Aiming directional antennas is hard. It's not like you can see the beam of WiFi that you're aiming. While you can use a signal monitoring tool on most wireless routers, the delay even by a few seconds for the device to report received strength makes aiming a tedious task. It becomes especially difficult when your target is two or more miles away and is indistinct or partially occluded by foliage.
Meta Mesh needed to solve this problem. We needed a way for a person on each end to confirm that the opposite antenna is pointed in his or her direction when aiming our Ubiquiti Airgrid M5's.
Enter our friend Max Pokrzywa (poke-SHIV-uh), a local metalsmith who lives in Allentown. We were initially impressed with his handiwork at Black Forge Coffee, the Hilltop's newest caffeination station. At the coffee shop he had a number of heavy metal pieces which fit with the joint's heavy metal theme. They showed great craftsmanship and so while drinking some of the signature Cold Brew one day it dawned on us that we should approach him with a job:
Build us a heavy duty mount so we can attach a laser to our routers to better aim them.
And this is what he gave us:
Fitted with a laser made for mounting on the undercarriage rail of a pistol, Max simply used the same rail type and affixed it to a steel plate which slots into a space in the Airgrid's parabolic dish section.
He them welded this plate to a standoff and shaped a bracket that fits over the widest part of the router which is fortunately square. This bracket is secured with a single wingnut allowing for easy assembly and disassembly on any rooftop. It may look simple but this design is actually elegant in how it folds requirements into its execution.
You see, it's important that as little meta as possible was used. Metal reflects WiFi signal. And while these aiming tools are not permanent we wanted to ensure that when we point the lasers at our target that the signal strength is actually strong. Sometimes RF behaves in a way that is not obvious and really we're looking for what the ACTUAL received signal strength and modulation level is WITHOUT having to take off the laser. Max succeeded brilliantly at this.
As you can see, the feed horn where the router actually resides in the center of the dish is minimally obstructed with care taken to move the bracket as far up the feed horn as possible to ensure signal bounces from the parabolic dish into the receiver near the tip of the router.
Max made a pair of these devices that we now use in the field when sighting in long-distance links.
Mr. Pokrzywa can add this success to a long list of metal-working and other more artistic projects he has done over the years. He recently started a website and we encourage you to head on over to it at http://www.mpokcreations.com/.
Everyone here at Meta Mesh was super excited when we got our hands on these recently. We all want to say thank you, Max!