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Raptor30

using cell phones for unlimited range

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...what is the cell reception like at altitude?

I understand that cell coverage is optimized to efficiently cover the ground area served by the local cell towers. Altitude coverage is not expected, so little is done to ensure operation above the served area. So, reliable connections will depend on the area, equipment used, and a bit of luck.

These links have some practical data:

http://members.fortunecity.com/911/septemb...cell-phones.htm

http://911research.wtc7.net/planes/analysi...is/cellexp.html

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I've used my cell phone from a private plane and the reception was pretty good. It was over a pretty populated area.

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yup, the antennas on cell towers are not designed for anything but ground signals not to mention cell phones are just extremely complicated radios that transmit at the power of about half a watt.

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I find the possibility of using cell phones fascinating. My goal is to build and fly a rather long distance UAV, perhaps a couple thousand miles. I'm mostly still in the learning and equipment gathering stage. I just recently got my Ham license thinking it might be useful. However, for long distances and small transmitter sizes, such as could be fit into the aircraft, it really doesn't look like much of a solution.

I talked to some Hams about it and all they could recommend was APRS. That's fine, I'm sure I'll use it as a backup, but it's not really what I'm looking for. Cellular technology seems to fit the bill much better.

Unlike Raptor I wouldn't need to actually control the craft, it could take care of that itself. The primary need I have for long distance comms is to get robust telemetry data back from the aircraft, and occasionally to upload data. The uploads may be data files of a few hundred k in size: for example, I'd like to upload up-to-date weather and wind info so the on-board flight computer can calculate the most efficient path to the objective.

A little down-time here and there would probably be ok: the telemetry isn't strictly necessary, and the data uploads wouldn't be extremely time sensitive.

So basically what you're saying I need is a cell phone with a modem? Can these modems easily interface with a PC, such as through a serial port? I have a PC104 computer that's going in the aircraft that would need to be hooked up to the cell phone somehow. If the phone simply looked like a modem to the PC, that would be great.

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Oh yeah, and I'll need to get another plan... I have T-Mobile and I get lousy reception in my own apartment :ph34r:

The good thing is, most plans now have free calling between members on the same plan. So, all I'd need is two phones on the same plan and I'd get basically free communication! Although my phone usually knocks me off if I've been on for a certain amount of time, sometimes an hour, sometimes two hours. If that happens it would just have to be another accepted moment of brief interruption.

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We've been using Siemens GSM modem boards to send data from industrial equipment that is installed far away from phone lines. We only send updates about once a week, and use SMS, but the boards'll work at 9600bps, and talk standard RS232. I've had no trouble getting the boards to talk to a PIC (for example).

Oh, and I have no relationship with Siemens other than buying their boards.

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