Allsopp Helikites Ltd is a partner in a new European research project to provide rapid, mobile, airborne, 4G communications over a wide area in the event of an emergency.
The project, called “Aerial Base Stations with Opportunistic Links for Unexpected and Temporary Events” or “ABSOLUTE” for short, is funded by the European
Commissionand lead by Thales Communications and Security in France”.
Helikites are a new type of all-weather, high-altitude, tethered aircraft. Helikites are
novel because they are the only stable aerostats in the world that are pushed up by both helium and also by the wind. This means that even very compact Helikites can lift useful payloads to great altitude, whilst being highly weather-survivable. Now, they will provide an inexpensive, all weather and persistent platform for the 4G equipment being developed in the project. Helikite platforms can be deployed from a small vehicle or boat and sent to 1000ft altitude in less than one hour.
The high altitude provides excellent over-the-horizon line-of-sight, rapidly creating a vast area of 4G coverage – perfect for provision of emergency communications in the event of a disaster or temporary event. Such a 4G airborne base station will allow anyone with a suitable mobile phone to be connected to the network if required. Thousands of victims will be able to report their circumstances to the emergency services, with their smart-phones automatically providing their exact position to first responders.
The different emergency services will be able to communicate co-operatively. For the first time they will be able to exploit extremely useful applications, to instantly distribute maps, facial images and even video reports, because 4G provides high bandwidth.
Presently, many different groups of first responders utilise different types of radios,
which causes considerable communication difficulties when they need to work together. The ABSOLUTE system gets around this because all groups will be able to use 4G devices, which then allows unrivalled inter-group communications.
With backhaul, ABSOLUTE will provide internet communications over huge areas of the land and sea without the need for expensive infrastructure. This greatly aids correct planning and deployment by governments, allows relatives to contact victims, enables doctors to report casualties, and NGO’s to organise aid to the correct places.
Helikite 4G technology also makes possible the deployment robotic ground vehicles, unmanned sea vehicles and environmental sensors over large areas. Unmanned vehicles are needed for dealing with radiation leaks, poison gas clouds, earthquakes, flooding, tsunamis and volcanoes. As recent tragic events at Fukishima, Bhopal, Haiti, New Orleans, Montserrat and Mount St Helens testify.