Feeds

US rolls out robotic broadband airship

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

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
Oh girl, you jus' didn't: Level 3 slaps Verizon in Netflix throttle blowup
Just hook us up to more 10Gbps ports, backbone biz yells in tit-for-tat spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.