This video summarizes my life over the past three months. We have some really exciting things going on at GATR. They are cool, but they demand a lot of time. It’s just one deadline after another. I show up at work with my to-do list and that is quickly thrown out the window managing employees, customers, and product development. My agenda is made for me. Enjoy the video!
Tag Archives: GATR
I’m at work (yes, work at 7:15pm on a Saturday night) putting a system together for the first delivery to one of my customers in DC. I fly up there Tuesday night for a two day delivery and training session. You are looking at flexible waveguide, a power supply, an inflation unit, a Quick-attach waveguide adapter, and a foam tray that Roy and I are about to carve to pieces in order to get 12 feet of waveguide coiled onto properly.
Today was one of those days at work where I got to do some real testing. Often when we deploy the GATR antenna, people ask how it holds up in the wind. We have maintained a datalink through 40 mph gusts when Hurricane Ivan came through this area years ago. We know it works just fine, but we felt that we needed a video that shows that the GATR is durable in high winds. I borrowed my father’s trailer, grabbed my tripod and camera, and Paul brought his video recorder and we had ourselves a test. We inflated the antenna on the trailer and set up the video and tripod looking out the back window of my truck.
In order to simulate wind loading, I pulled the trailer at different speeds. On the road in front of our facility, we achieved 50 mph. The antenna was pretty stable at this speed. We were very pleased with the performance of the antenna, but curiosity still existed, “I wonder what happens around 75 mph”. So we moved our experiment over to Redstone Road and opened it up. Now we had drag coefficient curves for a sphere and we collected load pull data in the cables supporting the ball, but I don’t want to bore you with science. Here are the video results
The tests show that as long as the GATR is secured to the ground properly, it can survive winds in excess of 75 mph. I don’t expect anyone would leave a GATR out in winds this high since it takes about 5 minutes to deflates and move the antenna, but if you did leave it up and a striaghtline wind hit it or a mysterious sand storm blows up, the GATR would be fine. Did I mention that I love my job?
I was on travel all last week participating in a demo with STAR-TIDES at the National Defense University in Washington DC. There homepage now sports a picture of me (white shirt with back to camera) and Roy (blue shirt) describing the GATR antenna system to a three-star general.
We were also featured in Initiatives Magazine. Initiatives is the bi-monthly publication from the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce that highlights noteable companies and other economic development activities in the Huntsville/Madison County Community.
I’m sure there will be more to write about as we continue to grow.
This morning we woke up and arranged the firehouse for the FEMA folks again. They sent a crew of five people to get people registered online and another two to get people signed up for blue roofs (big tarps for temporary roofing. The system was working great. At 10:20 I got a call from Suzanne Novak asking if we could get another system over to Oak Island quickly. They had a group of seven FEMA folks trying to get people registered and their standard issue Verizon aircards were not working since the cell coverage was non-existent. Phil and I jumped to action, we deflated the 1.8m antenna, packed up a wifi system, and hopped in the truck. Oak Island was about a 25 minute drive from Smith Point. We arrived at the Oak Island Baptist Church, location of FEMA and food distribution, at 11:20. Phil wanted experience setting up the antenna by himself, so he asked me to pretend to be an indigenous helper in a foreign country. Phil had the antenna set up and on the satellite at 12:15. Here is where we deployed at Oak Island.
Then we ran into our problem. The wireless access point we grabbed required a username and password. I forgot them both and the sheet they were on was back in Smith Point, so we reset the wireless. We had to directly connect the laptop into the modem to look up the username and password for the reset Linksys – of course its “admin”, “admin”. We set the box back up, logged into the Linksys and set up the static IP. For some reason, the modem was not DHCP enabled. We tried to browse the web, and it still didn’t work. The Linksys required a valid DNS. Neither Phil nor I could remember one. With the extremely weak cell signal I had, I texted about five friends back home asking for a valid DNS. Messages with 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206 came back eventually. Once we set that we were in. I can tell you I will always remember these three DNS numbers. So, by 1PM the GATR 1.8m wireless system was operational. The FEMA people used the signal to register about seven people.
Here are some pictures from Oak Island. The inside of the church was destroyed, but the Spirit was alive outside. Check out the mud and mold on the floor of the church. The surge brought in the sludge and it requires the firemen to come in with hoses and blast the mud out of the house.
Here are some other pictures from the point in Oak Island. Many of the houses are completely gone – only concrete slabs and pilings. The community was a mix of retired folks, Vietnamese boat workers, and Hispanics. Oak Island was the hardest hit area in Chambers County.
Back at Smith Point, Caleb was operating the 2.4m GATR system. Smith Point had a steady stream of people all day. Many of the people who evacuated were returning home and coming through the firehouse/community center to register with FEMA. The 2.4m GATR system worked perfectly. Caleb had a busy day helping unload ice and making a run with the fire department. (Caleb is a volunteer fireman in Moscow, Idaho.)
