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The end of "Can you here me now?"
April 13, 2005 9:32 PM   Subscribe

Robot planes may make phone towers obsolete "...it's a "Stratellite", and its makers believe it will revolutionise the broadband and wireless industry; if it ever gets off the ground.

Wisconsin communications company Sanswire on Tuesday unveiled its almost-finished prototype of a hard-framed, unmanned airship designed to fly in the stratosphere 21km above the earth and send broadband and cellphone signals to an area the size of Texas."


This in my opinion is an example of truly innovative technology.
posted by jaydedx (25 comments total)

 
Hm. When I heard "unmanned airship" I thought of something like the Predator, but an unmanned blimp could be a lot more fuel-efficient. Maintenance costs would be significant, but that's true of towers and satellites, too. Nifty idea.
posted by scarabic at 10:00 PM on April 13, 2005


Oh c'mon. This is a load of hot air.
posted by sien at 10:00 PM on April 13, 2005


Oh, the humanity!
posted by pmurray63 at 10:00 PM on April 13, 2005


But "Sanswire"? Sounds French. Isn't it legal to shoot the French in Wisconsin?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:18 PM on April 13, 2005


Oh, the huge maintenance fee!
posted by sourwookie at 10:19 PM on April 13, 2005


I think these are great. Cell phones are cool, but I think the thing we need these for is wide area wireless IP. Satellite IP is ubiquitous, but the latencies are way too high. IIRC, their orbits range from 500km to 35k km, but I'm not sure if the 500km comm sats do IP or not. Round trip to a geostationary satellite is going to be 240ms, but these babies are going to have round trip times of 140us. They'll be cheaper to launch, and there will be more of them, so if similar technology is used for ultra wide area wireless, then we can expect both low latency and high bandwidth wireless access.

I don't know if these will take off, but either way, we're going to have some pretty cool revolutions in technology once we can take blanket high speed wireless connectivity for granted.
posted by beaverd at 10:22 PM on April 13, 2005


This is great news for those of us in flyover country. Many college students in small towns suffer poor reception because they're not in every network's high-priority full-coverage zone.
posted by NickDouglas at 10:38 PM on April 13, 2005


Wasn't there a startup in the late '90s that tried--and failed--to establish a network like this? I'm thinking Infinium or Infineon or something like that, but Google hasn't got anything likely looking for either in the top 10. Anybody got a stack of old Wired mags they wanna dig through?
posted by arto at 12:01 AM on April 14, 2005


Wasn't there a startup in the late '90s that tried

Ricochet? This was terrestrial data comms, but a startup in the late 90s...
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:09 AM on April 14, 2005


Where's my air-car ?
posted by troutfishing at 1:31 AM on April 14, 2005


I'm thinking Infinium or Infineon or something like that

"Iridum" was the satellite-driven global cell-phone thing. Is that what you're thinking of?

Rocochet was great: wireless and comparable to a 56K modem. Not sure if they're still around, though.
posted by scarabic at 1:37 AM on April 14, 2005


Yeah, that's the one, Scarabic. Knew it started with an I.
posted by arto at 1:45 AM on April 14, 2005


More info here and here.
Bad luck NickDouglas. It's for the urban landscape to begin with.

It seems funny that they have launched this product yet don't have clearance to launch the stratellite. I wonder if this is a bit of backdoor lobbying - get some interest/put some pressure on DOD +/- Congress. The sanswire site has quite a bit of demographic info about 'net usage ...
"..Among Internet users, 39 percent of individuals are making online purchases and 35 percent of individuals are searching for health information"....&c
Strange. Oh well....maybe it's just part of the package. Great idea though.
posted by peacay at 3:23 AM on April 14, 2005


Where's my air-car ?
It's queued up right after my self-cleaning house.
posted by a_day_late at 3:40 AM on April 14, 2005


I like my self-cleaning oven, but I don't think I'll be flying it any time soon, thank-you-very-much.
posted by RightsaidFRED at 4:53 AM on April 14, 2005


Isn't it legal to shoot the French in Wisconsin?

Only the feral French who decimate the wild snail population. Pet Frenchmen wearing licensed berets will still be protected.
posted by MrBaliHai at 5:13 AM on April 14, 2005


I read about a similar idea in Wired almost a decade ago, although I think that was meant to be more of an alternative to Teledesic (don't hear much about them anymore--supposed to be a network of 840 or so LEO satellites providing stationary-wireless broadband, and backed by Bill Gates, among others. Guess they got cold feet after Iridium).

And remember the Aerovironment UAV? Somehow I always thought that was going to be used as an alternative to cellphone towers. Not sure what happened with that, although it seems to be pretty well established in terms of its technology.
posted by adamrice at 6:13 AM on April 14, 2005


Oh, and of course, I forgot about this concept, which predates the lot of them.
posted by adamrice at 6:15 AM on April 14, 2005


"Iridum" was the satellite-driven global cell-phone thing.

Not to nitpick, but, nitpicking: "Iridium". Still alive and kicking, BTW.
posted by beagle at 7:41 AM on April 14, 2005


won't these create a collision hazard for our personal helicopters?
posted by quonsar at 7:50 AM on April 14, 2005


Years ago, while driving toward Marfa, Texas, I saw this HUGE blimp tied down behind razor wire in the middle of the desert. According to the locals, it was part of an elaborate network of blimps that would aid in spotting people trying to cross over the border in the desert...

In the interest of blimp boondoggles everywhere ...

The Marfa ... Drug Blimp !
posted by R. Mutt at 7:51 AM on April 14, 2005


There's a blimp tethered to a wire in the Florida Keys that is, IIRC, Radio/TV Marti that we use to broadcast "the trvth" to Cuba. Whenever I pass it in real life, it's always on the ground, but you can see (and run into it) in MS Flight Simulator.
posted by OneOliveShort at 9:58 AM on April 14, 2005


"Iridium". Still alive and kicking, BTW.

While we're nitpicking, I don't think "still alive" is quite the right word. "Back from the dead" seems to apply a bit better, after they filed bankruptcy, and were bought / revived. But yeah, the brand is around today.
posted by scarabic at 11:30 AM on April 14, 2005


Whenever I pass it in real life, it's always on the ground

There a couple of them. If you see one on the ground, look way, way up in the sky and you'll probably see the other one.
posted by piskycritter at 11:57 AM on April 14, 2005


Thanks, piskycritter! I'll be passing by soon and I'll do just that.

There is precious little about the technical details on the web, even on the VOA/Radio-TV Marti sites. I wanted to find out more about it, such as, is the tether just feed line or does it radiate? Inquiring hams wanna know.
posted by OneOliveShort at 1:24 PM on April 14, 2005


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