No Licence, Encrypted, Inexpensive, Decentralized
Meshtastic Off Grid Communication Features
We like Meshtastic because it is an open source not for profit project that allows us to custom build our own devices inexpensively and easily. That said there are many pre-built devices available on Etsy, you do not have to build your own. These inexpensive units can be paired with your Android or iOS phone (does not require phone service or wifi, simply uses the phone as a mini computer) and used as a text messaging device when using the Meshtastic App on your phone. The Meshtastic App provides multiple channels, you can have private channels with unique encryption for command structure or private groups while maintaining a public channel as well.
- No license required!
- Short learning curve
- Inexpensive (less than $25 per unit)
- Self Meshing Network (every user acts as a repeater)
- Works with your phone like text messaging
- Can be a standalone device instead of using phone interface
- GPS & MAP capability (see your friends on the move if they choose)
- Can be solar powered (indefinite operation)
- Can operate solely as a repeater (place on high ground or tower for miles of coverage)
- Lightweight enough to easily be lifted by a drone for 50+ miles of coverage
- AES256 Encryption available
- Can use older phone with no sim card or wifi connections.
Range is based on line of site, from user to user is fairly short, with typical terrestrial obstructions, 1-2 miles is realistic. However if you have a user on high ground or you put a unit up on a tower or tall building, the coverage grows exponentially to up to 60 miles realistically. The messages literally hop from user to user until the message reaches the destination user.
Real world use case: we have a solar powered unit mounted on a 60ft tower with a good antenna acting as a very inexpensive repeater and 15 miles is not a problem. Take that a step further, we have lifted a unit with our drone to 400ft and easily got 46 miles of reach. I’m sure the drone was able to reach farther but that was our test location and it was a solid communication.
Costs range from $20 for a no battery unit that uses a USB cable to connect to your Android phone to $200 for a standalone messaging unit that operates without a phone at all. We prefer the T-Echo units pictured here , they are $54 each and pair with your phone, however most units can still receive and display what they have received without pairing them to a phone including these T-Echo units.
When you add in a solar charging capability the costs go up, our solar powered tower mounted repeater has an all in cost of about $150, we built it ourselves and only used the best components to have a repeater that will work in a high traffic environment for up to 30 days without sunshine. So for $250 I can consistently contact my family 15 miles away, add another two units and a drone and I can reach my buddy 46 miles away consistently.
Dollar for Dollar Meshtastic is the most cost effective medium range solution there is for secure communication over distance .