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ASIAir Pro signal through dense forest

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#1 Ken K Astro

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Posted 23 June 2021 - 06:39 PM

Hi, folks - I am new to astrophotography and would value your input on something. I have access to a cabin in a very dark area, but (because the cabin is surrounded by trees) will need to do my imaging from a meadow that is 540 feet (165 meters) from the cabin. Unfortunately for me, about 2/3's of that distance is fairly dense forest. The cabin itself has wifi.

 

If possible, I would like to set up my gear and set up Autorun in my ASIAir Pro in the meadow and then head back to the cabin and be able to monitor things via the ASIAir Pro software using the cabin's wifi. I am completely ignorant on this, but I have two possibilities in mind and am wondering whether either of these is even workable and/or preferable in light of the forest.

  • Option one is some type of wifi extender setup that could extend the wifi signal from the ASIAir Pro through that much forest (at 2.4ghz?). I came across some Ubiquiti extenders that can go through thick forest, but I am not sure if on a practical level this would work at that distance. I am not sure if the 2.4 ghz signal required would be workable either as I saw some videos indicate 900ghz should be used.
  • Option two is to temporarily drag outdoor waterproof shielded ethernet cable through the forest each time I am out at the cabin imaging. I understand that 100 meters is the max distance for a signal through an ethernet cable but that there are USB-powered switches (powered by battery or solar pack) that would allow me to connect two long cables together and extend the distance of the signal. I assume one end of the ethernet cable would go into the ASIAir and the other into the cabin wifi router.

For either option, I assume that I would then use Station Mode in the ASIAir software to use the cabin's wifi.  I haven't used Station Mode yet so it is possible I am misunderstanding something there.

 

Are either of these workable or is there another option out there that I am not aware of?  Obviously, the first option is more desirable although cost might be a factor.  Option 2 is about $275 as far as I can tell. 

 

Your advice is appreciated! Thanks!

 

Ken

 



#2 LuscombeFlyer

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Posted 23 June 2021 - 06:55 PM

I'm not sure that there's big advantage to either the 5GHz or 2.4GHz bands. I'd find a Wi-Fi router or extender with a high-gain directional antenna that you can mount outside the cabin and pointed towards your setup. A couple hundred meters should be OK.

 

Here's one that might work for you: https://www.amazon.c...customerReviews


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#3 Ken K Astro

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Posted 23 June 2021 - 07:05 PM

I'm not sure that there's big advantage to either the 5GHz or 2.4GHz bands. I'd find a Wi-Fi router or extender with a high-gain directional antenna that you can mount outside the cabin and pointed towards your setup. A couple hundred meters should be OK.

 

Here's one that might work for you: https://www.amazon.c...customerReviews

Thanks for the input -- I'll look into this one.



#4 NearVision

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Posted 23 June 2021 - 07:45 PM

The antenna linked to will only work if your WIFI router has an external antenna that you can unplug. Even if you can connect this antenna I don't think 15db gain will be enough to get through the trees. A lot of this will depend on what kind of trees and terrain are in the way between the house and setup in the field.

 

Are you looking at fairly flat terrain with no hills?

What kind of trees and other growth are in the path? If there are mostly tall hardwoods with few low branches and little tall ground  cover so that you only have tree trunks from the ground to 15 feet plus or is there a lot of evergreen/spruce/low branches so that you have a much more solid wall to penetrate. If you have sightlines where you can see some of the house between trees then you will have a much easier time connecting. With most RF signals (WIFI) the signal doesn't go through things very well and usually gets from point A to point B by bouncing around from wall to wall or thing to thing until it gets there. And, the higher frequency usually penetrates less. The 2.4GHz band usually carries farther but not always.

 

Unless you want to run a cable with a switch every time I think the Ubiquity WIFI systems would be your best bet. I think the company offers some planning services to help you with the layout so that you don't over-spend or under-perform. There is another topic here on Cloudynights in the last few months with similar distance limits that you might want to look at. He went with Ubiquity and had a good signal.

 

Either way, cable or WIFI, you are probably looking at a few hundred dollars to get setup with something that works reliably. Something else to keep in mind is that the ASIAir has a somewhat limited range WIFI system so you will need a stronger signal to it and stronger receiver from it meaning that the WIFI router/repeater will need to be closer to it than the house.

 

Another option might by a hybrid system where you run a cable from the house as far as possible (300 feet approx.) and then have a WIFI router for the rest of the distance to the scope. It will depend on how much is really in the way between the house and scope.


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#5 Ken K Astro

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Posted 23 June 2021 - 08:21 PM

The antenna linked to will only work if your WIFI router has an external antenna that you can unplug. Even if you can connect this antenna I don't think 15db gain will be enough to get through the trees. A lot of this will depend on what kind of trees and terrain are in the way between the house and setup in the field.

