Mission "Wifi" Impossible > Bring Long Range 5G and 2.4 G WiFi Backed By A 1 Gigabit Fiber To The East Brainerd EF-3 Tornado Disaster area.

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Class: Dodeca Hexa X Compact Heavy Lift Long Range WiFi Communications Drone

"Here is your mission if you choose to accept it" Dun Dun Dun DUn DUN DUUUN > bring long range WiFi to the East Brainerd EF-3 Tornado Disaster Area. You will provide participating students in need a way to access school online. ::THIS MESSAGE WILL NOW SELF DESTRUCT::

After an EF-3 Tornado, Covid-19 Social Distancing and frequent quarantines, many students in my general area are left with some poor WiFi choices as they are displaced from their homes. Using 3D modeling and 3D printing we are building one of the most compact heavy lift drones to put in service with a payload of WiFi equipment. The power tether from the ground station allows the drone unlimited flight time. High db directional WiFi antennas for 5 G and 2.4 G are hacked and installed into an ultra light robotic targeting gimbals to control pitch and angle of broadcast and receiving area.

2020 Wildcard Mission Challenge

We had a tornado , or rather several come through devastating the community in East Brainerd , Chattanooga, TN . The fiber optic lines are back up, but now that Covid-19 has taken such a strong hold on the local economy most of our over 800 restaurants are closed or running take out orders only. So there are also issues with students being able to get an internet account financially as well as availability if they are in a location they cannot get an installation ( think campgrounds ). The city and my employer ( I am a fiber optics technician myself)  are working to do everything they can to help get internet to eligible homes, but ultimately there are lots of kids at hotels, Air B&B, relatives homes and camp grounds that cannot get good enough internet to do schoolwork on their school chrome books.  So I aim to utilize the Sky Anchor project to help with that. As part of testing, students using laptops in the area we will be testing both with no antenna, USB external antenna and external WiFi antenna client as well.


I love robotics and look forward to creating more public service robots like grounds keeping and security robots, that being said they benefit heavily from a high speed internet connection with unlimited bandwidth. Telemetry, GPS tracking and video recording are all essential aspects of robots in public or robots that operate without up close supervision like a rover.  Cellular speeds have been on the decline and there are no high speed unlimited hot spot plans that will fit the bill. I really needed a way to get fast network connections ( and possible open internet connections) to a robot far away and avoid obstructions to check on projects and download data.

In comes Sky Anchor, this allows myself and anyone else who duplicates this project to have a rapid deployment sky born communications for both Software Defined Radio, Long Range High Speed WiFi ( below the drone) and the ability to target a robot or AP off in the distance. a three servo gimbal locks onto that direction and angle and adjust if the AP is moving. This is where the smart part of the drone is important using machine vision and SDR to track projects or locations that need a solid internet connection to transfer data.  Think of it like a high speed IOT solution for research teams. This could be scaled down to as small as a quad copter with a single lightweight AP on a 220v tether. My idea however is to leverage the power, flight authority and reliability of more rotors, hence the Dodeca Hexa frame.

This Projects Mission is to Provide an OPEN BUILD, 3D Printed parts, using OPEN Hardware and Open and /or free software for the maximum repeatability. Sky Anchor empowers amateurs to have an instant sky platform for instant long distance communications. All 3D FILES WILL BE UPLOADED AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN TESTED AND FOUND SAFE TO USE IN THE COURSE OF DEVELOPMENT.

Special Features

1. Ground Facing Machine Vision Tracking to compensate for GPS drift.  On the Ground there is a beacon the camera tracks, giving the computer info to adjust position relative to the ground.

3. Camera and Antenna Gimbals Targeting system, Machine vision sees a light in the distance and locks the antenna angle on that long range target. This keeps alignment in the event of heavy wind.

4. Dodeca 12 Rotor drone, Custom 3D Printed arms and mounts to double up the motors and props on each arm. This gives Sky Anchor 12 props and 12 motors for exceptional lift and control authority in heavier winds

5. RGB light ring around the Drone, not only is this for visibility ,but someone who needs to align their antenna towards Sky Anchor can easily see it in a "North Star" approach.

6. 110-240v power tether from ground to the drone

7.  Cat5E shielded cable from ground to drone.

Judging Criteria Response

i. Concept

A. Is the...

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  • Positive Competition Makes 2020 Better

    Josh Starnes3 days ago 0 comments

    There is a great selection this year and a lots of talent.  I am humbled to have made it this far and Hackaday competitions are always awesome. Though it would be awesome for Sky Anchor to be awarded Grand Prize, realistically these are the guys to beat first.!  I would love to check out their projects, note their usefulness and maybe tips they could take away to make it even better. Positivity is everything and even though this is a competition I would help any of them with their projects.


