Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Incredible! Well done and congrats!


:pray: :ghost: :muscle:

I know the feeling and made up my own little badge to award you to commemorate your achievement. First there are the wishful hopes; then there is the mysterious, scuttling presence of an ethereal messenger; and finally a feeling that you can move mountains (or at least flex your mesh).

Note to self: I was going to do this when it happened for me recently - ummm, I call it the “radio rush” – having set up stations and networks in the past, it’s a thrill to feel the tech work in front of you at last! I should dig back and click that screen shot…couldn’t do it at the time because my other “phone” was 3/4 mile away.:upside_down_face::sweat_smile:

OK, here it is :smirk:

It just seemed like a mile.

BTW, this is roughly the UMESH coverage area.


Congrats on getting HackPGH meshed up.

Does anyone know if there are FAA regs on a tethered balloon floating about 100 feet above the ground?


Yes, there are. A quote from them, “Tethered balloons are considered aircraft, and must be operated in compliance with all construction, certification, airworthiness, registration, and operating regulations applicable to aircraft.”

Lots more here: http://fsims.faa.gov/wdocs/8900.1/v03%20tech%20admin/chapter%2012/03_012_002.htm
And here: https://aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/27468/what-faa-rules-govern-tethered-outdoor-uav-flight


Thanks for sharing! This is great info. Also, on a personal note, very happy to see that the BFA (Balloon Federation of America) exists.


Reading through those, it sounds to me like airworthiness is for manned balloons or balloons designed for free flight. What I had in mind was a small balloon, just big enough to lift a goTenna and the mooring lines, which sounds like that falls under moored balloons, which are exempt from many certifications. The lowest height I’ve seen mentioned was 150 feet AGL, which I’ll be under. From the FAA site:

3-332 MOORED BALLOONS. A moored balloon is a balloon that is secured to the earth by several mooring lines and does not carry a person. The mooring lines prevent the balloon from swinging in the wind and keep it in a stationary position (see Figure 3-61, Moored Balloon). Moored balloon operations must be conducted in accordance with 14 CFR part 101.

A. Part 101.

  1. There are no airworthiness standards for moored balloons operated under part 101 because carriage of passengers aloft was not intended.

  2. Part 101 was not intended to apply to hot air or gas balloons (aircraft) occupied by passengers and crew and operated under part 91. Part 101, § 101.19 requires an automatic rapid deflation device on a moored balloon to protect airspace users from a moored balloon that separates from its moorings. An automatic deflation device operates independently of any human input. It must be designed to deflate the envelope if a balloon separates from the mooring. This requirement does not apply to manned balloon operations under part 91.

Indicates new/changed information.
3) Part 101 subpart B contains the regulatory requirements for operation of a moored balloon. Issuance of any Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for the operation of a moored balloon is accomplished by Airspace Services (AJV). Flight Standards (AFS) offices may not issue a COA for part 101 operations. AFS employees that are contacted by a group or individual that wishes to conduct moored balloon operations under a COA must refer that group or individual to the appropriate Regional Airspace Specialist.


I’ll leave everyone to their own interpretation of each rule and regulation, as I’m not a lawyer. But be cautious, as FAA rules can be more complex than they seem.

I lost track of this link last night, which covers moored balloons and some other similar stuff the FAA regulates.

Here’s some more from that:

Sec. 101.13

Operating limitations.

“(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may operate a moored balloon or kite–
(1) Less than 500 feet from the base of any cloud;
(2) More than 500 feet above the surface of the earth;
(3) From an area where the ground visibility is less than three miles; or
(4) Within five miles of the boundary of any airport.
(b) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to the operation of a balloon or kite below the top of any structure and within 250 feet of it, if that shielded operation does not obscure any lighting on the structure.”

So you can’t just walk away from your moored balloon. It will need to be monitored and reeled down when the clouds close in. That alone makes using moored balloons problematic other than as a temporary or emergency means of getting your goTenna up in the air.


Circling back around to this project, I downloaded the Mesh Developers Toolkit app onto an iPhone 4s I had laying around and paired it to the relay goTenna. I’ve been working with Pete trying to figure out direct-message battery reporting (which appears to work fine between iOS devices, but my Android phone won’t receive the response). So far, using Shout messages works perfectly on both devices, it’s only direct messaging that we’re having issues with receiving on Android.

