I am working on a project to construct a low cost Radio Interferometer with a student organization at my university. Our plan is to construct several nodes of antennae, where each node is be responsible for controlling a group of antennae (point position, amplifier temperature, amplifier gain, filter selection, LO frequency, etc.) as well as data collection (via ADC) and data transmission to a central processing hub. We are implementing something roughly similar to the MWA in Australia. There are two problems that we are attempting to solve: how to control the system, and how to transmit the data (we cannot use a wired connection).
For the first problem, MWA used FPGAs to control their amplifiers, collect and transmit data. We were also considering using general purpose computers and connect them to USB IDTs, controlling / reading everything via TTL.
As for the second problem, we need to wirelessly transmit the data over ranges up to 5 km at a high frequency (to prevent interference with the antennae). For this, we were considering using wireless surveillance camera transmitters / receivers, and packaging groups of data into images, however, I have seen some FPGAs that have wireless transmitters / receivers attached to their boards.
With that said, considering cost, ease of construction, and reliability, would we be better off going with general purpose computers connected to USB IDTs running software to control the nodes, or FPGAs controlling the nodes? Additionally, if the FPGA is the better solution, is there a specific FPGA, or type of FPGA that would work well for this application?