On Thursday the 23rd of July we had our first beacon test in collaboration with the AKAFUNK Stuttgart team. The beacon is a small transmitter that sends a simple ping signal approximately every second on a specified frequency. By measuring the signal strength we can evaluate the position of the capsule after landing using triangulation.
These beacons are often used to track wildlife in their natural habitat and are therefore very small in order not to hinder the animals or change their behaviour. Due to their small size and robustness they are perfect for our experiment. We were also very fortunate that we were provided with the XXX by NamTrack Namibia for our mission.
The tests we conducted in the surrounding fields and woods of the University of Stuttgart, where meant to determine the maximum reach of the beacon in different environments (in the wood, in the field, with and without capsule).
The tests were very positive. With our very basic equipment we could track the beacon to a range of up to 1km. Since we used a very simple receiver, this value could also be drastically improved. However once inside the capsule, the aluminium front-body acted as a faraday cage and reduced our range to about 100m. The Whipox material we use for the back shell of our capsule had no impact on the range.
Placing the beacon approximately one meter below the wet ground provided a similar range reduction. This could happen if the capsule lands in snow or dirt. We simulated these effects by placing the beacon in a plastic tube in a canal with about one meter of earth above it.100 meter sounds like a very small range. However, we are very confident that we will be able to further improve this value and 100 meter will probably be sufficient as even with a very bad GPS-signal we should be able to locate our capsule up to a few hundred meters. Therefore we should be able to find our capsule if we acquire at least one GPS signal.
Finally we had two scavenger hunts where two of our members hid the beacon and the rest had to search for it using the receiver and the ping sent from the beacon. We found the beacon in both cases in only 25 minutes and 20 minutes! However, it was relatively easy to get close to the beacon (approx. 10m) , but finding it proved to be hard as the signal around the beacon was so strong it scattered from various surfaces and made it really difficult to locate it.
All in all the tests where a great success and a lot of fun! Thanks to all the participating KSat members and the AKAFUNK team!