 

Are you looking at fairly flat terrain with no hills?

What kind of trees and other growth are in the path? If there are mostly tall hardwoods with few low branches and little tall ground  cover so that you only have tree trunks from the ground to 15 feet plus or is there a lot of evergreen/spruce/low branches so that you have a much more solid wall to penetrate. If you have sightlines where you can see some of the house between trees then you will have a much easier time connecting. With most RF signals (WIFI) the signal doesn't go through things very well and usually gets from point A to point B by bouncing around from wall to wall or thing to thing until it gets there. And, the higher frequency usually penetrates less. The 2.4GHz band usually carries farther but not always.

 

Unless you want to run a cable with a switch every time I think the Ubiquity WIFI systems would be your best bet. I think the company offers some planning services to help you with the layout so that you don't over-spend or under-perform. There is another topic here on Cloudynights in the last few months with similar distance limits that you might want to look at. He went with Ubiquity and had a good signal.

 

Either way, cable or WIFI, you are probably looking at a few hundred dollars to get setup with something that works reliably. Something else to keep in mind is that the ASIAir has a somewhat limited range WIFI system so you will need a stronger signal to it and stronger receiver from it meaning that the WIFI router/repeater will need to be closer to it than the house.

 

Another option might by a hybrid system where you run a cable from the house as far as possible (300 feet approx.) and then have a WIFI router for the rest of the distance to the scope. It will depend on how much is really in the way between the house and scope.

Thanks so much for the detailed response. As to your questions on terrain and trees, it is "chaos".  Some lower leaves and brush as well as taller tree trunks.  All in all, I would say "fairly dense" but not jungle-like.  There is definitely no line of sight.  I wouldn't call it flat terrain... it is a bit uneven but not hilly and there would be no hills or mounds getting in the way. I will have a look for the post you referred to and reach out to the Ubiquity folks. Again, I appreciate you taking the time to put together the helpful response. 



#6 davidparks

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Posted 24 June 2021 - 08:15 AM

There is a significant difference in image loading times between 2.4 and 5ghz bands with ASIAIR, particularly if using a sizeable sensor in your camera.   Use 5ghz if you can.  Station Mode of ASIAIR will force it into the 2.4ghz mode, just be aware.  You can use a WiFi Extender to extend the ASIAIR wireless signal, preserving the 5ghz mode, connecting your iOS/Android device to the extended ASIAIR signal  (this would not use your cabin wifi at all).  You can extend your cabin wifi and connect ASIAIR to it via station mode, forcing it into 2.4ghz, but gaining... concurrent internet service for your iOS/Android device?  Personally I would drag the ethernet cable, just plug it in to ASIAIR, this does NOT need Station Mode.  ASIAIR will automatically pickup an IP Address from your router, and the ASIAIR App on your iOS/Android device will find and connect to it just fine, and retain any internet or other service on your cabin wifi.  This is also the fastest image download experience.

 

Good Luck!


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#7 scopewizard

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Posted 24 June 2021 - 09:01 AM

I would use one of these units.

 

QW CPE5450 Wireless Bridge Kit,

5GHz 450Mbps 802.11ac Pre-configured CPE Kit, 3KM Max. Range Indoor & Outdoor Point to Point Client Bridge, Wireless Access Point【2-Pack】

 

It is not a WIFI extender but an ethernet extender over the air. So the ethernet from your ASIAIR connect to one of these while at the other unit you connect an ethernet cable to a router ethernet plug (Possibly WIFI router).

 

These have a very long range.


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#8 btschumy

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Posted 24 June 2021 - 09:23 AM

My understanding is that 2.4 GHz has a greater range than does 5 GHz, at the expense of slower data rates.  So if you are having range problems, try the 2.4 GHz option.


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#9 kel123

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Posted 24 June 2021 - 10:03 AM

This is why I love this hobby. Folks go through so much trouble to make things happen. Dragging a cable some 165 meters through a dense forest each time you want to image, takes the cake in terms of setup and tear down times . And I thought setting and tearing down in front of the house is a chore. I love your spirit.

However, I want to suggest another option but that will need you to put aside the Asiair.

How about using Stellarmate instead?. It is even more cable than Asiair. The only reason Asiair is more common is because folks feel that the interface is simpler.

With Stellarmate, you can control your rig remotely. All you need to do is connect it to the internet at the rig, then control and monitor from your home or anywhere else.

As a bonus, unlike Asiair, Stellarmate is compatible with a wide range of equipment and devices and it is less expensive than Asiair.

If you already own a raspberry pi, all you need do is buy a Stellarmate OS for $50 and load it. Otherwise, you can purchase a prepackaged one like Asiair from any of the vendors. Still less expensive than Asiair, yet more powerful.

Asiair interface is only less clustered because it does only few things. Stellarmate does a whole lot of things, including control of remote observatory domes. However, just use the controls you need and leave the rest.

