3D Robotics

3689610379?profile=originalFrom Gizmag:

Researchers from the University of North Texas (UNT) have demonstrated an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of supplying Wi-Fi to disaster-struck areas with a range of up to 5 km (3.1 miles). The team says these figures represent a marked improvement on existing solutions and could lead to new forms of wireless communication.

"This technology would be very useful in disaster scenarios when the cell towers are down and there's no communication infrastructure," says Yan Wan, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at UNT and leader of the research project.

Where typical Wi-Fi antennas have a range of around 100 m (328 ft), Wan and her team were able to extend this by developing a directional antenna. The antenna rotates to automatically align with a target, serving to better maintain a strong communications link and prevent signal disruption, but there is still some way to go before it's real-world implementation.

"In order to enable the information dissemination between the rescue teams and control centers, we need to have a structure available to make this happen," Wan says. "And this is what we're trying to provide."

The damage to the communications infrastructure that often accompanies the destruction of buildings in storm-ravaged areas makes it difficult for response teams to communicate efficiently, and to keep disaster victims informed. In the past, we have seen drones equipped with hardware to provide networks in disaster zones, though the technology developed by the UNT team is said to hold such promise that it could give rise to an entirely new breed of wireless communication.

"We cannot rely on all our communications running through the ground or satellite," explains Wan. "So if we can have this technology develop for drone-to-drone or flight-to-flight communication, we can have better sensing, better coordination and better safety."

Wan has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to focus on developing this new generation of aviation systems.

Source: National Science Foundation

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  • 5 minutes interruptions every, let say, 15-20 minutes for battery changes.

    And obviously, disaster-struck areas have no power at all. So a generator set is mandatory to charge the batteries.

    And for such applications, a captive balloon is far better. It could be even uninterruptible if power is provided from ground.


  • That's a great idea to bring drone to be Wifi town. I hope this project will success in time. Anyway If we use RC helicopter instead, it will interest what going on.

  • 100KM
    Surely a fixed wing will have better endurance
  • I thought Google had plans to encompass the globe with balloons so the world can tweet 24/7. 

  • Developer
    With a LiPo, quality radio design and a yagi antenna on a pole you could out perform a flying platform at 2.4Ghz. It would be working for days, not minutes.
    Talk to any Radio Ham and he probably have you talking half way round the globe if needed.
  • If your in wifi range you might as well shout at the person. Almost as dumb as using a mobile to call someone in the room next door.

  • If your house is flooded i hardly think anyone will be waiting for that drone to appear just so they can get 10minutes worth of wifi. 

    Seriously disaster workers dont use ipads and chat or email over wifi, they have proper radios or mobiles which are far better in terms of range and reliability.

    The fact the drone has to rotate a directional antenna shows how useless wifi is, and basically admits that every one else doesnt get any proper wifi. Almost as silly as those protesters using ardrones to save ducks from shooters.

  • Moderator

    Pull up a sandbag, a couple of year ago to get a web connection during snow when our tower was out I lifted my cellphone acting as a hotspot on a kite. As long as its windy its a pretty persistent solution. I like the directional bit though.

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