Help Build An Off Grid Communications / Mesh Network Device


For a, while i’ve been considering making a packet radio terminal. A self-contained computer with Screen, keyboard and the ability to send data using radio instead of wi-fi or Cell networks after Working on and developing it for a few months though, I realized that this is actually the wrong way to go about this type of device and after looking more closely at the GoTenna Mesh, I think creating an open-source alternative with More features would be more versatile and an order of magnitude cheaper. I haven’t made this yet, and I wanted to ask whether some of you Would like to work on this and develop a platform. I guess in a similar vein to the pirate box project But for long-distance off-grid communications it wouldn’t replace the internet as a whole but could cater for low, data functions like text messaging The, main idea is to create. A little inexpensive, device that can easily fit in your pocket or strap on your backpack It would hook up to your smartphone tablet or computer over bluetooth and would require a specifically designed app to work This, way of doing it is much better than having a standalone computer radio terminal since it saves more space is way cheaper and works With all the existing devices the devices can, also still use their wi-fi in cell service too since you’re, not taking up those network interfaces The app would work just like an ordinary messaging up but when you press end it transfers the message to the radio device then Broadcasts it over LoRa radio frequencies potentially reach in many kilometres, away The other recipient has a paired, device that is turned on and listening for a specific Message signature when the radio waves reach them the device selects the person’s phone and they receive the new message simple private communications of a long distance. The devices could, also potentially work as a mesh network to by relaying and re Broadcasting messages between nodes potentially allowing for much greater coverage Outside of the GoTenna’s existing features i think what would add more? Usefulness would be the option of solar charging and the ability to work like a power bank and charge all the devices through usb. this would make sense if you already strapped it to your backpack to increase range what, would make it truly off-grid. This technology, works best when send in small amounts of data and when you combine that with potential internet bridges meaning Someone’s phone could act like an exit node, though you open up the possibility for other uses like Broadcasting bitcoin transactions or setting up a twitter, like, social network depending on the amount of nodes you could potentially post data anonymously. Much like the GoTenna, this will be useful for times when you can’t get any Cell or wi-fi service trekking in the wilderness traveling abroad being at festivals or other large gatherings etc. also Obviously this could help during times when the power is out during disasters or other Chaotic times, especially if you mix the messaging with gps tracking After a lot of research i think the cheapest and easiest hardware to achieve this is as follows a raspberry pi 0 w. this will act as the brains of the device the documentation and the linux system should, make this much easier to work with And develop more features on it’s, also got bluetooth built in for pairing with phones and computers LoRa, radio chip with antenna, these are pretty cheap, and seem relatively simple to work with the protocol Was originally designed for internet of things applications But it would be perfect for this some of these chips coupled with a good antenna Both maximum ranges of around 30 kilometers there are some add-ons available Specifically for the raspberry pi but i think it may, be worth designing one just for this device You could have an optional gps chip – which could be helpful in certain situations obviously you’d have a Physical switch so you can turn it off completely, when it’s not needed a Lipo, battery for the size of this device i think We could get maybe two or three thousand milliamp hours and many hours of use on one charge a small, solar panel for emergency charging this could be handy if you’re in the wilderness or if the power goes out for whatever reason. If the design is somewhat similar to the go tenor you could attach it to your backpack to both increase range and charge at the same time a Charging, board these pcbs are amazing search for diy, power, bunk pcb on ebay for ones as cheap as $1. They, allow You, to power the raspberry pi gps and radio chips Charge the internal lipo battery through microusb Also, charges the batteries through a solar panel Read out the battery, level through built-in, leds and use the battery as a power bank to charge all the devices over usb when needed The total cost of particles the 3d printed case should be around 30 to 35 dollars So, what do you think let, me know in the comments i’m not sure how Good it would work but i want to try it and find out i know a lot of you are very capable and i think i would need Some help on the software side of things especially the phone and desktop apps that interface with, this, what technologies do you Think, would be best for this project. Also what should it be called Obviously everything that’s developed will be open source and available for everyone to make their Own versions i want to make it as easy as possible for someone to buy the parts and make their own if you wish if we create a platform then people could Make all sorts of devices that will work with this let’s get something, going thanks for watching and i look forward to your feedback

100 Replies to “Help Build An Off Grid Communications / Mesh Network Device

  1. You may want to look into SSTV software, there is a Pi version on Github. Perhaps a moddified software, this technology has been around since the 1950's and there are phone apps dedicated to this idea.

  2. Look up @RandomRobbie on Twitter. I've seen him work on similar vein things to this I'm sure. As for software, Java that thing. Work across OS's and be source compatible with Android with minimal changes. Speed wouldn't be an issue for a low-power device AFAIK none of them target performance.