If I were in your shoes, I will follow that path (pun intended). It is actually the least expensive option.
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#10 t-ara-fan

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Posted 24 June 2021 - 12:45 PM

My understanding is that 2.4 GHz has a greater range than does 5 GHz, at the expense of slower data rates.  So if you are having range problems, try the 2.4 GHz option.

Also, 2.4GHz is better at penetrating objects that are in they way.  But that forest sounds pretty challenging.

 

My sense is that doing a bunch of work with Yagi antennae will only get a few hundred kBytes per second throughput if that.  Probably nothing.

 

OP your option 2 will definitely work. Fancy waterproof direct-burial might(?) be 3x the price of cheapo regular cable.  Consider that (a) a chipmunk might chew the cables once in a while and (b) if you are out in cold weather the cable PVC sheathing could shatter when you flex it.  I would just get a couple 100m cheapo cables, and one more as a spare.  

 

Put the switch and battery in the middle in a  plastic bin to protect it from dew etc.


Edited by t-ara-fan, 24 June 2021 - 12:49 PM.

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#11 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 24 June 2021 - 01:42 PM

RF signals in the "GHz" range don't travel well through things that are wet.  Trees with lots of foliage and concrete are especially bad.  Also there needs to be a line-of-sight path, so no hills in the way.  2.4 ghz is probably better than 5 ghz, but neither will run 165m through a dense forest without a lot of help.

 

You might get some signal through if you put a strong antenna at both ends, and carefully line them up.  These need to be "beam" antennas - Yagi, "BBQ Grill" dish, high gain flat panels, etc.  Something in the 15-20dbi range might work.  The only way to know is to try it.  Do be aware of seasonal changes along the path; you might get better results in the winter if there are a lot of deciduous plants.  In a previous life, testing long range wifi links a few decades ago, I found that weather (e.g. rain) wasn't a big factor at 2.4 ghz.  On the positive side, a machete can help.  (Half-smiley there...)

 

The only thing really going for you is that the potential for interference sources is likely low.  I've often had better results on 5 ghz over 2.4 ghz in spite of the physics, because of interference on the lower band.  It's "shared" with microwave ovens, Bluetooth, and an assortment of other things, but in your situation that hopefully shouldn't be a problem.  Be sure to pick a clear channel, with no other stations on it.  Channels 1,6, and 11 are the best, as they don't overlap with each other.  The others are wedged in between and generally make a mess of things.  They were included for what appears to be marketing purposes (more channels = better!).  Note how the channels are numbered on the 5 ghz bands, leaving out the overlapping ones...  Yeah, they learned something there.

 

Also, don't expect massive throughput.  This will be a "USB 1.1 speed" sort of arrangement.  Probably good enough for a remote desktop, but not much else.  File transfer will be relatively slow.  The big numbers modern WiFi gets are partly the result of modern modulation schemes (good), but also by making use of multi-path for facilitating multiple streams, which break down past about 100'.  "2x2" and above only work inside a building, at relatively close range.

 

Bottom line, if you can run 2 segments of Cat-6 Ethernet with a powered switch at the half-way point, that will be massively better.


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#12 Ken K Astro

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Posted 24 June 2021 - 02:04 PM

This is why I love this hobby. Folks go through so much trouble to make things happen. Dragging a cable some 165 meters through a dense forest each time you want to image, takes the cake in terms of setup and tear down times . And I thought setting and tearing down in front of the house is a chore. I love your spirit.

However, I want to suggest another option but that will need you to put aside the Asiair.

How about using Stellarmate instead?....

 

Hello, kel123!  Haha - thank you for the comment on that. I have been photographing for 10 years and just now getting into astrophotography and astrophotographers are hard core! :) :)  It has been a lot of fun reading and learning about what people are doing to get pictures. The cabin is about 12 hours roundtrip drive but gets me into dark skies and allows me a place to stay while there, so it is a nice situation. Thanks for the recommendations on Stellarmate... I have heard of it but will look into it to learn more.  My initial equipment is ZWO (camera, guide and the ASIAir Pro), but I have an open mind so I'll have a look!  Thanks so much for your input! 



#13 Ken K Astro

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Posted 24 June 2021 - 02:11 PM

RF signals in the "GHz" range don't travel well through things that are wet.  Trees with lots of foliage and concrete are especially bad.  Also there needs to be a line-of-sight path, so no hills in the way.  2.4 ghz is probably better than 5 ghz, but neither will run 165m through a dense forest without a lot of help.

 

You might get some signal through if you put a strong antenna at both ends, and carefully line them up.  These need to be "beam" antennas - Yagi, "BBQ Grill" dish, high gain flat panels, etc.  Something in the 15-20dbi range might work.  The only way to know is to try it.  Do be aware of seasonal changes along the path; you might get better results in the winter if there are a lot of deciduous plants.  In a previous life, testing long range wifi links a few decades ago, I found that weather (e.g. rain) wasn't a big factor at 2.4 ghz.  On the positive side, a machete can help.  (Half-smiley there...)

