Mesh networking has taken to the skies, through a pilot experiment carried out over the rural Midlands earlier this month.
A group of wireless networking enthusiasts who run a mesh network in South Witham -- a village on the border of Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Rutland -- fitted a mesh access point inside a microlight plane which they then flew over their network.
They found that their flying access point functioned well as node in the mesh network, connecting without problems to whichever ground-based access points were within range. The team were able to exchange data across the mesh and run a voice-over-IP service, and achieved a maximum connection range of 5km.
According to Richard Lander of LocustWorld, whose MeshAP software is used to run South Witham's network, the experiment's success shows the versatility of mesh networking.
"A project in the Australian outback is examining ways of remotely collecting data from unmanned weather stations," explained Lander. "They are hoping to use mesh networking to allow them to fly over the stations and suck up the data."
One of the South Witham team is planning to visit the Australian project, called MakeMeWireless, to pass on expertise.
Lander added that the flying mesh node principle could be useful in the UK in situations where data needs to be collected remotely -- such as wind farms or forestry commission sites.
LocustWorld says its MeshAP allows a number of wireless access points to form into a self-organising network that is resilient enough to cope with external changes, and which can easily be expanded.