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Radio range entender... think wi-fi bridge, and/or LTE hotspot for ULTIMATE range

scrampker

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Has there been any discussion on approaching the p-poor range with something like this? An *active* signal booster. The link is simply Wi-Fi, so it doesn't seem like it would be all that impossible. If there's no way to boost the raw signal/intercept, then perhaps something like a tiny hotspot, connected to drone's Wi-Fi would work. Just velcro to the battery. Also, you could probably use a simple controller board to relay the wi-fi signal to external wi-fi antennas, for rather cheap, and little added weight.

Another interesting idea would be to use a little LTE hotspot. Something that can be used as a tap of sorts that allows outside connections. Imagine you get the LTE hotspot working, and your phone is connected via LTE and VPN. You will still get the same feed, controls, etc, and even the silly Anafi controller would work connected via USB.
 

Lifeisfun

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Has there been any discussion on approaching the p-poor range with something like this? An *active* signal booster. The link is simply Wi-Fi, so it doesn't seem like it would be all that impossible. If there's no way to boost the raw signal/intercept, then perhaps something like a tiny hotspot, connected to drone's Wi-Fi would work. Just velcro to the battery. Also, you could probably use a simple controller board to relay the wi-fi signal to external wi-fi antennas, for rather cheap, and little added weight.

Another interesting idea would be to use a little LTE hotspot. Something that can be used as a tap of sorts that allows outside connections. Imagine you get the LTE hotspot working, and your phone is connected via LTE and VPN. You will still get the same feed, controls, etc, and even the silly Anafi controller would work connected via USB.
Sadly nothing will help, the antenna on the drone it self is poorly designed.
 

scrampker

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That's not necessarily true...
Sadly nothing will help, the antenna on the drone it self is poorly designed.

While yes the drone's antenna is total crap, the overall statement is not necessarily true... Since it's Wi-Fi, there's no reason why you can't use a wireless repeater, or the second option would be LTE.
 

scrampker

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Of interest, the drone WILL pull a network connection via USB-C. You can even SSH to it. It's purely key-based authentication it appears, so they really didn't want anyone getting in there.

Also, the app on the phone appears to be hard-coded to the drone wifi network... even if you register an external network with the app. This might be as simple as it looking for the wrong IP, and not being configurable.
 

scrampker

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The drone offers a 192.168.10.0/24 network, with gateway at .1. I've confirmed that multiple devices can be attached, and the IP of the client within the /24 is irrelevant. The app won't seem to register an external network with the drone connected, even if it's also a 192.168.10.0/24 network. I can't force the drone to take 192.168.10.1 with my current test router, but perhaps the app is hard-coded to connect to this address, and that's why I can't get the link up.

Obviously there are other ways they could lock this out, but I'm not giving up that easily. Next step is to try to extend the wireless network.

edit: bummer, all my testing trying to repeat the drone network also failed. Despite the network itself successfully working, it's the app that simply will not allow me to register the network. One thing I need to try is to name my hotspot's SSID something similar to my drone's. Maybe even the same name. It might be that these strings are related and performing some sort of CRC in a way.
 
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singular.droid

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Nice research please keep us posted. With regards to ssh - yep, possibly it has only certificate auth configured. I didn't want to lock mine and that's why I decided not to bruteforce password for ssh.

Do you think there is no way to preform hardware upgrade and open done and install better antenna hardware or connect external one by connecting to the same connector or by plumbing to proper points on the board?? I'm weak with hardware but maybe proper hand could make it easy...
 

scrampker

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I think it's absolutely doable to upgrade the antenna array. I was just trying to approach this from a zero-modification perspective first. Also, I did reach out to Skydio to see if they'd be willing to have someone from their team work with me, instead of having to go about this blindly. I've already determined that the drone can easily use an NDIS-style LTE hotspot... but I can't do anything with it since the app simply won't recognize the drone, even when on the same network, with same subnet/mask.

I need to try a few more tests:
- Network extender that spoofs the source network. Space the drone out far enough to ensure I'm not connecting to the actual drone.
- Using another router, force the drone to take a static-DHCP address of 192.168.10.1, and have the router on another address like 192.168.10.100. My Netgear M1 Nighthawk I'm using for testing does not allow for static associations, and there does not appear to be Tomato/DD-WRT for this model. Wi-Fi offloading DOES work, however.

