Low cost ESP32 based LoRa capable boards have been available from marketplaces like Aliexpress for some time now. They typically include features such as LoRa, WiFi or Bluetooth and GPS all on a PCB board with small screen and battery holder for mobile use. LoRa is a modern IoT communications protocol that is designed to be operated with low power, and in a networked mesh-way for extended range. One application of this hardware is to use it as a mesh based text messaging system, using the Meshtastic firmware. This might be useful for teams of hikers, pilots, or skiiers who operate in remote areas without cell phone reception.
In his latest video Matthew from the Tech Minds YouTube channel shows how to install and use the Meshtastic firmware on a TTGO board. He uses the alpha firmware which has a web app, allowing users to send text messages through a web based GUI that users can connect to locally via WiFi.
OFF-GRID LORA Radio Mesh Text Messaging - Meshtastic
Earlier in August we posted about radiosondy.info and the MySondy radiosonde receiver. Radiosondy.info is an internet service that aggregates radiosonde weather balloon data received and decoded by RTL-SDR users all over the world. MySondy is a cheap TTGO LoRa receiver that is modified with custom firmware and combined with a companion Android app in order to create a portable radiosonde receiver. A radiosonde is a small sensor and radio package normally attached to a weather balloon. Meteorological agencies around the world typically launch two balloons a day from several locations to gather data for weather prediction. With cheap hardware like an RTL-SDR and the right decoding software it is possible to receive weather and GPS data from the weather balloons launched in your area.
Over on his popular YouTube channel, Andreas Spiess "the guy with the Swiss accent" has uploaded a video featuring the RadioSondy and the MySondy receiver projects. In the video Andreas first explains what a radiosonde is, and who launches them. He goes on to show the RadioSondy website and how to track balloons on it. He then shows the portable MySondy receiver for tracking radiosondes, before finally showing how to set up a permanent fixed ground station with RTL-SDR and Raspberry Pi for contributing to the RadioSondy aggregation website.
In amongst the demonstrations he also goes on several hunts for weather balloons that have landed near him, ultimately recovering two radiosondes and one intact balloon. The radiosondes were initially tracked with the RadioSondy fixed RTL-SDR ground stations, then when in the vicinity of the landed balloon pinpointed and found with the MySondy hardware.
#360 Tracking and Chasing Weather Balloons with TTGO LoRa Board and Raspberry Pi. Fun and Adventure
A radiosonde is a small sensor and radio package normally attached to a weather balloon. Meteorological agencies around the world typically launch two balloons a day from several locations to gather data for weather prediction. We have featured radiosondes several times on this blog as it is easy to use an RTL-SDR and computer to receive and decode their signals, which can used to hunt down the fallen sonde, or to receive the weather telemetry data.
Recently RTL-SDR.COM reader António submitted a link to an interesting project called "MySondy" which is created by Mirko Dalmonte (IZ4PNN). MySondy is custom firmware for TTGO Lora32 433 MHz boards which allows them to be turned into a radiosonde tracker. A TTGO is a cheap ~US$20 LoRa32 IoT dev board with an onboard WiFi + Bluetooth enabled ESP32 microcontroller and OLED display. Some of the slightly higher priced units come with a built in GPS receiver as well. With the custom firmware it is capable of receiving and decoding common radiosonde protocols such as RS41, M10, RS92 and DFM.
There is also an Android App called MySondy Go and MySondy FINDER which connect to the TTGO via Bluetooth. This app plots the location of the radiosonde on a map, allowing you to easily follow and track down the balloon. You can also go to mysondy.altervista.org to see public MySondy stations. Clicking on a blinking dot will connect you with the MySondy server, allowing you to see tracked sondes.
The firmware and software appear to be fairly new, so there isn't much information about this that we could find just yet. Also we note that all manuals and information about the project is written in Italian, except for a French magazine article (pdf) that António sent us to upload.
We note that these TTGO ESP32 LoRa boards are quite interesting by themselves, with other custom firmware available to do things like create a Paxcounter which counts the number of mobile devices in an area via WiFi and Bluetooth signals, and the ability to use them as a GPS enabled Mesh network based text message radio.