With the rise of novel wireless technologies, we surprise ourselves over and over again of what these technologies are capable of. LoRa has been around now for more than 2 years and people all over the planet are excited about its immense distance it can bridge while consuming extremely little energy.
During the past two years, many have tried to set world records on the maximum distance a data packet can travel. Ideal circumstances are found by climbing high buildings, mountains, or by releasing heliums balloon up in the air reaching for higher altitudes. Andreas Spiess from Switzerland became famous for his ground to ground connection of 212 km and the Dutch company SODAQ started with releasing helium balloons, resulting in a stunning 354 km from an altitude of almost 15 km.
On Saturday 26th of August, a weather balloon was launched during the Koppelting event, an annual grassroots festival about peer production and free/libre alternatives for society, in Amersfoort, The Netherlands. In connection with the citizen science project Meet je stad!, we wanted to investigate what we could measure higher up in the atmosphere using simple and cheap sensors. Additionally, we tested a new bridge between The Things Network and habhub.org - a high-altitude balloon tracking site - written by Bertrik Sikken (TTNHABBridge).
The sounding balloon was filled with helium and a small, lightweight node connected to The Things Network was attached. Apart from the LoRa radio, antenna and GPS module, a pressure, temperature, luminosity, infrared thermopile and UV-A/B light sensor were attached. It took the balloon almost 3 hours to ascend to an altitude of 38.772 km (24.1 miles, or 127204.7 feet). At this height, a single packet sent from the node was received by 148 different gateways connected to The Things Network. One of the gateways reached during the fight is located in Wrocław, Poland. By then, the balloon was flying over Osterwald in Germany, just across the German border from The Netherlands. A distance of 702.676km was reached by using only 25mW (14dBm) of transmitting power, roughly 40 times smaller than a mobile phone can use. Find it hard to believe? Have a look at the results and raw data (with 498 data points in total).
To make sure the gateway was actually located at the right coordinates, the antenna was tracked down. As it turns out, it exists! A Kerlink, owned by the company Thaumatec. The gateway is located at 30 meters height, in the south eastern part of Wrocław.
We invite you all to try beating this record. Until someone does, 702.676 km stands!
Thomas Telkamp & Laurens Slats
Special thanks to:
Bertrik Sikken for real-time forwarding the telemetry data to the high-altitude balloon tracker site at https://tracker.habhub.org. Bartosz Wojciechowski for installing the gateway in such an amazing location. JP Meijers for mapping the node on ttnmapper.org