  3. Have had the same idea for quite some time. I would not go for a RPi but rather one of the smaller and cheaper ESPs or (or similar). Developing for them is not very different but it is both smaller, cheaper and more power efficient.
    I could be interested in joining a project like this. I have been working with lowlevel implementations for BT/WIFI etc as a job for many years

  4. No bluetooth ip stack exists for bluetooth on Raspbian.
    It would have to be written before the text messaging user interface would work.
    However, using WiFi it would work without the need to write a ip stack.
    Yes, a greater power drain. But better for multiple devices and greater range.

    Also the minimal power of these devices would greatly benefit from a yagi antenna.

  5. I'm no programmer and outside of basic IT support knowledge, I'm no network guru either, but I would love to invest in the hardware to try and work with someone to make this idea at least on a small physical prototype to get something started

  6. +N-O-D-E If this was acting as a repeater for "Fire Chat" or another Bluetooth repeater app, they would be SO cool! 😀

  7. If you could make it cheap enough, They could be dropped in many different places and a real network could be made

  8. it would be nice if we could all get nice stander protocall for mesh networks so that even if we are making devices with completely different uses they could still transmit and receive and make use of mesh net works

  9. So far out of the several Kickstarter off grid devices, they all have fixed antennas. How about providing an external antenna with SMA connector so one can install a higher gain directional or omnidirectional antenna for better range..?

  10. i think this is a great idea especially for people making servers and it can be a good way if you add gps to find your way if your lost in the jungle and what makes it better the solar panel !

  11. this kinda reminds me of the firemsg and piratebox, i think it is viable, i think it needs to have both a software virtualized version for x86 and arm devices and a hardware version for the longer ranges, but the virtualized one should take care of the city ranges

  12. I think it would be great. I like the idea of gotenna's device, but if I'm already carrying around an SDR, the ability to use it to say, tune in to emergency stations or communicate on CB with the proper antennae would be cool. That way you can potentially rescue/be rescued by someone who didn't happen to also buy into the same system

  13. I was thinking some mesh network similar functions to the tor network, and then you brought up the exit node for phones etc, and really love this idea! Wish I had more programming skills to help develop, but I'm available for testing if I can help in any way!

  14. Sorry hate double posting comments, but to address both power capacity and the "emergency" power requirements, I've often wondered why more projects don't use "standard" vape batteries like the 18650 or newer 21700, I think the option for replaceable batteries is underrated

  15. I think the idea is a good one. The shortcoming is the chosen radio technology. What is needed is a 5-watt output in a reliable HAM freq. the would support long distance, fairly high-speed texting. It would make the optimum mesh network replacement for a town or prepper community to stay in touch in a grid down situation. Also, much better range if mesh networking in the woods. A 256 to 512-bit encryption feature would be optimal.

  16. Besides goTenna, there're also Sonnet, Beartooth, Gotoky, GoTele currently tapping into this same market. goTenna is currently the winner while Sonnet looks promising.

  17. I have been looking at this and found FCC licensing to be the hurdle for most. Radios capable of doing these sorts of things usually require HAM licenses to operate. However, there are some projects that are doing similar stuff to this but using it to transmit may run into issues.

  18. I think this is a great idea, nobody is gonna spend the money on a gotenna especially since not a lot of people know about it. Name one person who doesn’t know what a raspberry pi is and who doesn’t own one, I would definitely make this and Carry it with me everywhere I went! We definitely need a discord for this!! We could all work together to make irb

  19. I'm super late on this, but you should check out the Fognet project on IOTA. They are working on developing a Bluetooth mesh network protocal that seems similar. LoRa would make that project much more interesting.

  20. Has anything happened towards this project? Is there still interest? I have a fair share of long range LoRa experience and am thinking of building something for myself…

  21. Idea: A "Network extender" that increases the range of all nearby devices, doing this by communicating with the devices over GPS to find the spot in which it would amplify as many connections as possible, and then moves there via all terrain wheels.

  22. in 5 yrs, everybody will have a drawer full of old smart phones. Too bad we can't just make an app that will make an old smart phone into a Ham or CB or FRS radio.

  23. the problems I see is you mention it will work when no cell phone signals but in my experience if you don't have cell phone service you typically aren't close enough to other things either. You need the infrastructure of these so you can connect the mesh network. If I walk into the woods and no one around has one of these its basically useless. Also the thing I see is most frequencies you will be using are vhf or uhf and limited via distance, things in the way etcetc. HF radio in the ham frequencies has the ability to do things similar like you are trying to do. Hams also have the ability to use HSSM networking and Winlink email over hf. I do wish you luck. The problem you will have is the same problem the gotenna people have is lack of infastructure and lack of others to connect to to create the mesh.

  24. I had the same idea 2yrs ago for my graduation project but abandoned it..sob* I consulted a professional in the telecoms industry and he made me think I was living in my own made up world😂 .I'm glad I found this channel. I think it's a brilliant idea.

