Warflying (Wi-Fi scanning) in an airplane up to 450 km

Recently I was traveling by plane over Europe. Of course, I could not resist to check what could be received on 5 GHz there, at an altitude of over ten kilometers…

I took the following equipment for Wi-Fi scanning onboard:

  • Mikrotik Routerboard SXT 5HPnD (AR9280),
  • Raspberry PI 3B with GNSS receiver, RTC and 10 V PoE output – see more: Wardriving @ 5 GHz,
  • USB power bank (5V/2.1A),
  • Nexus 7 tablet.

I was scanning using MikroTik SXT antenna with a built-in radio module. This device is as small as 14×14 cm. The dual-polarization antenna rated at 16 dBi is even smaller, at just 11×11 cm. It was connected to Raspberry PI single board computer.

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June 2019: London, Manchester and Cardiff via tropo in Poland

Ten wpis jest dostępny także w języku polskim: Tropo: Londyn, Manchester i Cardiff w Polsce

The early morning of June, 27th 2019 brought one of the biggest tropospheric propagation from Western Europe we have ever observed from Poland. Looking at the results, it can be stated that it was the strongest tropo on the VHF FM band 87.5-108 MHz from the territories of England, the Netherlands and Belgium for at least 15 years (probably since ever), with many transmitters and areas received for the first time. The received signals reached the stereo and even RDS quality on many frequencies, and the maximum distances exceeded 1500 km.

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Review: Airspy HF+

Airspy HF+ is a software defined radio receiver (SDR), which has been widely available since 2017. Unlike most of other devices, it has some cutting edge features like very high dynamic range sigma-delta ADCs and a polyphase harmonic rejection mixer. This receiver supports multiple frequency ranges: 9 kHz – 31 MHz, 60 – 260 MHz and 1.2 – 1.67 GHz (undocumented).

HF+ uses STA709 front-end tuner IC with two Σ∆ ADCs at 36 Msps, which are an equivalent to direct sampling at 72 Msps. The digital signal is decimated, scaled down and streamed via USB. The output I/Q stream provides 16-bit samples at 768 Ksps rate, but the usable bandwidth is a bit narrower though, up to 660 kHz. Actually, this is not much, but seems to be enough for HF, and some purposes at VHF band. More information about this receiver, including a detailed block diagram, is available on Airspy website. This review concerns VHF reception only (i.e. 87.5 – 108 MHz FM broadcast band).

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October 2018: Wi-Fi DX record at 460+ km (UKR/LTU)

Out of the four seasons, autumn is well known among radio enthusiasts as the best period for spectacular propagation of radio waves. The tropospheric ducting is a propagation mode based on temperature inversion in the vicinity of the Earth’s surface. Such an enhancement extends the regular line-of-sight distribution of electromagnetic waves to the areas out of their general, daily service. During special conditions, air layers may form some kind of a guide for the radio signals. This phenomenon usually happens during periods of stable anticyclonic weather and affects radio frequencies in VHF, UHF and microwave bands. While it is possible to watch distant TV channel or listen to a foreign FM station, one can also check other, less explored radio frequencies… like the 5 GHz band widely used for the wireless LAN communication.

This year was really extraordinary in Poland. The spring was very amazing, as both April and May smashed through all previous temperature records. We have also experienced the warmest summer, at least since the beginning of measurements in 1781. Such weather allowed often occurrence of radiation inversions that produced good tropospheric propagation throughout nights and mornings. I set my previous personal Wi-Fi DX reception record in May twice in a row from Wolin, Poland during unattended scanning on 2018-05-28 and 2018-05-29 mornings, at a distance of 370 km.

In the first half of October 2018, a high pressure system settled down over Eastern Europe and brought excellent propagation conditions in Poland. Again, the summer-like weather brought sunny days and 20-25 °C temperatures. This time I logged some networks from Ukraine, Lithuania and almost… 3600 other from Poland.

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Early morning on Dylewska Góra

Ten wpis jest dostępny także w języku polskim: Poranek na Dylewskiej Górze

On Thursday, August 16, 2018, our team visited Dylewska Góra. The trip was somewhat spontaneous, although we have been considering it for a long time. Weather forecasts looked good, so in the evening of the day before we decided to visit this remarkably interesting place in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, Poland.

Dylewska Góra is the highest hill of Wzgórza Dylewskie and of the entire north-eastern Poland. The peak with an elevation of 312 m ASL is located in Wysoka Wieś, south of Ostróda. There are three interesting objects there:

  • the radio tower Ostróda  Dylewska Góra (Emitel),
  • concrete observation tower,
  • wooden lookout tower.

Nearby, one can also notice some residential buildings and farmlands.


Unfortunately, the 37-meter high concrete observation tower is not available to tourists. The alternative wooden tower is much lower and does not provide a full view around the hill, because the eastern view is obstructed by tall trees. Access by car is possible to the very end. In the immediate vicinity of the tower there is no place to park though. An undoubted advantage is the possibility of getting there at any time of day or night, as the entrance to the wooden tower is free and available to everyone. It was very important for us, because we wanted to catch the morning inversion that extends the standard radio range in some way…

We took some equipment for 5 GHz, including:

  • parabolic dish antenna UltraDish TP 550 (27,5 dBi) with RB911G-5HPnD radio,
  • panel antenna Routerboard QRT5 (24 dBi) also with RB911G-5HPnD,
  • tripod, laptops, cables, batteries… and of course the camera.

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October 2017: 5 GHz Wi-Fi DX 360+ km record via tropospheric ducting

A widespread high pressure system settled down over Europe in the middle of October 2017. It brought a summer-like weather to Poland with temperatures as high as 26°C measured in Wrocław. Excellent weather conditions, so called a Polish golden autumn, continued for several days. When the atmospheric pressure started to decrease again, the wind had also weakened. This provided favorable circumstances for temperature inversions and tropospheric ducting on VHF, UHF and microwave radio bands. 

I have been observing propagation conditions within WLAN frequencies for many years. The 5 GHz band is very crowded in Poland, as it is widely used by the internet service providers with outdoor devices installed on tall buildings like chimneys, blocks of flats or lattice masts. In 2015 I detected some networks from Southern Poland and Czech Republic. I also fixed my personal reception record at 346.5 km. Since then I have started saving money for a taller mast, because the antenna (8 m AGL) was looking mostly at trees that greatly attenuate all microwave signals.

At the beginning of October I finally finished a new 18 meter mast with a parabolic dish for the 5 GHz band. Ubiquiti RocketDish 5G31-AC is a dual polarization 5.1-5.8 GHz antenna rated at 31 dBi. It is connected to MikroTik Routerboard RB912UAG-5HPnD radio behind the dish in a custom aluminium box. The mast is equipped with a rotator and everything can be remotely controlled.

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