    DIY hobby servos quadruped robot


    Sky Anchor WiFi Drone with AP brings the GIG

    SOLO, A Universal Motor Controller


    Arduino controlled photogrammetry 3D-scanner

    ARMAWATCH & ARMACHAT - long range radio messengers

    JBC soldering station

    DP Ventilator

  • Saving Air Frame Weight with a Wireless Backhual to Ground Instead of Ethernet

    Josh Starnes3 days ago 0 comments

    In weighing options ( pun intended ) for higher altitudes, we started brainstorming lighter high speed air frame to ground connections. Higher altitude results in better long range coverage and the least amount of direct line interference. The  physical Ethernet sky to ground connections starts getting heavy for the drone the longer the length. As an option to save weight when above 100 feet, we are building a load out option to have a downward facing direct CPE to CPE link. The 5G 2x2 MIMO CPE and AP weights in at just 3.6 ounces. This is hard to beat even for a 20 foot long ethernet.  We may try either / or the 2.4g or 5g ,but weight is about half on the 5g antennas. Also if needed the downward link can also be a standard WiFi AP using one of the two 2x2 MIMO antennas or enabling TDMA ( Time Division Multiple Access) which is the same tech that cell phones use to increase the number of customers served at once on a single cellular tower.

    Here is my super awesome descriptive doodle. We would still have the 220 volt tether, but it is much lighter per foot than a Cat5e or Cat6 200-400 foot cable.

    The above picture describes the ground station to air frame tether, but a downward direct WiFi link could lighten the load in contrast of the much higher weight of a 200-400 foot long Ethernet.

  • Join The Resistance! DIY load tester 24-50W 6 Ohm Resistors

    Josh Starnes4 days ago 0 comments


    DIY DUMMY LOAD for testing the home made power supply before being tested on the drone in the air.

    I wanted and needed a way to safely apply a load to the power supply to test the capacity of the power supplies I am building. They are rated from the manufacturer at 504 watts on 12 Volts and 42 amps. I do not want to damage the brand new power supply so we will gradually apply a load and connect a amp meter and thermocouple to monitor temps. We also need to know what heat sink would be best if any to keep it within operating temperature. We have a FLIR ONE camera to monitor both the temps on the power supply and the resistor bank too. It this case we have a 1/4" aluminum bar with double sided heat sink tape holding the resistors on. If this tape is not good enough we will move to past and screw in the resistors, but I think it will be OK. Plus we are only running the resistors at half capacity to reduce the chance of damaging one or more of them.

  • Re-Engineered Landing Gear Mounts

    Josh Starnes5 days ago 0 comments

    Let me say, the standard landing gear mounts that come with " heavy lift" kits. Basically the ones that are taller and raise the drone up off the ground. So as with everything else on this machine I and Thurindu have engineered a two piece clamp style that is much easier to remove and make adjustments to. The part is already so small there is no room for weight reduction, instead I added strength and functionality for approx the same weight.

  • Tossing ideas for better landing gear

    Josh Starnes7 days ago 0 comments

    Here are all the 8 degree dihedral arms in their place on the 6 point frame. Originally it was a DJI frame but we have since modeled and 3D printed lighter PLA based alternatives. This is good for anyone who cannot get their hands on a DJI or similar 6 point clone frame. My friend Tharindu added his idea for light landing gear. It should be similar in weight to the 1.6 ounce arms. I’m consider 6 legs but that might be overkill. I believe I will take the frame apart tomorrow some time to start swapping parts to the next versions

  • V5 WiFi Array Weight In

    Josh Starnes09/13/2020 at 18:24 0 comments

    This is the newest and lightest assembly for the 5G and 2.4G WiFi gimbals, this is meant to serve a 65 degree cone from the gimbals. 7.4 ounces before the 4 rubber grommets are inserted and the 2.4G and 5g wifi unit. We have already weighted the 5G unit at 3.6 ounces and the 2.4G and 6.6 ounces. Adding those up should give us a little over 17.4 ounces, just a little over 1 pound all together. 

    The was the previous frame for the WiFi array. We dropped 1.6 ounces off these two parts by themselves.

    Here is the weight in for the V5 WiFi Array frame and servos. An even 1 ounce for the frame and mount by itself.

