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Are there any tricks for getting full transmission range of Xbee Pro S1's?

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I am a member of the University of Minnesota CanSat team. We compete in an international competition that requires us to launch a payload in a rocket to about 2200 ft. As the payload descends, we need to collect telemetry data streamed to a ground station. Currently, we use Xbee Pro S1's for our data transmission and communications. The sensor system includes an Arduino Pro Mini micro controller, a barometer (BMP), an accelerometer (MMA), a real time clock, and an OpenLog data logger. The data transmission is a comma separated value string sent through the serial connection on the Arduino.

We are running into some issues with the range of our Xbees. First, we haven't been able to achieve the full range yet. This may be due to testing them in the city. Although, we are trying to test in areas with good line of sight. This is the issue we have been trying to debug the most intensively. In range tests, we have only been able to transmit and receive data over a distance of 1,100 ft.

One of our ideas to remedy this was to measure the current draw of the transmitting Xbee. We did this by connecting a DMM in series with the 5V pin on our breakout board (WRL-11373) and our unregulated voltage source (a 9V battery). We measured a steady current of about 60 mA with bursts of 70-85 mA. This puzzled us because the transmitting current of the Pro S1s is supposed to be 215 mA. Are the bursts so short that we cannot see them on the DMM, or is our Xbee actually only drawing a max of 80mA during transmission? We have verified through the XCTU software that both Xbees are set to the high power level (parameter PL=4). Are there any settings that have to do with retries or other settings that could improve our range?

Are there any issues with our setup, or do you see any other ways we can improve our range?
asked May 8 in IEEE 802.15.4 by c.carlson New to the Community (0 points)

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1 Answer

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How much voltage are you feeding to module? Keep it close to upper limit i.e. near 3.4 volts.

Also check that you have North America variant with you which has higher range. You can verify it by match part number with this link:
http://www.digi.com/products/wireless-wired-embedded-solutions/zigbee-rf-modules/point-multipoint-rfmodules/xbee-series1-module#models

These article may also prove useful to you:
http://www.digi.com/support/kbase/kbaseresultdetl?id=2132
http://www.digi.com/support/kbase/kbaseresultdetl?id=2051
answered May 9 by killer32 Seasoned Professional (247 points)
We use the WRL-11373 breakout board to regulate our unregulated voltage source (9V battery) down to 3.3V. The data sheet for the breakout board suggests the regulator has a max output current of 500mA.

I have just sent an email to Sparkfun, the seller of that breakout board, to verify that the regulator will work properly with a 8-9V input. I will update this thread if that proves to be the issue.
Try also configuring the radio for Point to point mode and make sure you have RF LOS conditions.
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