We decided to spend the night in Oak Island, so I went back to Smith Point to help Caleb pack the system up. The community was sad to see us leave. Lois wanted my Auburn chair. I was going to give it to her, but she insisted that we make a fair trade, so she brought me a Texas chair that she won in a fishing contest last year. The president of the firehouse, Fred Anderson and his wife Jennifer(?), thanked us over and over again. I really enjoyed the Community of Smith Point. There are some very dedicated leaders in that community. As a result of the way the community operated out of the firehouse, many of the Hispanics asked if they could help as volunteers with the firehouse in the future. They are an example of neighbor helping neighbor in a time of crisis – where everyone was treated equal independent of socioeconomic background, age, citizenship status, occupation, native language, etc. Smith Point is a great community, and I am glad I had the opportunity to serve there.
Tomorrow we pack up and head to GATR headquarters in Huntsville, AL.
Smith Point is a small community on the bay. A majority of the population is Hispanic, and the rest are cattle ranchers and retirees (most teachers from public schools). Phil, Caleb, and I spent the night in the firehouse with Lois. She is a lady in her 70s that loves to talk. We worked until about 12:30AM getting the antenna deployed and the wireless and voip phone system working. We woke up at 7AM. About five people in the community brought their laptops in to check email. At 9AM seven people from Alltel (FEMA) showed up. We got them configured on a secure wireless network. The people of the community started rolling in. FEMA needed interpreters to help with the registrations process. A few of the community ladies at the firehouse went out and recruited a college girl and a high school girl (school doesn’t start back until next week). These girls were a huge help. Red Cross delivered lunch at 11:30AM. This brought a large crowd in to register with FEMA. (The FEMA folks did not want to be photographed, so one of them stood up and visually blocked the other employees.)
Two of the voip phones worked right off the bat. The two CISCO phones had some issues working with the Digium box. Caleb spent about an hour with the service provider and with the tech help at Digium. He got the problem figured out. All four phones could dial out. We are a lot closer to having a disaster relief kit for the next disaster deployments. There are a few other pieces that we need to add including: analog phone line (FEMA property assessment touch pads with only connect through analog phone line) and a higher gain antenna and a telescoping tower to provide wifi over a greater geographic area. The experience we are getting exercising the system in disaster areas is invaluable.
The clients for FEMA slowed down after lunch. They left at 5:00PM. The plan was to leave the GATR system in Smith Point. Half of the FEMA team was headed to Oak Island. The FEMA mobile RV was moving from Anahuac to Oak Island to support the group there. We enjoyed the rest of the evening getting to know the people of Smith Point. We spent an hour after dinner getting their satellite internet hooked up. One person grabbed the antenna, cables, and modem from their house before the storm hit. The antenna was put up on a metal fence post. We used our Spectrum Analyzer to get the antenna pointed properly. This will be connected to a wireless AP once we leave. The firehouse/community center is the gathering place for the town. The people there are very supportive of one another.
Someone brought a small grey kitten up to the firehouse. It was found floating on a piece of wood. Lois was pushing the cat on me and Caleb. The cat jumped from cot to cot all night picking at our heads. I am not too keen on driving 12 hours with a little kitty picking at my head. Someone else will give “Ike” a home.
Let me start by thanking Danielle for her comments on my last post. She is in training to take a job with FEMA. I hope my last post did not come across as denigrating FEMA in anyway. They are in this area and working very hard to assess damage and get housing assistance to those in need. We are here with an ad hoc satcom network capability trying to provide internet and voip phone to any agency (local, state, federal) that needs it. Danielle has additional comments on her blog.
The GATR system ran off our little generator all night. Pressures looked good, antenna was anchored well, and the modem was running. We had the wireless internet working, but the voip phone capability required one more piece of hardware that one of the MAF guys was bringing.
The FEMA mobile recovery unit showed up around 9AM. They have an RV with a small satellite dish on top to provide their own network for phone and web access. We helped them get chair and tables set up. The mobile unit is set up with a bank of phones for people to talk to FEMA representatives about housing assistance and property damage. Their mobile unit is self contained. Some of the people used our wireless (FEMA, rightfully so, does not offer public web access). We talked to the FEMA IT guy about our disaster relief solution. He was really impressed with the technology. He took my contact info and said he was going to try to get us hooked up with the FEMA technology folks. We would love to demo our system to other FEMA officials.
Now that FEMA is here with their self-contained mobile system, we were not adding much value to the situation. The GATR system really needs to be out on the fringes were the infrastructure is severely reduce or gone. The power came back to this area around 7PM. There are many, many needs that remain in Anahuac, but Satcom internet and voip are not one of them. I called my contact at HISG to ask him if there were any other areas that are in need to communications, maybe those closer to Galveston. He said he was going to contact other groups in the more devastated areas and get back with me. He was planning on being in Anahuac tomorrow morning, so we decided we would make a plan then. This is good. It gives us time to get our entire network up and running. Caleb Pal, with MAF joined us last night. He brought a Cisco router and three Voip phones. We should have a full disaster relief system running tomorrow once we get everything configured.