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AN AUTONOMOUS WIRELESS SENSOR NETWORK FOR HARSH-ENVIRONMENT DATA ACQUISITION

FATLAND, DENNIS R  Vexcel Corporation.
Anandakrishnan, Sridhar  Penn State University.
Grissom, Brad  Vexcel Corporation.

The objective of this NASA-funded development program is to bring the power and flexibility of a wireless computer network to harsh-environment fieldwork. By integrating a small computer with GPS, a multi-channel digitizer and a wireless communication link we have created a network node which is low cost, low power, adaptable to practically any electronic instrumentation, and capable of storing large volumes of data. These network nodescolloquially ��BRICKs��run the Linux operating system facilitating development under the open source paradigm. BRICKs can be easily programmed to intelligently manage and share data, either as equivalent (ad hoc) network components or under the control of a single ��Mother�� computer (client/server model). They are intended for long dwell-time monitoring applications (weeksmonths) in extreme temperatures with limited sunlight. A BRICK��s wireless capability permits data-sharing redundancy. ��Wireless�� also facilitates data retrieval, for example via daisy-chain reporting from a field array to an internet connection, via over-flight telemetry to an airplane (in lieu of landing at each station), or via satellite.

This project originates partly in the ANUBIS seismic network emplaced by S.Anandakrishnan in Antarctica where individual seismic stations used satellite phones to report their state of health. Thus inspired our prototype instrument includes 3-axis geophones and basic GPS. The BRICK currently communicates wirelessly at a range of 200+ meters and operates properly down to 60 Celsius in the laboratory; we are improving both range and hardiness as we continue the project. Data tagging is done using GPS-driven interrupts, resulting in better than 10 microsecond sample-time accuracy. The project near-term objective is to field test prototype units near the Columbia Glacier calving face in summer 2004. Other possible 'beta test' experiments include additional glaciology research (GPS and passive seismics) in Alaska and Greenland, bat ecosystem work and wireless infrastructure development in Juneau Alaska, volcanology applications in Hawaii, and bistatic radar sounding experiments and active seismology on Antarctic ice sheets. A longer-term objective is to use BRICK networks upgraded to geodetic (sub-cm accuracy) GPS to directly observe glacier vertical surface motion driven by sub-glacial hydrology (as implied by radar interferometry). We are interested also in finding additional collaborators and applications for BRICK networks.

REFERENCES
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Figure 1. BRICK prototype with 3-axis geophone (orange cylinder), GPS antenna (coiled black wire) and wireless antenna (blue, protruding at right from BRICK chassis). At left is a Linux laptop "Mother station" network controller.


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