WiFi - Sure-Path GPS Boat Lane Tracking

Boat Lane Tracking
Sure-Path
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WiFi System & Configuration
In cases where a lake site has poor or non-existent cell coverage, it is possible to setup WiFi coverage of the lake such that the Base phone and Rover phone can communicate via a "local network".

This page describes equipment and a configuration which we have found works in our own tests and which can form the basis of a system which includes the judging area so that Sure-Path can also be integrated successfully into a tournament.

The equipment we have tested is primarily from the manufacturer Ubiquiti. They are providors of high quality WiFi units used widely in the professional and domestic markets and are very competitively priced. Of course, other manufacturers could be used but we have not tested them ourselves. We certainly provide no warranty that any particular kit is fit for purpose. We are just saying that in our own tests, it worked for us.

The two main units on which the shore to boat link is done are:
  • On shore: Ubiquiti NanoBeam 5G AC Gen2
  • In the boat: Ubiquiti Bullet AC coupled with the airMax Omni AMO-5G10 antenna.

Note that, such a system is NOT plug and play. Some significant knowledge of networks, IP addressing and DHCP is required in order to configure the system sensibly and avoid unreliability during tournament. In particular, we ran into difficulties setting up the Bullet AC as the Ubiquiti Android app normally used to configure AC devices, did not work properly with the Bullet. It worked brilliantly with the NanoBeam AC however. In the case of the Bullet, we had to resort to connecting a laptop to the RJ45 connector and use the web configuration utility. More on that later.

The design criteria we wanted to satisfy were:
  1. Independence of mains electricity if required.
  2. Portability: a system that could be packed into the trunk of a car and set up at a site within 1 hour.
  3. Minimum impact on space etc in the boat. There's enough there already when kitted out for tournament.

The two main Ubiquiti units are from the "AC" range and therefore support 350+MB data rates. They are therefore quite capable of HD video transmission. Obviously this bandwidth is not required for Sure-Path but could be a major consideration if you want to use the link for transmitting boat video back to shore on the same link.

Additional items required are:
  • GL iNet 750M travel router (this is used to provide a DHCP service as well as a connection point for the Sure-Path base phone  )
  • TP Link nano router, model TL-WR802N (this is used in the boat for the Sure-Path phone to gain access to the WiFi link. It is used as an access point, not a router)
  • 2 x battery power sourced POE inserters made by Tycon Systems
  • 2 x batteries (12 volt or 5V depending on choice of POE inserter)
  • Cat 5/6 ethernet cables.

System diagram:


The "Long Range WiFi Link" is effectively provided by the NanoBeam being pointed along the length of the slalom/jump course. The NanoBeam is highly directional and therefore some care should be taken in mounting it correctly. That said, we found that the beam was still broad enough for the boat to go to the extremes of the slalom course and signal would only get weak/lost if line of sight was lost. Indeed, the boat was even able to go sideways and behind the NanoBeam unit without losing connection. The most likely place to lose connection is if the boat goes round a turning island at the end of the lake furthest away from the NanoBeam unit. However, we found that connection picked up very quickly when line of sight was available again and Sure-Path did not seem too upset by the brief interruptions.

Normally long range WiFi links use two units which are both directional and pointed at each other. In our case however, we decided to use an omni-directional device in the boat since then we did not need to maintain an antenna in the boat always pointing back at the NanoBeam. It was very much an experiment as to whether the Bullet and omni antenna would be powerful enough at the distances involved but in fact it passed with flying colours.

To power the Ubiquiti units, we used POE injectors from Tycon Systems. They do a series of POE injectors which can be powered from 12V or 5V USB. We used some 26,000mAH USB power packs for our trials. We haven't done a run to failure test yet, but we would estimate that one of these power packs will supply a Ubiquiti unit plus one of the small TP Link/GLiNet WiFi access points for at least 8 hours.

The diagram shows a minimum setup that allows Sure-Path to operate in isolation of anything else such as internet, judging area etc. If you wished to extend the setup further, then the point of connection to this setup would be from the GLiNet router. There are two LAN ports on the GLiNet unit. One is connected to the NanoBeam leaving one free for extending the network. The extension could be an ethernet cable (up to 100 metres for reliability) or an ethernet lead to a second NanoBeam mounted and pointed to a suitable Ubiquiti receiving device at the judging area.

