Look up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s a flying cell tower.
Martin UAV and Fenix Group, Inc. have teamed up to create an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) weighing under 55 pounds. What’s interesting is the drone’s ability to provide 4G cell service – an achievement the two call a “world’s first.”
“When we first conceived the project, we knew we had to make it a priority. The market is just there for this right now and Martin UAV immediately understood that,” says Fenix Group’s President and CEO Dave Peterson in a press release. “Beyond tactical closed networks for DoD at huge cost savings over what is currently being fielded, the marriage of unmanned systems with LTE core networks is representative of what Google was trying to do with their Loon program. We beat Google at something, for very little money, and that feels great.”
For reference, Project Loon is a network of balloons aimed at extending Internet connectivity to remote areas worldwide. The balloons utilize patch antennas to transmit the wireless signals to individual ground stations or LTE users.
The drone created by this partnership will include a database of subscribers and provide payment options. In turn, this will allow users who live in rural and remote areas Internet connection. Additionally, the UAV’s onboard camera equipment has the ability to stream encrypted video to anyone on the network.
According to the release, future soldiers and first responders could access the drone’s video feed in order to aid in their individual operations. The Fenix team also notes that command centers could be granted access from any global location.
“The technical challenges we faced to get all of the components to play nicely and not cause the aircraft to crash were very real. We were on a shoestring budget to do this safely,” says Fenix Group’s Chief Innovation Officer Stefan Schaner. “Power constraints, FAA & FCC authorities, getting the overall payload weight down, and a myriad of problems we didn’t expect all had to be overcome. Working with Martin allowed us to get the right aircraft into play with the right characteristics for this project to be successful.”
Initial plans for this UAV are for first responders and the Department of Defense (DoD). Next in line to use this technology are telecom providers, crisis response units, and oil and gas companies.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense