Gizmos & Gadgets: Helikite Balloon Provides Mobile Emergency Phone Service

The mobile telephone communication has changed the world in the last three decades. It has allowed Developing World countries to establish telecommunications networks at a fraction of  the cost of putting in an expensive landline infrastructure that would include hundreds of kilometers of poles and wire. But even mobile telephone networks can be interrupted in a crisis. That’s why TRiaGnoSys, a mobile communications company headquartered in Germany is designing a mobile telephone network that can be deployed in minutes using kite-shaped helium-filled balloons called Helikites. One can be seen in the picture appearing at the bottom of this posting.

Helikites are helium-filled balloons with kite-like features. They have been used as airborne platforms for cameras and remote sensing. But TRiaGnoSys is using these balloons to lift as much as 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of its LAP (Low Altitude Platform) telecommunications technology to altitudes as high as 4 kilometers (approximately 2.5 miles) providing local mobile signal coverage for voice and data. Using DACA, Deployable Aerial Communication Architecture, each payload creates an instant local mobile network that can then be linked to ground-based communications or telecommunication satellites.  Each Helikite when deployed is tethered using multiple lines to ensure minimal drift and no loss of signal. It is easy to deploy multiple Helikites over an area as needed.

So where and when would you deploy a Helikite LAP? Primarily say its developers for use in the event of a disaster such as an earthquake or flood when critical land-based infrastructure becomes damaged. A Helikite LAP would not only provide emergency telephone service but the payload could also contain remote sensing equipment and cameras to provide ongoing real time data and pictures. Another application is for use with mass events such as the Olympic Games where mobile phone use could overwhelm the existing cellular infrastructure.

I haven’t been able to find out the cost of deploying such a network but you can read about the technology by going to the paper that describes it and the challenges the developers face.


Helikite LAP Deployment


Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...