It is important to understand the role of the GLiNet unit and in particular its function as a DHCP server. When designing your network, you must consider what devices will need a DHCP IP address allocated to them and the visibility of the DHCP server on the network, when wireless sections of the network are not operating.

Below are the settings for each device in the above diagram.

NanoBeam AC (192.168.1.10)
All the Ubiquiti AC units feature a separate WiFi radio by which the Android app can connect to and configure the device. In the case of our NanoBeam AC, the SSID of this radio was NBE-5AC-Gen2:E063DAD04CC2. We downloaded the Ubiquiti app UNMS from the Play Store and connected the phone WiFi to the NanoBeam's SSID. The app found the device quickly and connected to it using the default username and password ("ubnt" and "ubnt").

Once connected to the device, click the "spanner" icon at the top right to enter configuration mode.

Configuration

  • Network Tab:
    • Network Role: Bridge
    • Management Network Settings:
      • IP Address: 192.168.1.10 (Static)
      • Netmask: 255.255.255.0
      • Gateway IP: 192.168.1.1
      • Primary DNS IP: 8.8.8.8 (Not really relevant)
      • Secondary DNS IP: 8.8.8.8 (Not really relevant)
      • MTU: 1500
      • STP: Off
      • Management VLAN: Off
      • Auto IP Aliasing: On

  • Wireless Tab
    • Basic Settings:
      • Wireless Mode: AP PTMP airMAX Mixed
      • SSID: Whatever you like
      • Country: UK
      • Channel Width: 40MHz
      • Center Frequency: Auto
      • Frequency List: Off
      • Antenna: NBE-5AC-G2-19dBi (Default, Built in)
      • Calculate EIRP Limit: On
      • Output power: 2
      • Auto Adjust Distance: On
      • Max TX Rate: Auto
    • Wireless Security:
      • Security: WPA2-AES
      • WPA Authentication: Personal (PSK)
      • WPA Preshared Key: Whatever you choose. Make a note so that the Bullet AC can be set correctly
    • Advanced:
      • Aggregation Frames: 32 (Default)


Bullet AC (192.168.1.20)
The Bullet AC has a dedicated management WiFi radio just like the NanoBeam. However, we found that after discovering the device in the UNMS app and entering configuration mode, whenever we tried to change any setting, an error would be reported along the lines of "Failure to set main frequency". Eventually we plugged the Bullet directly into a PC via the RJ45 ethernet port. By default, on power up, the Bullet initially tries to obtain an IP address from a DHCP server if it is exists. If this cannot be done, then it reverts to 192.168.1.20. Knowing this, you can launch a browser on the PC and point it to that IP address which opens the login page to the device's management console. The default username and password are "ubnt" and "ubnt". Obviously, it is a good idea to change this after logging in the first time.

Thinking that the earlier problems with the UNMS app was a mismatch between the current app and the Bullet's firmware (dated from 2017), we updated the firmware to the current version but still no joy.

Configuration

  • Network:
      • Network Mode: Bridge
      • Management IP Address: Static
      • IP Address: 192.168.1.20
      • NETMASK: 255.255.255.0
      • STP: Off
      • Management VLan: Off
      • Auto IP Aliasing: On
      • DHCP Option 82: Off
      • IPV6: Off

  • Wireless:
    • Basic Wireless Settings:
      • Access Point: Off
      • PTP Mode: Off
      • Country: UK
      • Antenna: Custom
      • Antenna Gain: 10dBi
      • Cable Loss: 2dB
      • Output Power: 12 dBm (but this varies depending on local regulations)
      • Auto Adjust Distance: On
      • Band: 5GHz
      • Channel Width: 20/40MHz
      • SSID: Whatever you chose for the NanoBeam
      • Lock to AP MAC: blank
    • Wireless Security:
      • WPA2 Security: Personal
      • WPA2 Preshared Key: Whatever you chose for the NanoBeam
    • Advanced:
      • Automatic Power Control: On
      • AMPDU: 32 (default)
      • AMSDU: On
      • Airmax Station Priority: Base
      • Max TX Data Rate: Auto
      • Data Rate Module: Default
      • Calculate EIRP Limit: On
      • Sensitivity Threshold: Off
      • Automatic Power Control: On

GLiNet 750M Travel Router (192.168.1.1)
From a networking point of view, the GLiNet unit is the heart of the network. It is the central point through which all communication takes place and most importantly of all, it provides a DHCP service to devices that need it, primarily the two Sure-Path phones. The phones could be allocated fixed IP addresses like most of the other devices, but this is inconvenient, especially if the phones will be used in mixed environments and you don't want to have to reconfigure the network settings every time you go to another location.

