Hack together a goTenna with GPS, make some cash, save a life

I regularly look over https://www.challenge.gov competitions and saw this one:

https://www.challenge.gov/challenge/u-s-coast-guard-ready-for-rescue-challenge/ …

This seems like a pretty good fit for a goTenna mesh device. The one missing piece is built in GPS functionality which for now comes from our cell phones. It seems to me that with a little engineering that GPS location could come from the device itself. If an Apple Watch can have GPS in it, I have no doubt that a goTenna mesh device could as well.

Anyway, the short story is the coast guard is awarding $5,000 just to come up with the idea, then up to $120,000 to produce a demonstration of said device and then a further $50,000 for first place. All in all a fair amount of money to do what I believe would be to take an existing goTenna mesh unit, add GPS, and waterproof it. Additionally, maybe add a really bright light, make it float, and maybe even put a little pop up antenna to help with range when in rough seas. If the goTenna signal could also be triangulated easily that would also help. I will never get around to this… too busy I’m afraid, but thought it was at least worth sending out here in case anyone has more time than I do to tackle this. I literally think the first phase could be awarded by wrapping an old cell phone with no service but a functional GPS unit and bluetooth in a waterproof bag with a paired goTenna mesh device sending out location information on a set interval and demonstrating that anyone with a goTenna mesh device within range will get their location.

Trying to get the cost to $35 when manufactured at scale seems possible, but I guess it depends on what scale they are looking for. Anyway, take a look and get hacking if your interested.


The Chinese offer a number of GPS devices that might serve here. Search for “GPS module drone” for components or “GPS tracker” for self-contained devices. Quality and support can vary. One promising description of a component promised Bluetooth connectivity, but a reviewer noted he couldn’t find such a thing on the device he was sent… Another one of interest is the Beitan BT-180 with dual GPS/GLONASS and is only 18x18x6 mm in size for about $10.


Here’s another idea. Gotenna app, you can turn on the always allow location requests.

  1. 2 gotenna mesh devices
  2. Raspberry pi zero
    Battery pack for rasberry pi and amd maybe the gotenna .
  3. GPS device that can go to the rasberry pi.

(Install the GPS on the rasberry pi.Install android onto the rasberry pi sd card. Install the gotenna app on the rasberry pi. Use your phone number for the verification code. Change the number to random save the number into your phone gotenna app message the number then on the rasberry pi turn on always allow location requests. )
This idea is also cheaper for the guys wanting to put it on a bloon with a cell phone instead. Well I think it’s cheaper, they do have pretty cheap phones now.

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