  • The V5 Wifi Array Gimbal Gets a Weight Reduction

    Josh Starnes09/13/2020 at 04:39 0 comments

    Sometimes it is hard to tell what the actual weight will be due to support filament during prints, but I believe I have shaved off at least 50 percent. Thurindu made changes first then I went over the edges with a fine tooth comb to reduce it even more. It is basically a skeleton in comparison to the first one. Like my friend DInk says, Build it to fly not to crash! I think he means as long as it works in the air, that satisfies all the parts requirements. This is an 11 hour print so we will get pictures of these bad boys tomorrow and also a weight in.

  • The need for custom heatsinks on PSU

    Josh Starnes09/13/2020 at 03:59 0 comments

    It is not exactly headline news that pushing a power supply above its 80 percent threshold will cause heat buildup. Luckily Delta , the manufacturer of the AC to DC voltage converter has an entire aluminum plate as the top machined surface. I have the challenges of both keeping this module cool in operation on the drone and also keeping the modules weight down as much as possible. Clever placement can take advantage of downward prop wash of the 12 propellers. So a fan directly on the heatsink is probably not an avenue I need to take. I do however need to make sure the entirety of the surface of the hot side on the converter is covered. The size is weird, about 112mm x 52mm. A standard size would either be too large and wasteful as far as weight conservation or much too small leave 12mm in each direction uncooked. I opted to buy a much larger heatsink and I will try to cut it down to the perfect size and smooth over mounting tabs so I can use screws to hold it down. Screws holding both the module and heatsink in place means I can take advantage of a decent thermal past like Arctic’s Silver for good heat transfer without the need of adhesive. Actually correction , I will use the MX4 since it is non conducive 

  • Second order to Digikey for PSU components

    Josh Starnes09/12/2020 at 21:52 0 comments

    I received the first box of parts a few days ago , but the writing is on the wall , I needed to go ahead and get the parts for the second power supply 

  • Jolly Wrencher Flag Test Fitting on the GPS Mast

    Josh Starnes09/12/2020 at 13:02 0 comments

    Arrrg, We are here to take your Gee Bees!

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Enjoy this project?



Matteo Borri wrote 09/13/2020 at 03:21 point

If you still care, we got this done a couple weeks ago :) it works. SMS only though.

  Are you sure? yes | no

target drone wrote 07/05/2020 at 23:09 point

As the weight of the copper is likely to be the most constraining aspect, consider using step up/down transformers to send a much higher voltage over thinner conductors. As described, 120V @ 30A for 200’ would require 50 pounds of stiff 6 AWG copper. If you up the voltage to 480, the current drops to 7.5A, and you could carry the same power over about 4 pounds of nice, flexible 16 AWG. 

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Josh Starnes wrote 07/06/2020 at 07:16 point

I appreciate the idea, but do you have suggestions of how to do that, what would I use?

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helge wrote 07/09/2020 at 09:17 point

1) leave galvanic isolation, rectification and PFC on the ground. Create 350-400V DC (don't worry too much about that, can always start with a modern 1000W ATX power supply and tap off the DC link capacitor + proper filtering, RSHN series filters maybe)

2) use heavy power filtering

3) use a quasi-resonant, non-isolated buck converter on the hexacopter (non-isolated:, isolated:, they can also be paralleled with load sharing)

4) with appropriate filtering on both ends, you can also use HomePlugAV modules, without the 50/60Hz mains sync they generate their own synchronization (I used the ones from BEL in a project, excellent performance and support

good luck

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Josh Starnes wrote 07/09/2020 at 06:26 point

I moved to a 120 volt tether, with a switching step down 500 watt RMS power supply , the Power supply is 1.5 pounds and the power tether is a little over 2 pounds. I think I will move to an copper clad aluminum 16 gauge power wire.

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Neo wrote 07/04/2020 at 19:13 point

Very interesting project. I hope you get somewhere with it. I was thinking of a similar solution for quick surveillance of sites.

As some have very eloquently and expertly pointed out, the power system will be crucial. I also see issues with the motors, you need to find motors that are reliable enough to run for hours on end when they are designed to run for 30 minutes tops. If you go for a hexacopter, losing a motor would be less of an issue, but if you go quadcopter it would mean a crash. Changing motors out could drive the cost of maintenence up a bit.

I remember NASA had some similar concept a while back, but now it's using tethered balloons. Seems a bit easier that way since they just stay up there without moving parts.

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Ethan Waldo wrote 07/03/2020 at 21:20 point

Meant to say monocrhomatic light source

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Ethan Waldo wrote 07/03/2020 at 21:19 point

Great idea.  A much more difficult feat to pull off that wouldn't require the tether would be lightweight solar panels as the base pointing down.  Generate a light source from the ground and use mirrors to focus light to illuminate solar panel to maximum efficiency.

