Feeds

US rolls out robotic broadband airship

Stratellite's gone, up to the skies...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

US communications outfit Sanswire yesterday unveiled concrete evidence of its truly audacious plan to deliver line-of-sight wireless broadband and mobile phone signals to an area the size of Texas from a single transmission point. The company is not, however, planning a private satellite launch or 10,000-foot-high transmission mast disguised as a really big tree - rather it intends to deploy a fleet of geostationary, robotic airships hovering at a comfortable 65,000 feet above the Earth.

The StratelliteThe makers reckon the "Stratellite" will "change the way you communicate", according to Sanswire parent GlobeTel Communications Corp supremo Leigh Coleman. He explained to Reuters: "We're shooting for satellite replacement at a lower cost."

Indeed, the 245-foot-long beast costs around $25-35m a pop - an absolute snip when compared to putting a coms satellite into orbit. It's controlled by ground-based stations and relies on six GPS units coupled to the vehicle's electric motors to make sure it stays put and your signal stays nice and crisp.

The maker's blurb further explains:

Made of Spectra[*] and powered by solar powered electrical engines, each Stratellite will reach its final altitude by utilizing proprietary lifting gas technology. Once in place at 65,000 feet (approx. 13 miles) and safely above the jet stream, each Stratellite will remain in one GPS coordinate, providing the ideal wireless transmission platform. The Stratellites are unmanned airships and will be monitored from the Company’s Operation Centers on the ground.

A Stratellite will have a payload capacity of several thousand pounds and clear line-of-sight to approximately 300,000 square miles, an area roughly the size of Texas. However, the Company’s initial plan is to use one Stratellite for each major metropolitan area.

The Stratellite is similar to a satellite in concept, but is stationed in the stratosphere rather than in orbit. Existing satellites provide easy "download" capabilities, but because of their high altitude are not practical for commercially viable "two-way" high-speed data communication. The Stratellite will allow subscribers to easily communicate in "both directions" using readily available wireless devices.

Sanswire has almost completed a prototype of the Stratellite, but is awaiting a green light from NASA and the FAA to conduct tests over Edwards Air Force base - hopefully within the next three or four months. All being well, the Stratellite will then go into production next year.

Excited investor Muriel Sigala enthused at the launch beano in the southern California desert: "Every time a call drops while someone is driving through the mountains, I say, 'Oh, don't worry, once Sanswire gets up there we won't have this problem'." ®

*Related to Kevlar, apparently. Tough as old boots but pricey.

Bootnote

*Not related to Kevlar after all. Take it away Arthur Chance:

Spectra is a seriously tough and strong fibre like Kevlar, but that's as close as they're related. Kevlar is a para-aramid fibre (long molecular chains produced from poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide). Spectra is Ultra High Molecular Weight (UHMW) polyethylene, aka well known polythene - sort of plastic bags on steroids.

[FX: dismounts hobby horse, removes anorak, feigns sanity.]

Those Stratellite specs in full:

  • Length: 245 feet
  • Width: 145 feet
  • Height: 87 feet
  • Volume: 1.3 million cubic feet
  • Dual envelopes, both made of Kevlar
  • Powered by electric motors
  • Outer envelope covered in film photovoltaic (solar) units
  • Payload capacity: 3,000 pounds
  • Maximum altitude: 70,000 feet
  • Desired altitude: 65,000 feet
  • Proprietary Lifting Gas Technology
  • Held in position by six onboard GPS units connected to the ship’s engines
  • Line-of-sight to a 300,000 square mile area
  • Wireless capability (currently) to an area with a radius of 200 miles
  • Controlled by earth stations on the ground
  • Maximum duration: 18 months (a replacement ship will be in position prior to bringing original ship down for retrofitting. The original ship will return to its position after retrofitting).
  • Each airship is 100% reclaimable

Related stories

US broadband blimp test flight planned next month

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Mighty Blighty broadbanders beg: Let us lay cable in BT's, er, ducts
Complain to Ofcom that telco has 'effective monopoly'
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
Ofcom tackles complaint over Premier League footie TV rights
Virgin Media: UK fans pay the most for the fewest matches
FCC: Gonna need y'all to cough up $1.5bn to put broadband in schools
Kids need more fiber, says Wheeler, and you'll pay for it
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Protecting against web application threats using SSL
SSL encryption can protect server‐to‐server communications, client devices, cloud resources, and other endpoints in order to help prevent the risk of data loss and losing customer trust.