FaradayRF has come a long way since our balloon flight in August 2016. We’ve designed 900MHz hardware, manufactured over 100 Faraday boards, and we’ve shipped hardware to customers. We’ve merged open source contributions on GitHub from multiple developers too. It’s no secret to some that the software quality has drastically improved thanks to contributions from the community. This past year has been about getting hardware in your hands and getting feedback from you. We’ve succeeded in that. Thank you!
Amateur Radio is about having fun and learning. When we started FaradayRF our goal was to enable radio amateurs to experiment with digital wireless technology, learning along the way. We strayed from that goal this past year. FaradayRF has more closely resembled an engineering organization as opposed to an experimentation and educational organization. It was necessary but the time has come to refocus our efforts. It’s time to start having fun.
FaradayRF will move into projects utilizing Faraday and related technology to do cool stuff. We’re going to lead the way and have a blast doing it. This will bring the hardware, software, and ideology of using ham radio as a medium to explore together. It will force us to create the technology and services that ham radio will thrive on in the future. It will force us to fix areas of our projects which are buggy. It will show more people what ham radio is capable of. All of it will be open source and we will offer more products to help you join in on the fun with less reinvention of the wheel.
Focusing on implementing what we’ve built together in the last year will finally bring Faraday from a development project into a platform we can be creative with.
We’ve started to plan for two open-source projects to spearhead this effort. Achieving success on these projects will morph Faraday into a platform that “just works”. The two projects are an ocean buoy and a high altitude balloon. We will start with an ocean buoy given the lower cost and easier iterations of deployment. Nearly all progress on the buoy will be transferable to a high altitude balloon missions at a later date. We’ve realized that one major strength of ham radio is remote telemetry in which the hobby is uniquely situated to accelerate at. The last mile (or 50 miles, or 5,000 miles) is extremely difficult to overcome with normal internet technology and we’re going to make ham radio bad-ass at doing it. This is our strength.
The idea of working on a buoy caught us by surprise and the more we think about it the more interesting and exciting it becomes. Google “amateur radio buoys” and you get a few hits on illegal “driftnet” buoys interfering with radio amateurs, a WSPR and JT9 ocean floater, a WSPR buoy project, and an old APRS buoy. This area is ripe for experimentation as it offers exciting remote sensing, control, and propagation experimentation ideally suited for ham radio applications. We will start working on three iterations of open source buoys with each one being successively more complex.
Buoy #1 – ALPHA
- Use existing 33cm band Faraday radios for close to shore communications
- Likely anchored in place
- Develop a simple sensor platform to obtain environmental data in harsh marine environments
- Update telemetry software to be a seamless experience, likely APRS-IS based
Buoy #2 – BETA
- Augment or replace 33cm band Faraday radios with simple HF digital radios
- Use as much existing Faraday Software as possible
- Enables long distance “drifter” buoys to go beyond horizon
- Implement power generation
- Develop a central telemetry server to collect and manage buoy data
- Incorporate Raspberry PI hardware
Buoy #3 – CHARLIE
- Implement live image and video transmission
- Likely TUN adapter and general data networking capabilities
Nearly every one of these buoy designs can be directly ported to use on a high altitude balloon flight. It is much easier for us to iterate designs without having to worry about weight, launch location, and short windows of a few hours of mission time. Due to this, it makes sense to start with a buoy. We’re solidifying our ability to knock telemetry out of the park with the ALPHA and BETA buoys. CHARLIE will dive into networking radios after we have experience making remote sensing seamless with Faraday whether its 500 feet or 500 miles. One step at a time.
We’re excited to start building stuff with Faraday! The website will start hosting more blog content detailing our efforts and our Github will host all the open source content. The website will change in the near future to focus on highlighting projects while providing educational content to help you #LaunchWithFaraday. Open Source FaradayRF technology will soon open the world to exploration and experimentation using ham radio. We invite you to join us in this adventure. Please use the comments below to let us know what you think about our buoy and balloon projects!
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Author: Bryce Salmi
Licensed radio amateur KB1LQC and Co-Founder of FaradayRF. Professional Electrical Engineer designing and building avionics for rockets and spacecraft during the day and developing the future of digital amateur radio experimentation by night. All opinions are my own.