As Hurricane Sandy battered the Northeast, power outages wreaked havoc on telecommunications networks, knocking out cell phone usage by the millions. If a future hurricane triggers similar failures, regulators say they have a potential solution with floating wireless antennas from balloons or drones.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is exploring the use of such airborne technology to restore communications after disasters. Beaming 3G or Wi-Fi signals from the sky may be especially useful to emergency responders in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane.
Though not as severe as Hurricane Katrina, the damage to telecommunications networks after Hurricane Sandy was significant. After the storm, about 20 percent cell towers across 10 states failed. Some 911 services were also disrupted after the storm. Wireless companies said they used portable cell towers on wheels, known as COWS, as temporary backups. But deploying wireless signals through the air could restore emergency communications more quickly, especially in hard-to-reach areas.
For years, the military has used drones and balloons to create communications networks in remote places.
A drone, for example, would need to comply with federal aviation regulations. And wireless providers are concerned that floating wireless equipment could interfere with signals at cell phone towers that are still operating. Not only can they interfere with towers but also with aircraft depending on the height they are placed at.
With global warming on the rise it is important to look at possible communication fixes to help those in need during vicious storms such as Sandy and Katrina. The FCC needs to take a step back and review their claims meanwhile help those that could be in great need of this service.
More and more today people are rid themselves of local phone and replace with cellular technology. If we could put balloons or drones into place in these extreme emergencies then it is probably best to do so.
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