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KD9KCK wrote 07/03/2020 at 20:41 point

This is very interesting. I wonder if you could also use this type of tether to lift up the end of a vertical HF antenna. 

Also as a WiFi access point you could have it extend a AP that exists at the base station up to it, that would make the access point set up cheaper. Seeing a an AP that takes Fiber or a Fiber to Ethernet adapter is going to cause a good amount.

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BotLawson wrote 07/02/2020 at 04:58 point

A couple of comments from when I built a big tether at work. 

Your power tether needs a high surge power capability as current flight controllers are designed for batteries which have tight energy budgets, but loads of surge power capability.  Most power converters for a tether have exactly the opposite limits with "infinite" energy available but a fixed rigid power limit.   (re-coding the flight controller to stay in a power budget would be another option)

There is/was a chineese drone company that makes 400Vdc motors and controllers. looks like what I remember, though it's not loading.   (still alive on facebook )  Fun fact about motors and controllers, for a given power a 40Vdc and 400Vdc motor and controller is about the same size.  So ideally you just run the motors directly off the high voltage tether.  This also allows battery backup to stay on the ground.  Also the typical DC link voltage in a active power factor correction AC-DC power brick is 300-350Vdc so it's easy to get high power non-isolated supplies near 400vdc.  (oh, and these same universal AC-DC power supplies often happily run off of 100-270Vdc as well, some are even rated for HVdc input.)

The next best would be high voltage high frequency AC so you can use a small ferrite core transformer and diode pack to make low voltage DC on the drone.  100KHz to 1MHz would do.  But keeping emi and rfi in check will be a challenge.

Mil spec M27500-22RC2S09 high temp 200C 600V 2-core shielded wire is a good place to start.  The shield is a bit heavy, but makes a solid safety/lightning ground.  And the cable comes with 26awg to 8awg or lower conductors.  Aluminum wire will save you weight, but is more difficult to make reliable connections to.

Speaking of lightning, you should also be able to monitor ground current to estimate your lightning risk.  Check Wikipedia, but lightning storms have 1000-10,000x higher electric fields that most clear air, so if your ground current jumps to more that say 100x typical, you can be pretty sure a storm is nearby. 

For communication, home AC wiring Ethernet bridges will work great and be very happy to use a shielded twisted pair vs AC wiring.  (lots easier than finding tether wire with conductors and a fiber-optic) 

Finally spooling the wire.  The wire is going to get hottest on the storage spool.  You'll want to wind it in a way that you can keep it cool.  I eventually wanted to wind the wire with a fishing reel or yarn ball-winder mechanism as these can wind in a sparse pattern for wire cooling and potentially eliminate the need for a high voltage slip ring. 

Finally Finally, I'd look configure your drone like the endurance record drones featured in some YouTube videos.  They can get >2h flight times on LiPo's so should minimize the tether power system size. 

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Dan Maloney wrote 06/24/2020 at 00:27 point

I had an idea to use a drone to take a small amateur radio repeater aloft to get line-of-sight between two points in mountainous terrain, rather than put up a tower. Flight time limits would have made it only marginally useful though. I hadn't thought of tethering it like that - clever move.

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Martin wrote 5 days ago point

This was done with a Wouxun KG-UV8 as a cross band repeater.  This did enable communications in the order of 30 miles over hilly terrain.  The case and other unnecessary parts were removed from the Wouxun to reduce weight.  

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Josh Starnes wrote 06/23/2020 at 21:31 point

Thanks Bill, Yes one of the uses is lighting. I intend to 3d print a ring that will house 50 watt 6000k LED modules downward pointing and RGB LED array all the way around the ring. In the event high speed communications have too much interference, or one party away from camp does not have a mobile base station, they can also communicate through a morse code style short message by blinking the LED horizontal lights and the field crew only needs a bright light to reply to the Sky Anchor.

I do intend to do a higher voltage, I was thinking of a 110v line straight from a power conditioner up the power line tether.

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James Hall wrote 06/29/2020 at 19:00 point

You could do a Close Encounters like thing with the LEDs.

Alternatively, I've seen pages talking about doing long range free space optic style communication by modulating LEDs. That would be neat to see. is one site.

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billguetz wrote 06/23/2020 at 17:02 point

Interesting.  Some thoughts:

- it could also be used for temporary lighting

- it would be useful even if it didn't go up 100' ,  think tree canopy.

- high voltage power would require smaller cable, but increase safety concerns

- wind is major limitation.  tilt of platform due to wind may limit usefulness without stablized platform

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