To configure the GLiNet, power the unit up from a suitable USB power source and wait for its WiFi to start up. The SSID is printed on the base of the unit as is the default password "goodlife".

Connect your PC/laptop to the unit and point a browser to http://192.168.8.1. On first connection, you will be prompted to supply an admin password which will be required every time you wish to access the configuration page.

Configuration

  • WIRELESS: Note that the GLiNet unit supports 2.4G and 5G. Either can be turned off. 2.4G gives better range but is more prone to interference. 5G has less range but is less prone to interference and supports higher bandwidth. In our setup however, it is only the Sure-Path base phone which will use the GLiNet's WiFi and this does not need high data rates. Therefore the choice of 2.4G or 5G is really down to how far away from the unit will the base phone be sited. We used 5G for the tests.

    • 2.4G tab
      • Enabled: No
    • 5G tab
      • Enabled: Yes
      • All other settings: left at their default setting

  • MORE SETTINGS:
    • Network Mode: Router (this also enables the DHCP server)
    • LAN IP: 192.168.1.1
    • Start IP Address: 192.168.1.100 (start of DHCP address pool)
    • End IP Address: 192.168.1.249 (end of DHCP address pool)


TP Link TL-WR802N (192.168.1.5)
Although capable of being a network router, the TP Link unit is used purely as an access point in our network. It has a single RJ45 WAN/LAN port which acts as a LAN port when in Access Point mode (it would be a WAN port if it were in Router mode). In our setup, it is connected to the Bullet AC via a standard RJ45 ethernet lead and gives the Sure-Path rover phone a link to the main Ubiquiti long range link to the shore based NanoBeam AC.

Power the TL-WR802N unit up and follow the manufacturer's instructions on connecting your PC to the unit's configuration console.

Configuration

Do in the following order:

  • Operation Mode:
    • Select an Operation Mode: Access Point (the device will reboot).
    • After doing this, your PC will no longer get a DHCP allocated IP address when connecting to the TP Link unit. Set your WiFi IP address manually to one that is in the correct range (eg 192.168.0.3).

    • Network:
      • LAN Type: Static IP
      • IP Address: 192.168.1.5
      • Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.0
      • Gateway: 192.168.1.1
      • Again after doing this, set your PC's WiFi IP address to one in the correct range (eg 192.168.1.3).

    • Wireless:
      • Basic Settings:
        • Wireless: Enable
        • Wireless Network Name: Your choice. We used "sure-path-boat"
        • Mode: 11bgn mixed
        • Channel: Auto
        • Channel Width: Auto
        • Enable SSID Broadcast: Checked
      • Wireless Security Settings
        • We left these at the factory default (WPA2-PSK) and the Wireless password is printed on the bottom of the unit.

    • DHCP
      • DHCP Settings:
        • DHCP Server: Disable


    Sure-Path Base Phone
    In the Sure-Path base phone:

    • Connect the phone's WiFi to the GL iNet's SSID.
    • In the Sure-Path base phone app:
      • Before connecting to the base receiver, open the main menu and set Base Mode to "Server (Local WiFi)".
      • Connect to the base receiver as usual.
      • Note the IP address shown in the message in the lower half of the screen. You will need this to configure the rover phone.
      • Note that only the upper progress bar will animate. The lower progress bar will animate once a rover phone connects to the base phone via the local WiFi network.


    Sure-Path Rover Phone
    In the Sure-Path rover phone app:

    • Before connecting to the rover receiver, open the main menu and select "GPS & Network Settings"
    • Set "Server URL" to be the IP address displayed in the base phone app.
    • Connect to the rover receiver in the usual way.
    • After the rover has connected, check on the base phone that both upper and lower progress bars are animating in the usual way.

    Sure-Path
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