Airships and humanitarian communications


Covering large swathes of land with wireless connectivity is currently a challenge addressed by the introduction of mesh networking or wifi. Enter into this equation blimps, otherwise known as air-ships, and you have a fascinating vehicle through which blanket coverage of mobile and data services can be provided to regions that need such connectivity the most.

airships might prove most useful in niche markets — rural dead zones, for example, or during natural disasters when terrestrial towers fail. After Hurricane Katrina, satellite-connected wireless phone providers saw a dramatic spike in usage in storm-ravaged Gulf Coast areas.

This quote, taken from a news report published today on Sanswire Networks LLC, flags the development of very large airships, hovering in Earth’s stratosphere, that provide communications to large tracts of land. The marketing spiel in the article aside, this is an interesting concept – hypothetically, the use of such airships can address the communications issues that plague Nepal (on account of topography), the Maldives (on account of the vast expanse of ocean between of the inhabited atolls) and even Sri Lanka by providing citizens in all parts of the country access to communications resilient to sabotage by armed forces and government control and censorship.

The article itself confusingly conflates VoIP with voice and cellular services, but there is no reason to think that the blimps will only offer cellular coverage when the same blimps and technology can be used to push wireless data services and power a new generation of phones and mobile devices that switch automatically between cellular and packet networks.

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