Warflying on a Nice September Morning


Last week, Dave Fletcher pointed me at this article on warflying--just like wardriving, but using a plane.  Now, it turns out that I had all the requisite gear except for a portable GPS that plugs into my laptop (the plane has two, but I didn't want to tap into them).  Here's my list of gear:

  1. Airplane:  A Piper Turbo Arrow that I own with a friend.  
  2. Laptop:  An IBM T-30. 
  3. GPS: A Garmin eTrex Venture.  I bought this at Circuit City for $170 and it comes with the cord to hook to the laptop. 
  4. Software: netstumbler
  5. A WiFi card supported by netstumber: An Enterasys Networks card with an external antenna that Enterasys was kind enough to loan me (netstumbler doesn't support either the Cisco or IBM cards that I own).

I've been meaning to take my kids out anyway so this morning presented a perfect opportunity.  After a quick breakfast at MacDonalds we were off to the airport. 

I didn't intend for this to be a systematic aerial survey, just a trip to learn a few lessons.  Once I have if figured out, I'll do a more comprehensive survey of Salt Lake and Utah counties.   Here's what I found:

  1. First, set the laptop so that it doesn't go to sleep.  I missed a lot of points because the laptop went to sleep and there wasn't anyone to tend it.  I was busy flying the plane.
  2. The antenna seems to work best when its oriented horizontally.  I'm not an antenna expert by any stretch, but my understanding is that when its oriented horizontally, you pick up more signals outside of the plane (in the geometric sense) you're in.  If anyone has more info on this and would like to clue me in, drop me a line. 
  3. I was up for a about an hour and covered 124 statute miles.  Most of the time, i tried to keep the speed around 125 mph.  I was about 1000 feet above terrain (which is minimum legal flying altitude over populated areas). 
  4. I discovered 27 access points.  Only 5 of them were encrypted.  Only a few of them still had default SSIDs.  A number of them appear to be commercial ISP access points, so I'd have to assume they are locked down some other way.
  5. I have latlong for each of these courtesy of netstumbler and the GPS, so it would be a relatively simple task now to go back to them in a car and spend more time exploring. 
  6. With only a little more sophistication in terms of outside antennas, etc. you could do an extensive aerial mapping of an area and no one would be the wiser. 

All in all, its a kind of fun way to spend some time and a good excuse to fly!  Next time, I'll take another pilot and spend some time concentrating on getting good reception, making sure the laptop doesn't go to sleep, flying a pattern, etc.