  25. Has this gone anywhere yet? I'm not much of a coder but I can design one hell of a board. I would assume that custom circuit boards are not part of the goal though.

    At very least I would be happy to be a tester, I already have half the parts and a 3D printer.

    [email protected]

  26. For anyone interested, there is an existing project that has successfully tackled many of these ideas: https://unsigned.io/projects/reticulum/
    It's called the Reticulum Network Stack, currently early in development by Mark Qvist. He's also designed and sells the (open source) LoRa mesh hardware (arduino based) to go along with this mesh networking stack . I've built and tested a version of the hardware myself and can confirm that it works in conjunction with his Reticulum software. This hardware connected to a raspberry pi W and running a custom application on top of the Reticulum stack would accomplish exactly what you describe in this video. Feel free to contact me and I can help get you set up with the software and the hardware. It's early alpha so it took a good bit of fiddling with the code from github to get everything working.

  27. In France we are in a populare crisis against the governement. Le mouvement Gilets Jaunes.
    We are in a civil war situation were the communication could be stopped by the governement like they did in Egypt or by simply shut down everything by cutting the electricity.
    A long range network system similar to your one was made by me : the RCAPP that stand for Réseau Citoyen Anonyme et Privé de Partage.

    Our french dictator Macron is fucked.

  28. I have been thinking of something similar. But might add a few keys (buttons) for signing. And I was thinking LoWAN. Disaster mesh networking.

  29. I was thinking something like that for a long time, if you build a device and protocol something like that, we can build apps on top of that. I've created a decentralized social network on blockchain called Fupio. But would be better something like this. Let's keep in touch [email protected]

  30. Have you looked into txTenna and MuleTools repos? I'm definitely interested, but i've never put something together like this, i would love to learn though. If you want to sell some, I'd buy some to support the project, 5 or 6. I'd mostly be interested in broadcasting bitcoin transactions from Samourai. Have you seen the Understanding btc conference in Malta next month? There will be a lot of this stuff to play with

  31. How far did this idea get? I thought it was a brilliant idea when I first saw the video. Considering the speed of LoRa and the possibility of multiple incoming connections a bit like torrenting we could even have BBS or Minitel-like websites that don't take a lot of oomph to load.

  32. Very nice idea, I will tell my colleagues and friends to spread as much as possible in the area. Have you already created a PCB?

  33. I think @Loomin autisim's idea is good as well
    It should be called O.L.D.E.R(Offline/Open Low Power Data Emitter Receiver) or N.O.D.E.S(Networked Open/Offline Data Emission Server)

  34. I propose "three" direct (not a meshnet with nodes inbetween) radio intercepting modes: Static , Scan and Mobile.
    Static mode is if both nodes are not moving at all.
    It would send a omnidirectional "scanning" ray , seeking for the node target, memorise it's orientation for later use (radars, or a node answering back, see further) . A node that capts the specific wave does the exact same procedure, with . It is very hard to peek in the connection as you'd have to be on the trajectory to be able to. You could pass as a node by tricking your coordinates if the other node doesn't use a radar, but it isn't that possible if it uses radar technology . Plus, you couldn't phish anyone using radar equipment, as they'd notice you aren't their destination and put you on their "list" of untrustable sources. The list could be shared, but indeed, could be tinkered with to make actually legit sources pass as corrupt. I don't recommend use of that list as a sharable thing,but more as a self note.
    After doing so, both nodes would start sending unidirectional radio rays in the orientation (it has to be very precise and both nodes can't move) to transmit to eachother.

    Scan mode is similar, but instead of a short range fading omnidirectional ray, it fires very precise radio rays in pretty much every direction possible (i believe, the amount of shoots and their magnitude could be calculated in a way like defining a quality value which is then processed as points around a circle (eg. quality = 8 then we draw a regular octagon which summits are points of a circle) and fires rays in these directions. When a node is found, it can respond by firing a ray in it's direction (radars, again.) and start communicating. Like for Static mode, it is "secure" , as radars would notice you're a phisher or anything, and add you to their list.

    Mobile mode is perhaps the less "secure" by nature: since you're moving , you can't use rays ; they wouldn't be precise and connection would be horrible. Instead, they have to use omnidirectional waves; and some sort of encryption of radiowaves. Eventually they could use some sort of not-so-precise radar to know the other's node position, but a phisher could stand right by although not in the same spot, and still capt that. Probably like how encryption works nowadays, but for radiowaves… I'm unsure on the last one,although it is probably the one you'll most likely use the most.

    I realized something while writing this: I don't perfectly understand radar,radio and general "waves" technology, and i'm unsure if the following does happen when unidirectional rays are capted , or if radars can't locate the depth of a object or anything but:
    A phisher could stand "behind" the actual node, a technique to prevent that is that the node sends basically junk data into the wave once it has read it, making it practically impossible for other nodes behind itself to read the data again.

