There’s an excellent chance you’ve already worked with the nRF24L01. These little modules are an easy and cheap way to shuffle data across a 2.4 GHz radio link at a respectable rate, making them great for remote control projects. But after seeing that others had experimenting with using these radios to transmit digital audio, [Andrew Rossignol] got to wondering if some software trickery could push the envelope even further.
The result is nerfnet, a Linux program that allows you to tunnel TCP/IP over a pair of nRF24L01 modules. The link appears as a virtual interface, meaning everything happens transparently as far as other programs are concerned. Anything that uses TCP/IP to communicate on Linux can take advantage of this low-cost link, albeit at speeds that most of us haven’t had to deal with in decades.
Though it’s not quite as bad as you might think. Latency is around 50 ms, and after some tweaks, [Andrew] has been able to squeeze almost 300 Kbps out of the link. That’s more than enough for terminal work, and some light audio and video streaming isn’t out of the question.
In terms of range, he was able to maintain a fairly reliable connection at a distance of up to 60 meters (200 feet) outdoors. It might not sound like much, but again, you’ve got to take the cost of these radios into account. If you’re looking to SSH into a Raspberry Pi weather station you’ve got in the backyard, a pair of these could get the job done for just a couple of bucks.
The blog post [Andrew] has put together explains the software in fantastic detail if you’re interested in the nuts and bolts of it all. But if you just want to play around with the idea, you just need to connect some nRF24L01 modules to a pair of Raspberry Pis with short SPI wires to cut down any interference, and follow the instructions. Ideally the radios would have external antennas, but it’s not strictly required.
We’ve seen these modules pushed into service as impromptu Bluetooth Low Energy transmitters in the past, but nothing quite like this. While the latency and bandwidth offered by this technique might seem antiquated to modern eyes, it could be the perfect dedicated communication channel for your sensors, smart devices, or home automation projects.