in the remote/rugged areas of Maine U.S.A. These areas often have no cellular service but in almost every case the target people had cellphones on them and working. As I live in Canada- we have a surplus of these situations in our vast wilderness as well. I theorized I could use an external 2.4GHz antenna to receive the AP beacon frames from those phones ad capture that data.
This hardware can be embedded in to any very small drone or RC aircraft. It can also be attached to existing manned aircraft already participating in the search.
Using small drone aircraft (like the Nano Talon I use here) gives all the advantages such as flight condition tolerance, height, terrain, time of day etc that drones have over manned aircraft. They can also be sent on the full way-point mission without human intervention and tracked live from any ground station.
I started this build in 2018 and have proven out the Nano Talon airrframe to be a very worthy commercial candidate with good payload and HUGE flight times while operating fully autonomously. The Nano Talon breaks down small for easy transport/storage.
So far I am using the Wedmos D1 mini PRO with an external antenna (YAGI or Rubber duck) to receive the beacon frames, log them to SD Card with RSSI values (adds more precise direction finding if you fly a grid pattern) to review the MAC address list as well as plot with Google Earth/maps. I can easily transmit this via LORA or NRF module to the ground instantly as well. This will be logged as a separate version of the hardware.
I will update this and post the videos as we move forward with publishing (this will take me some time to document properly)