    Hope I helped, I came with this intend, and i really wish to hear more about it. Wish you luck.
    And yes I know it's been like two years since this video has been posted , and that my grammar probably sucks ass, but I'm genuinely interested.

  35. check out OH8STN and his videos on amateur radio long distance digital modes for low power and survival. JS8 Call works on relaying messages. it uses raspberry pi

  36. Couldn’t exactly help with it, but I wouldn’t be opposed to carrying one. You could also cover long distance with laser com across lakes or rivers.

    Edit: could also include a handle crank style charger!

  37. I would add GSM and Wifi capabilities and allow for a high gain antenna. A SIM card is only required to register with a tower, which you would not need. Establish the mesh on all of these channels and then use the device as a router to extend overall range. Create 'SMART' power modes that allow for normal operating, charging and extender mode. Extender mode will enable all antennas and enable power boost to the high gain antenna. This would be used for motorcycle/RV/boating/off-grid solar applications where a continuous supply of power is available. Device should work with Smartphones and SmartWatches via bluetooth and an app should control all features and integrate with voice recognition platforms like Siri, Google Voice, Alexa and Cortana.

  38. I've been starting to work on a project with similar capabilities. See the below links for more info:

    Github — https://github.com/faydr/QMesh . See the wiki for an overview.
    Hackaday.io (less up-to-date than the Github page) — https://hackaday.io/project/161491-lora-based-voice-mesh-network

  39. Yes! Using LoRa at 443MHz would be great, I got some esp32 and 433MHz lora. It would be great also to add a display so you can see messages.

  40. I’d be more than willing to help. I have an amateur radio license and extensive background in wireless communications. Is there a way I can contact you to help?

  41. You're on to something. I came across Power Talkie 2 days ago and I loved the concept as I'm an outdoorsman and I love having a backup in certain situations. I found that product too pricey and thought to myself, I work in a battery store where I have to do minor electronics work on a regular basis but I have little knowledge without an assembly plan or an existing product to copy, but would love to build a couple if not more.

    I looked at other options like the Gotenna, Gotoky, Sonnet, and Go GPS which all to basically the same thing. They are a Bluetooth device to connect to with your phone, to make a mesh network without the requirement of a telecom tower. They can send text messages, pictures, small voice messages, radio communications and GPS locations by the reach of an RF signal.

    A solar panel is a good idea to a point. All batteries have a shelf life and a limit of charge cycles. If you don't have a way to say it is okay to charge then you are waisting charge cycles on the battery. It would have to be programmed as such. the antenna should be a standard removable one from an RF radio to attach bigger ones at the user's discretion. Batteries should be a removable lithium-Ion battery for easy change when the battery has reached the end of its life. It should be water-resistant or maybe waterproof. It should also be small and light. Some have a USB port to charge other devices.

    The app is another big part. It has to be user-friendly, securely encrypted,, availability to android and IOS, and take minimal space and resources. If someone can come up with a plan to assemble this and another to program the phone app and the device firmware with instructions on how to install them.

    I'm all ears for testing and trying prototypes as long as they don't break the bank. I will give a full unbiased test and opinion. Feel free to message me if you have a design and I'll give it a whirl in some of the least wirelessly serviced places in Eastern Canada.

  42. I miss a gateway to the internet. That way you could still use Zello. As voice is important once cell service is down

  43. Component wise I think the Raspberry is too much both power hungry and size. I personally think a ESP32 paired with an SD card is more than enough for handling everything (including the webapp). And also cheaper.
    From my experience is you are not doing video the RPi is not fundamental, but I undertand that for many C++ adds too much complication.

  44. #1 – Keep it OFF the ham radio bands. Ham is BAD for this type of thing for a number of reasons: Ham requires each person using a ham device to hold a license and not everyone wants to go into licensing and learn redundant tech stuff to use a simple radio device like this , ham does not allow encryption, ham is easily jammed by off the shelf ham gear and in a grid failure scenario this would become a thing as ham radio would be used more for comms.. So 900 MHz ISM is where you want to be.

    #2 – Keep it Simple to use. plug and play, no licensing required. even have it solar powered and easy to carry and or mount in place by a consumer. Also IP67 it make it ware proof

    #3 – ONE PCB design. you DO NOT want plug in user modifiable / swappable parts in this.. Too much can go wrong from people using frequencies they are not supposed to be on etc.. Have a company designs everything onto one PCB. This will also reduce the size of the device or allow for more battery capacity inside the case.

    Now as of the turn of 2020 there are some devices already on the market that do just this. One is the power talkie system that uses PMR446 in UK/EU and FRS 462/467 in the USA.. IMO this is fine but can become an issue if there is a grid failure just like ham where those bands would start filling up with traffic.. I would focus on the 900 MHz version

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *