Friday, October 2, 2009

Xbee XSC Range Testing

After yesterday's troubles and embarrassing tribulations, today promises a new start filled with optimism once again. The XBee-Pro XSC 900 Wire Antenna radio mounted on the RS-232 Development Board from Digi has been solidly set into the box along with its 9V battery power supply. The antenna extends vertically through a small gap in the box and will be visible when the lid is closed.

The specs on this radio indicate a promising extended range coverage.
  • Outdoor RF line-of-sight range up to 15 miles (24 km) with high gain antenna
  • Outdoor RF line-of-sight range up to 6 miles (9.6 km) with dipole antenna

After yesterday's escapades in failed testing I'm very hopeful at the start of today. Software bugs have been worked out, user errors eliminated and moveable parts solidly mounted. There's been a lot of doubt in the user community regarding these long range values in the specs, so it's time to do some real world testing. I plan on placing the remote transmitter on
Nose Hill in Calgary in a bushy area and test the reception from various distances and vantage points around the park. Working with a GPS I'll be able to accurately mark the distances between transmitter and receiver while doing the range test.

Placing the receiver is also going to require a bit of thinking. Looking at all the geocaches on Nose Hill, you can see that it will take a bit of planning to place the modem where there won't be any treasure hunters around.
I want to place it in a location that is not anywhere near a geocache, hidden from plain sight of main trails, in a treed or bushy area and within range of a multiple spots from the park's perimeter.

Update ... As they say ... the best laid plans...

I finally climbed to the top of Nose Hill with the dogs one more time with my new more secure remote XBee box and placed it in a small bush halfway down a dip in the landscape - probably 800m from the 64th Ave. parking lot.

Returning in the afternoon to test, I again had absolutely no luck getting any kind of signal from any location I tried. So once again I trudged back to the top of the hill to retrieve the device and see if it was still running. Opening the box, the lights appeared to be off again! Disconnecting and reconnecting the battery cord brought the lights briefly back to life again but they quickly returned to their off status.

Further investigation at home revealed that the Xbee XSC Hi-Power (100mW) RF Module had sucked the life out of the supplied 9V 'Industrial' battery supplied in the Development Kit. It was completely dead after a short couple days of abbreviated testing. Next stop is investigating the Sleep mode - seeing if I can somehow manage to program it to stay in low power mode and awaken upon receiving a signal...


  1. Curious to learn if you had any success and what the furthest range you were able to achieve with XBee XSC 900.

  2. If you get a chance to look at the companion article (XBee XSC Range Test Success) you'll find that I was able to get 1.0km with 90% packet success - as long as there was visibility.


Looking for your comments ...