Internet access takes to the skies

The plane truth...

Now we've heard everything. St. Louis, Missouri-based Angel Technologies is planning a new wireless communications service for major US cities -- based on high-altitude aircraft. The company demonstrated the plane, called Proteus, in the Mojave desert yesterday. The oddly-shaped beast is designed to get up to 50,000ft and fly around in circles for hours on end acting as a wireless base-station. Angel president Peter Diamandis told US newswires: "What we have done is put all the communications capacities of what might be a satellite 22,000 miles high... ten miles over a city." He believes the service will be used for high speed Internet access and video-conferencing. A 24/7 service can be maintained with just three aircraft each flying for eight hours at a time. By flying a pre-determined flight path, the system could serve anyone within a 75 mile diameter area. Diamandis hopes to get the service up and running by 2000. All this recalls to mind an episode of classic 70s BBC TV comedy The Goodies in which Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke-Taylor saves Blighty from the next ice age by tying a three-bar electric heater to a passing giant butterfly. The principle's the same and it's just as likely to get off the ground... ®

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