 

The only thing really going for you is that the potential for interference sources is likely low.  I've often had better results on 5 ghz over 2.4 ghz in spite of the physics, because of interference on the lower band.  It's "shared" with microwave ovens, Bluetooth, and an assortment of other things, but in your situation that hopefully shouldn't be a problem.  Be sure to pick a clear channel, with no other stations on it.  Channels 1,6, and 11 are the best, as they don't overlap with each other.  The others are wedged in between and generally make a mess of things.  They were included for what appears to be marketing purposes (more channels = better!).  Note how the channels are numbered on the 5 ghz bands, leaving out the overlapping ones...  Yeah, they learned something there.

 

Also, don't expect massive throughput.  This will be a "USB 1.1 speed" sort of arrangement.  Probably good enough for a remote desktop, but not much else.  File transfer will be relatively slow.  The big numbers modern WiFi gets are partly the result of modern modulation schemes (good), but also by making use of multi-path for facilitating multiple streams, which break down past about 100'.  "2x2" and above only work inside a building, at relatively close range.

 

Bottom line, if you can run 2 segments of Cat-6 Ethernet with a powered switch at the half-way point, that will be massively better.

Hello, Greg - Thanks.... this was very helpful.  Yes, the interference would be very low here as there is only one other nearby cabin and it is vacant 95% of the time. I think with the input you have given here, combined with other comments received above, I will initially opt for the Cat-6 ethernet cable option. Investing in the wireless option and then getting up there and finding out it doesn't work (or doesn't work after a rain) sounds like a real possibility. Thanks so much for your comments!



#14 Ken K Astro

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Posted 24 June 2021 - 02:18 PM

Thanks, everyone! :) Based on this, I am going to opt initially for the CAT-6 ethernet cable.... and I'll take t-ara-fan's advice on going with cheaper cables and a spare. I may consider exploring a wireless option sometime in future, but it sounds "iffy" at best with the density of forest and distance. 



#15 NearVision

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Posted 24 June 2021 - 02:57 PM

I don't know how 'techy' you are but you may save some money if you can make your own cables. You still have same the length limit (100M) as pre-made cables but a spool of 500 or 1000 feet, crimpers, and plugs would probably be less than good quality cables and allow you to fix them when they break.

 

Just a thought...


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#16 Ken K Astro

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Posted 24 June 2021 - 03:13 PM

I don't know how 'techy' you are but you may save some money if you can make your own cables. You still have same the length limit (100M) as pre-made cables but a spool of 500 or 1000 feet, crimpers, and plugs would probably be less than good quality cables and allow you to fix them when they break.

 

Just a thought...

Good suggestion.  I am not techy but putting the cables together should be workable for me. :) Will give it a try. 



#17 giorgio_ne

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Posted 24 June 2021 - 04:23 PM

If you go for a cabled option you could use a couple of media converters and multimode lc optical fiber using cheap transceivers the maximum distance is of 300 metres.

Over long distances optical fibre is less susceptible to interference.


Edited by giorgio_ne, 24 June 2021 - 04:28 PM.

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#18 rdmarco

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Posted 24 June 2021 - 09:37 PM

There is BIG difference in range between 5ghz and 2.4ghz. You either are going to need a serious range extender antenna rig at that range, or string cat5/6

 

here is some good information:

 

https://arstechnica....oint-placement/


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#19 rdmarco

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Posted 24 June 2021 - 09:39 PM

Thanks so much for the detailed response. As to your questions on terrain and trees, it is "chaos".  Some lower leaves and brush as well as taller tree trunks.  All in all, I would say "fairly dense" but not jungle-like.  There is definitely no line of sight.  I wouldn't call it flat terrain... it is a bit uneven but not hilly and there would be no hills or mounds getting in the way. I will have a look for the post you referred to and reach out to the Ubiquity folks. Again, I appreciate you taking the time to put together the helpful response. 

Read this before you do anything. Lots of misinformed opinions on this forum. : https://arstechnica....oint-placement/


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#20 Ken K Astro

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Posted 25 June 2021 - 06:27 PM

Read this before you do anything. Lots of misinformed opinions on this forum. : https://arstechnica....oint-placement/

Thanks for this.... this is a great article that covers things in a very understandable way. I learned a lot by reading it. I am opting for dragging the cable through the forest.  I also checked out some other videos on Youtube which seemed to confirm that 2.4ghz would likely not make it through the full 100 meters or so of trees, even with what seemed to be some of the better devices. The cable option should be simple enough and work for me.  :)  Thanks again and good luck with your astrophotography!




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