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
FlytPOD is live on Indiegogo. You can Preorder it now :https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flytpod-advanced-flight-computer...
@Serge Contal, the fan is not for Wifi router, its for single board computer / companion computer. Actually we also wanted to avoid putting it, but it seems inevitable given the Octacore processor at 2 GHz.
Until now we haven't faced any performance issues as such. But I'll certainly remember your suggestion. Thanks.
Hi, do you really need the fan ? Does it impact the WiFi performances ? I design WiFi routers and we get rid of fans if we can (with the help of good dissipators) because they make much RF noise.
Thanks @Jerry Giant, thats quite useful info.
The hardware is closed but the access to router is open and documented here. So practically anybody can configure wifi board with any other firmware if they want. Currently it is interfaced using Ethernet connector and not USB. We certainly tried putting mini pcie, but the Single board computer used inside FlytPOD doesn't have slot for that. And FlytPOD is open for development as it provides open APIs in Python, CPP, ROS, RESTFull, Websocket for users. Also the Linux desktop is available to work on.
FlytPOD is intended as a accelerator kit for the developers, researchers and hobbyists to get their drone applications in air with less hassle. So the first target was to get something that works and gives them wireless freedom that they want. And our tests have revealed that current hardware works great for this purpose.
While designing next Flight Computers (running FlytOS) we will surely try to incorporate your suggestions. Thanks.
@Pmarche Not yet. But I have read few other guys doing it. FlytPOD runs linux so wont be difficult to get it working.
i love the concept of putting stuff on high level interpret lanuage to make things done, but you guys are using open source or COTS level hardware will not going far, as your system is closed source for both hardware and software, i don't think it will impact the tech savvy too much...
it would be better to put a atheros 7020 rather then media tech i think, as you have your own soc board, it will be better to go pcie than usb. and for the RF, no external PA there i assume only <20 dbm output there, and sensitivity for this brand would perform -90db for MSC0 bpsk... say, 300m in urban, 500-800m in rural.
your technology stack is losing its edge and stereo vision platforms or ADAS systems will obsolete your margins very quickly.
Have you tried any 3g or 4g dongles?. Unfortunately, availability is very limited.
@Bill Bonney Yeah, I too believe that range isn't relevant. With directional high gain antennas and stuff you can increase it significantly.
Our purpose of bringing this FC is not to compete with other long range solutions.
FlytPOD is for developing drone applications and we added powerful router so that users are not limited with operating range.
And Bill, we can also think of WDS, as OpenWRT supports it.
Range isn't that relevant using the standard dipoles you are going to see 500m-1000m at 2.4Ghz. If you use better antenna and directional antennas you can get that up to several Km.
Nice to have WiFi solution that can support Video. Similar to the Solo controller setup (but with the AP in the air )
@naish We haven't yet done any long range test but we have very successful results within 250 meters, LOS.
Soon planning on testing range between two drones with FlytPOD, beyond 500 meters.