Traditionally, drones have used low bandwidth radio communication to connect to ground devices. Last year, when we started building the FlytPOD Flight Computer (next generation autopilot), we wanted to equip it with a better communication system. Drones today need to share rich media and scale-up to support swarm applications. Keeping this in mind FlytPOD is designed to provide high bandwidth link and scalable networking layer.
Going forward we decided to integrate WiFi module with FlytPOD. But we wanted something more than a USB WiFi dongle; we had tested nearly all popular high power USB dongles including ALFA, TP-link, Netis, Netsys but were either not satisfied with performance or not happy with other constraints(weight, size, power, etc.).
Unsatisfied with dongles, we decided to break the usual practise and put a router onboard, instead. Only routers can deliver the power and flexibility for the complex networking scenarios involving multiple drones. We decided to use a router module with powerful Mediatek MT7620N SoC. The default firmware was quite dumb. So, to do justice to this great hardware we ported OpenWRT firmware to this board, including key packages, like 'relayd' for client mode connection, etc. This SoC is already being used on ASUS RT-N14U, WRTnode, many other well-known routers.
So now every FlytPOD powered drone has an on-board router!!
It runs OpenWRT barrier breaker and supports AP/Client/Router modes. The SoC can output upto 20 dBm with two 5 dBm antennas, included for better reception. FlytPOD, along with a high power router on ground (maybe, with an antenna tracker), could be the best solution for long range applications. Anyway, 4G dongles can be used for longer/unlimited range on a FlytPOD.
By the way, the on-board router on FlytPOD has its own USB port, that supports direct IP camera streaming and media sharing (without loading FlytPOD's processor). It can be put to several creative uses in the future!
MediaTek MT7620N SoC on FlytPOD
Yet something was amiss. To geeks, this combo of router and companion-computer would sound like a powerful dev kit. But for rest of the users, even switching between AP and Client modes would be a nightmare. So, we rolled out the FlytConsole widget for easy WiFi configuration via the GUI. Earlier, to put FlytPOD (OpenWRT router) in client mode (connect to your office/home wifi network) users would have followed this long guide.Now, the FlytConsole GUI makes it as easy as connecting your phone to a WiFi network.
Easy WiFi setup with FlytConsole
With all this in place, we are proud to introduce the world's first flight computer system with powerful on-board wifi router to our users. We look forward to your feedback to help us further improve the design.
Sign up for FlytPOD Beta here: FlytPOD
Checkout the Flyt documentation here: FlytDocs
@James, Yes we intend to use wifi as only datalink, however telemetry port is available as well.
We have tested it for 250 meters with ping time of 5ms with ASUS router on ground. Baud rate wouldn't be a good major to rate it on, but we have tested file transfer successfully at 250 meters with ~ 100 Kilo Byte per second.
Within 100 meters the performance is great with video and telemetry data.
With onboard 20 dBm output power and decent ground router we expect the range to be more than 500 meters. We are planning to test for 500 meters soon.
What range are you achieving in the air?
@James, even if we go for 5.8 GHz, we still will have to use 2.4 GHz. Because 5.8 GHz works very poorly through obstructions. And there will always be some low bandwidth crucial data that you want to get on ground even if high bandwidth data link does not work.
@James We are planning on using dual band for bandwidth's sake.
Even though it seems obvious, we haven't yet came across any serious interference issues since last 6 months.
Maybe more number of long range tests can tell us more about it.
@ Achal Thanks Achal,
For general info this wifi config widget is released as part of the latest update to flytOS.
@Bill Thanks Bill. FlytPOD Beta program is still running. You can apply to it here.
The only DIY version know is WRTnode, but I am not sure if it is in production now.
Very cool. Is this product shipping now? Is there a DIY version of the router?
@dhiraj Really, great work on the router part. FlytConsole Wifi widget really makes it so much easy to switch between AP and Client mode.