What’s a survey?

Surveys, and why we do one:

Based on an intuitive knowledge of the islands and our network’s area of operations we often can determine signal potential based on property location. However, we will still generally do a site survey to certify to ourselves and the customers that we can indeed provide service that is reliable. This survey allows us to determine the best Access Point (AP) to serve you, and the capacity of any wireless links that we establish for your use.

Before the Survey:

Prior to performing a survey, Orcas Online technicians will use mapping programs to determine the best AP(s) to test while at the location. Using simulated viewsheds combined with many years of field experience, we can generally determine if a survey can be successful at all before we schedule one. These maps enable us to identify potential obstacles, such as large hills, and determine the closest possible viable AP(s). Additionally, this pre-op procedure can help us identify areas that may require a drone survey, ensuring we have the proper equipment before we depart from our office.

What we do on a survey:

When we do a survey we are mainly trying to test our mobile receiving unit, pairing it to one of our APs to determine the potential speed we can deliver to the location, and where in that location (on the ground, on a deck, etc.) that signal is best received. We may test in one or more areas depending on the surrounding APs. We generally do not need access to any house or structure, only permission to test on the property. Our technician will generally also look for a location that is best suited to mount the CPE or onsite radio. Such visits are generally very brief, but in situations where obvious placement is unclear, the technician may have to spend more time moving across the property. If the survey is inconclusive we may decide to perform a drone survey.

Drone Survey:

On occasion, if a house or structure does not have line of sight (LOS) to an AP we may perform a drone survey. Using a drone’s onboard camera and remote viewing capability, we attempt to locate a tree close enough to the house to facilitate the radio’s connecting ethernet cable, and tall enough to see over surrounding trees and obstacles towards one of our APs. Drone surveys can only happen on days with little to no wind and days without rain. This means that they are more common in late spring, summer, and early fall. As with traditional surveys, drone surveys are typically short affairs provided the drone does not suffer a mishap or technical complication. The fragility of a drone keeps us from defaulting to this survey type, but we have found drone surveys to be very effective for confirming viable installation sites. Videos and photos taken by the drone are temporarily kept for site analysis before the installation, and are then discarded to free up space on the drone’s camera.


Orcas Online provides all site surveys free of charge.


AP (Access Point): one of our host locations that broadcast our wireless network to areas of the island

CPE (customer premises equipment): the radio at a customer location to receive a signal from one of our APs

LOS (Line of Sight): a direct, unobstructed view from one location to another

5.8/2.4/900: The radio frequency that a particular AP or CPE broadcasts on.