Anyway, to be able to use the Toolkit app for over-the-mesh battery reporting, an iPhone must be paired full-time to the relay node. This understandably increases the energy demand and requires more solar power. I’ve been doing testing with my two 15 watt solar panels. One of these panels on its own is more than enough to keep a Mesh unit going, but for maximum charge rate on my Voltaic V15, even both panels together struggle to get the input side of my converter above 5 volts (can’t overcome the current draw), but if I unplug the V15 for a second and plug it back in, the input side runs at nearly VOC of the panels (18-19 volts), allowing the V15 to pull a full 1 amp at 5 volts. If I don’t intervene and allow the panels to reach 18 volts, the V15 tops out at .6 amps.

Given that I will also need to keep an iPhone charged alongside the Mesh, 50 watts of solar ought to do it (you called it, @MetaMeshWC). For testing, I have the two 15 watt panels in parallel feeding a 1 Farad capacitor, an adjustable DC-DC buck converter, the V15 battery pack, and a USB hub to allow charging of both devices. What I had in mind for the final design was several capacitors in parallel (maybe 6 Farads total) between the 50 watt panel and converter, and a V44 pack to get dual USB ports. The capacitors would allow maximum use of brief bursts of sunlight on cloudy days (power is dumped into them as the V44 pulls a steady current). Performance won’t be improved much on a clear, sunny day, but it should help out on cloudy days with occasional breaks of sunlight.


Riding around Pittsburgh. Shout out.


Take two for the stationary relay. I’m going to give the 3.5 watt Voltaic panel another chance, but this time I removed the V15 battery and will go direct to the goTenna through a regulator.

The initial charge looks promising, having gone from 69% to 92% in an hour, through a window with temporary shading. With the shading, the goTenna was pulling 100 mA, full sun at 300 mA, 4.2 volts input. It ought to do a bit better when it is outside and free of the house window filtering some energy.


The 3.5 watt should work well in summer. You’ll be depending on the internal battery for overnight, I take it?

Given Pittsburgh is basically the same latitude as Urbana, winter will be the hard part. The 3.5 watt panel just didn’t cut it in the wintry gloom here. But plenty of time to resolve that issue.

I will note the Voltaic does offer the wiring to easily and inexpensively hookup pairs of panels. I started with the 2 W ones, went to 3.5, then I just gave in to my tendencies toward technological overkill and went with the 6 watt panel and didn’t have any more issues with that. Went back and combined pairs of 2 and 3.5 W panels to total 5.5 W in reworking the nodes I had up at that point. Works just like the 6 W ones for our purposes


Yes, internal battery for overnight. It’s in relay mode, so no Bluetooth drain. For the last month, I’ve been testing the relay to make sure it stays on. The few times I’ve checked the morning charge, it usually has been around 65% before starting the day’s charge.

This ought to be good enough for the summer. I hope to have a better setup for the winter onwards: higher and more powerful.


Range tests show about the same as before, maybe a little better as I was able to get the relay 3-4 feet higher this time.


I most likely set a personal record today of 8.29 miles. The message, however, relayed through two nodes when I was only expecting one. What I don’t know is if there was someone else in between me and the relay or, most likely, it had to also relay through my car unit to hit the receiving unit.


Nice! That’s really cool! But from where to where did you send the message?


Munntown road, west of Venetia, back to my relay on Route 40.


So far, so good. Tested the relay yesterday morning and it is still working with just a 3.5 watt panel feeding the Mesh unit. 17 Day uptime.


The test is here. All of next week is supposed to rain.



We got a GoTenna Mesh 4 pack, and I have one set up as a relay at Bakery Square, and another at as a relay at our house. So far we have only been seeing messages from each other, but I was able to send messages from Bakery Square to our house which is a .5 mile distance.

Would be fun to get to know some other mesh networking enthusiasts =)


Welcome. Quite a nice mesh network forming downtown.

I’ve been trying to find some good sites south of the city, but the terrain sure is a challenge.