I also bought a FiPy unit that uses Cat M1 LTE, but I learned that technology is way too low of a throughput to use for this, so I'll be pairing it with my LoRA mesh network I intend to use for things like hiking, rainy days, concerts, etc.

Depending on my results with other full-scale routers, I plan to play with a raspberry Pi. My goal overall is to:
- Connect RPi or Router to Drone.
- Create OpenVPN tunnel on RPi/Router
- Bridge Drone Wi-Fi network with OpenVPN tunnel.
- Figure out what requirements there are on the application side of things to recognize the drone is connected.

I the app is VERY picky about what it connects to I will have to push harder to fully-spoof the drone network to the phone. These things aren't impossible, as I even have a beta board in my car that spoofs Android Auto and makes it wireless. Essentially just tricking two devices to talk through a proxy unit.
 

scrampker

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Chatting with Support, but based on their verbiage, I think they are trying to imply that I should not be flying beyond the visual line of sight, so what's the problem? Wanting to know my actual range numbers. For me personally, it's not so much "the range" of the drone that is so terrible -- rather it's the non-rear-facing array performance. Side/front is like 1/3rd as effective as the rear antenna. I always have to be SUPER careful and film many things from only one angle. It's a real bummer, when I open my Mavic Pro bag and have it up in the air running circles for miles with no problem.
 

scrampker

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Just wanted to point out that Support officially declined my request for any sort of cooperation to improve the range of this drone. I guess I'm 100% on my own.
 
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frankbonatelli

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Interesting approaches. Not at all surprised at the refusal, they are not interested in loosing their proprietary data. I'm wondering if you tried cloning mac address of the drone to your lte dongle then pair to phone/tablet with drone off. If that's successful you can then turn on the drone and in theory connect and fly. If i had the parts id join in. Typically I wait till warranty is done before I unleash the master tinkerer in me! So still a year before I can dig in with you!
 

scrampker

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I'm pretty sure the issue is with broadcast packets, and the router not having the same IP as the source. This isn't really losing any IP. It would just be them willing to explain how some of the handshake process works. Anyone can do this on their own with wireshark, etc. If Skydio was more open with their community, I think it would help them. This whole BS range issue has been completely swept under the rug, and they are using the VLOS as the excuse. Complete BS, and everyone knows it. Simply no one is willing to put their feet to the fire. I've had at least 6 conversations with them about how they have mislead all the buyers. Of course those get nowhere. The only way to get any real traction is to just do it myself.

So I'm thinking I'll try a legit repeater next. I definitely have a few other ideas before I actually crack open the drone... which really shouldn't void the warranty unless you start messing with things. They just want to scare people to not look under the hood. Legally I don't think they can void it simply from taking a peak inside.

Also, if you have the $2,500 Pro option, or State Farm, it doesn't really matter. Anything can happen.
 
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scrampker

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So I'm thinking after a bit of digging, that this is what the drone/controller/beacon use to communicate. Just a theory.

IEEE 802.11ah (WiFi HaLow)​

Adopted in May 2017, 802.11ah aimed to use unlicensed frequency bands below 1 GHz. Its purpose was to establish lower energy consumption and create extended-range WLANs that surpassed that of the 2.4/5 GHz bands.

WiFi HaLow operated on the 900 MHz band, allowing it to have a theoretical range of 543m indoors (1,781.5 ft) and data transfer speeds up to 347 Mbps.

Due to its low energy needs, 802.11ah is beneficial for devices trying to communicate over long ranges without using a lot of energy.
 

scrampker

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Yeah so I've been flying my new DJI FPV Drone the last 3 days and I must say, this REALLY reminds you how bad the range is on the Skydio. I can fly it miles away with crystal-clear video in the goggles.

I'd love to see the goggles, long range, and sensor/AI in a single drone. Skydio 3, please. Although, with the snake-oil they've sold us this time, I'm a bit hesitant. I really don't like DJI either. Perhaps DIY is the only way to really go.
 
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