Drones Provide Instant Cellular Coverage During Disaster Relief Operations

Drones can prove to be very handy in emergency situations especially in emergency relief operations and delivery of medical supplies. A professor at the University of North Texas is developing a drone to which a portable communication system can be attached and it starts providing cellular service in the disaster-hit area.

In case of natural catastrophes such as tornados and hurricanes, the technological infrastructure is adversely affected. This makes it difficult for the emergency relief professionals to stay in contact with each other. The Aerial Deployable Communications System has been designed against this aftermath.

Kamesh Namuduri is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and the University of North Texas (UNT). He has attached a portable communications system to a drone that can attain an elevation of 400 feet in the air and provide instant cellular coverage up to 1.25 miles.

Currently, the system utilizes merely 250 milliwatts of transmit power. But the scientist is of the view that if this system is up-scaled and the transmit power is increased to 10 watts, it can provide cellular coverage to an entire city of Denton, Texas which has an area of 90 square miles.

A successful field test of the technology was recently carried out in Waxahachie, Texas. The cellular technology was programmed to tune into the frequency range designated for the emergency response professionals. It proved that the emergency responders could be given an uninterrupted access to communication without the system getting chocked or damaged.

The team presented their observations and findings at the 2017 Global City Teams Challenge Expo in Washington D.C. this August. A demonstration of their system was also carried out.

The battery lifespan of the drone is of vital importance and needs to be improved. Traditionally, batteries provide a flight duration of half an hour to drones which is not enough in case of emergency situations. May be a tethered drone such as the CyPhy Works’ PARC could be tried here.

Verizon worked on a similar system with their Airborne LTE Operations (ALO) Project, to determine how well the drones could be put to use in emergency circumstances. Facebook’s Aquila drone which is powered by Solar energy is also designed to bring internet access to areas with zero internet coverage by orbiting an area 60 miles in diameter.

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