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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  • TA DA, power supply ready to test

    Josh Starnes17 hours ago 0 comments

    I have heatsinks and fans now. It is time to start testing the power supply, first that it puts out clean 12volts and second that it can handle a load up to the full 500 watts. We will use the Flir camera on this one as well as a thermometer device to monitor temps. Also we may have an oscilloscope to check the power output is clean as well. ( I mean it should be with as many chokes, capacitors and voltage dependent resistors in the circuit. 

  • New Custom Power Supply Build

    Josh Starnes21 hours ago 0 comments

    This project requires a highly reliable and relatively powerful power supply. It needs to operate in harsh conditions, handle near full load constantly and also have a built in backup in case of overheating or any other failure causing output to drop to the electronics or motors. I am using a combination of Switching AC to DC Module with power smoothing and onboard dual Lipo battery backup as well. It is not done, but here is the progress before dinner. On the DC side (was o the right) there are four slots for Velcro straps and two Deans connectors to add or swap our battery connections. There is nothing to prevent a larger battery from being plugged up, but they would need to be stored somewhere other than on the small footprint I made for a emergency backup battery. In hindsight and better planning I could have reduced the board size about an inch in length, but overall most the components are packed tightly together. I will put a heat shield on both rows of capacitors with the gold foil I have to help reduce radiant heat from the heatsink. This is a bare plate with no heatsink. I have four heatsink options, one of them having forced air from fans, but as Dink pointed out, there should be plenty of airflow under the drones downward draft from the twelve props.

  • Landing Gear Spacer, 3D Printed

    Josh Starnes2 days ago 0 comments

    In order to establish good clearance from the carbon rods and the bottom set of propellers , we designed a “universal” spacer that could be used on a variety of drone frames besides this F550 style one. 

  • Air to Ground 5G Backhual Dish

    Josh Starnes3 days ago 0 comments

    All 3D printed mini dish with gold foil glued to the inside of the dish. This is meant to clamp to the cross braces on the landing gear. It is always pointed at the ground for drone to ground communications link.

  • V3 Update 2 , ESCs fitted

    Josh Starnes3 days ago 0 comments

    Two zip ties on each set of ESCs hold them securely under the arms. They are vented from the top , sides and open bottom so cooling should not be an issue. There are two 30a ESCs beside each other in this arrangement.

  • Update 1 assembling the V3 frame, motors and controllers

    Josh Starnes4 days ago 0 comments

    All the motors and ESCs are going back in their homes on this next build. I believe this is version 3 build now.  Instead of the larger coast guard approved LEDs we have downsized them to LEDs that bold directly to the bottom of the motors. These should save us a ounce or two and have lower power consumption. I should have weighted the new LEDs and compared them, but I forgot in once I was in the groove of assembling the motors and running wires through to new locations to make the build much cleaner.

  • 5G Drone to Ground Station Microwave Back Haul

    Josh Starnes4 days ago 0 comments

    I have decided to move to a 5G ground facing microwave back haul connection instead of a physical Ethernet being hoisted into the air 200’ First being weight and reliability. This is a mini parabola mount on the landing gear that is intentionally ground facing. A sender /receiver will also be on the ground in the connection window.  This part is being printed right now and will be ready in the morning.

  • V3 Frame assembled and weighed

    Josh Starnes5 days ago 0 comments

    The whole frame with foiled plates for EMF interference blocking from any noise that may backfeed through the power wires or power supplies. 14.4 ounces, that is at least 2.4 ounces lighter than the OEM F550 frame and the arms have a dihedral angle and also two motor mounts per arm. This equals more performance features less weight. Being slightly lighter should hopefully translate to a slightly lower hovering power requirement as well.

  • Gold Foil Parabolic Antenna for 5G

    Josh Starnes5 days ago 0 comments

    This is the 3D printed parabolic reflector we made for the 5G unit. Around 20 percent or more of the RF energy is recovered and directed forward for better transmission power, as well as better reception for incoming signals as well.

  • 3D Printed Parabolic Antenna Reflector

    Josh Starnes6 days ago 0 comments

     This is a nearly all 3D printed parts, but PLA plastic does not reflect RF signal. So we will be using some gold foil glued to the back reflector to make that work. There are stand offs that I have glued nuts into.  The antenna assembly has four plastic bolts that thread through the antenna into these nuts for a perfect fit.

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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.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Josh Starnes wrote 5 days ago point

@target drone , I have raised my feed voltage to 240 volts carried up the tether by a relatively lightweight 18 gauge tether with ground added. This should be able to reach the 400’ operating ceiling for drones with a little over 2kg of wire or 1kg at 200’. My goal is to keep the whole drone plus tether below 10 pounds.

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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 09/17/2020 at 09:02 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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