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Rapidly Deployable Wireless Networks

The CRCnet project has demonstrated the potential of wireless networks to enable the rapid deployment of temporary networks. These networks could be used in anything from a farmer wanting to monitor an event at the far end of a farm through to the use by civil defence in the event of a natural disaster

The goal of this project is to develop a set of wireless nodes and methodology that would enable a moderate sized wireless network to be deployed in a couple of hours using minimal levels of expertise. Rapid deploy nodes could either be used as a repeater between other nodes in a network or provide WiFi access within an area. The project is made up of two major components: the packaging of hardware into a suitable form for rapid deployment and the development of software to minimise the effort and expertise necessary for rapid deployment of a wireless network.

We are currently developing several different node types ranging from a portable node that could be backpacked into a remote site through to a trailer based unit. Each of the nodes is being designed to be fully self contained including all of the equipment necessary to setup, configure and run the node.

The node presents the user with a simple user interface comprising of a 4 line by 20 character LCD display and four buttons. The LCD display is easily viewable in direct sunlight. Using this interface the user is guided through a three step process to set up a link. The three steps include; select the interface to configure, select from a list of visible nodes the node to connect to and perform a link test to enable the antenna to be pointed in the correct direction. Once the link has been setup the system automatically sets up IP addressing and routing so that the node can forward packets to other nodes in the system. It will also setup local interfaces (including DHCP) on the node so that local users can connect and start using the network.