Flying Cell Towers

Regina Dugan, director of DARPA, demonstrated some of their projects at TED2012. A hummingbird-type aircraft, developed with AeroVironment, is equipped with a video camera, and weighs less than a AA battery. It flew for 20 seconds in 2008; a year later, two minutes, then 6, and eventually 11 minutes.

Other examples Dugan showed included:

  • Using our knowledge of Gecko anatomy to make Spiderman a reality.
  • Metals light enough to sit atop a dandelion.
  • Harnessing the properties of lightning as the next GPS.
  • A prosthetic arm, controlled by thought, the first robot controlled with thought alone. It was used by a paralysed man, and was the first time he held girlfriend’s hand in years.
  • A green goo from tobacco plants that could make millions of doses of vaccines in weeks instead of months. It “might be the first healthy use of tobacco ever.”
  • Gamers who are solving problems that experts couldn’t (like fold.it).

Today, mobile cell towers fit on the underside of a drone. They are providing a secure 3G network to soldiers. Two affiliates of Textron, AAI and Overwatch, partnered with ViaSat to create what’s basically a set of flying cell towers called Forward Airborne Secure Transmissions and Communications, or FASTCOM.

Two pods fit on the belly of a Shadow drone (the RQ-7), made by AAI. Put the drone overhead and the pods provide a secure mobile 3G cellular network over a given area. FASTCOM is an end-to-end, mobile cellular network that accommodates Top Secret smartphone communications.

The General Dynamics’ “Land Warrior” wearable PC adds about eight pounds to a soldier’s already heavy set of equipment and connects to the network.

SoldierEyes lets you plug in an enemy’s position, and the cloud shares it with anyone else running SoldierEyes, whether out on patrol or back at the command post. Its GPS components allow soldiers to use the map for navigation while they see where their friends and foes are.

The Iridium NEXT network should support symmetric data rates in the range of 64 kbps to 128 kbps per mobile terminal, with radio modem and antenna packages small enough to fit on smaller sub 50 kilogram size UAVs, such as Boeing’s Scan Eagle.

With a 10 Mbps Viasat link, now available through ViaSat-1, perhaps drones will become flying mobile eyes for search and rescue, foreign or domestic police agencies, and television stations. ViaSat-1 has the bandwidth to operate whole fleets of domestic UAVs.

LightSquared announced today that the company is further extending the emulation phase of its current generation services over its new SkyTerra-1 satellite network through the end of 2015. LightSquared will continue to evaluate extending its current generation services beyond 2015. Maybe Lightsquared will find a buyer for their unused mobile satellite system through a Homeland Security spin-off scheme.

At the World Radio Conference last month in Geneva, frequencies near 5GHz were allotted for domestic UAV command and control systems.

In other news, an unmanned helicopter crashed into a SWAT team’s armoured vehicle during a test flight near Houston. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, north of Houston, became one of the first police departments in the USA to begin flying Unmanned Aircraft for police missions in October 2011.

The police were inside their armored “Bearcat” swat truck. The prototype helicopter was from Vanguard Defense Industries. Vanguard CEO Michael Buscher said that his company’s UAV was flying about 18-feet off the ground when it lost contact with the controller’s console on the ground.

Related DailyWireless stories include; DOD Launches UHF Satphone Satellite, US Military to Get Lightsquared-like Satellite, US Celebrates 50 Years in Space, FCC Judgement on Lightsquared: Fail, Formation Flying Swarmbots, Small Satellite Conference Celebrates 25 Years

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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