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Page 1 How the Airborne Internet Will Work

by Kevin Bonsor

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Introduction to How the Airborne Internet Will Work The Net Takes Flight A HALO Over Head Floating On Air NASA's Sub-space Plans Lots More Information See more »

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Photo courtesy Angel Technologies

This diagram shows how the HALO Network will enable a high-speed wireless Internet connection The word on just about every Internetuser's lips these days is "broadband." We have so much more data to send and download today, including audio files, video files and photos, that it's clogging our wimpy modems. Many Internet users are switching to cable modems and digital subscriber lines(DSLs) to increase their bandwidth. There's also a new type of service being developed that will take broadband into the air. At least three companies are planning to provide high-speed wireless Internet connection by placing aircraft in fixed patterns over hundreds of cities. Angel Technologies is planning an airborne Internet network, called High Altitude Long Operation (HALO), which would use lightweight planes to circle


That speed is far too slow to handle the huge streaming-video and music files that more consumers are demanding today. That's where the need for bigger bandwidth -. Next Page Page 2 How the Airborne Internet Will Work by Kevin Bonsor y y y y y 1. Print Cite Feedback Share Recommend Inside this Article Introduction to How the Airborne Internet Will Work The Net Takes Flight A HALO Over Head Floating On Air NASA's Sub-space Plans Lots More Information See more » Wifi Videos y More Tech Videos » The Net Takes Flight The computer most people use comes with a standard 56K modem. the aircraft and how consumers may use this technology in their homes. and Sky Station International is planning a similar venture using blimps instead of planes. you'll learn about the future of the airborne Municipal WiFi We've already seen satellites used for broadband Internet access. 4. 2. 6. unmanned plane that would work like the HALO network. Get Connected y y y How WiFi Works Broadband over Powerlines DiscoveryChannel. 5. 7. In this article.comes in.overhead and provide data delivery faster than a T1 line for businesses. 3. Consumers would get a connection comparable to DSL. allowing a greater amount of data 2 . We'll take a look at the networks in development.broadband -. Also. AeroVironment has teamed up with NASA on a solar-powered. which means that in an ideal situation your computer would downstream at a rate of 56 kilobits per second (Kbps).

These airborne networks will overcome the last-mile barriers facing conventional Internet access options. who will provide their high-capacity terminals for use by the network. 5. What the airborne Internet will do is provide an infrastructure that can reach areas that don't have broadband cables and wires. the airborne Internet will actually be used to compliment the satellite and ground-based networks. The airborneInternet aircraft will circle overhead at an altitude of 52. there is no such physical limitation. These ISPs have a fiber point of presence -. It would take a lot of time to provide universal access using cable or phone lines. 2. Bandwidth of satellite and airborne Internet access are typically the same.their fiber optics are already set up. 6.031 meters). enabling a broader capacity.849 to 21. Satellites orbit at several hundreds of miles above Earth. but it will take less time for the airborne Internet to relay data because it is not as high up. Print Cite Feedback Share Recommend Inside this Article Introduction to How the Airborne Internet Will Work The Net Takes Flight A HALO Over Head Floating On Air NASA's Sub-space Plans Lots More Information See more » Wifi Videos 3 . The airborne Internet won't be completely wireless. the aircraft will be undisturbed by inclement weather and flying well above commercial air traffic. not replace them. The "last mile" refers to the fact that access to high-speed cables still depends on physical proximity. The consumers will have to install an antenna on their home or business in order to receive signals from the network hub overhead. 7. not everyone who wants access can have it. flow to and from your computer. Several companies have already shown that satellite Internet access can work. Page 3 How the Airborne Internet Will Work by Kevin Bonsor y y y y y 1. Networks using high-altitude aircraft will also have a cost advantage over satellites because the aircraft can be deployed easily -. An airborne network will immediately overcome the last mile as soon as the aircraft takes off. The airborne Internet will function much like satellite-based Internet access. but without the time delay.they don't have to be launched into space. The networks will also work with established Internet Service Providers (ISPs). In an airborne Internet.000 feet (15.000 to 69. 4. and that for this reason. There will be ground-based components to any type of airborne Internet network. However. Land-based lines are limited physically in how much data they can deliver because of the diameter of the cable or phone line. just because of the time it takes to install the wires. At this altitude.

which will carry wireless networkingequipment into the air.4 m) 2 turbofan engines 2.5 and 11. It is designed with long wings and the low wing loading needed for extended high-altitude flight.3 ft (17.900 pounds empty 77 ft 7 inches (23.000 pounds at takeoff 5. The centerpiece of this network is the Proteus plane. One the three companies developing an airborne Internet network is Angel Technologies.7 m) Expandable to 92 feet (28 m) 56.3 and 18.3 km) and cover an area up to 75 miles (120.6 ft (5.2 m) 17. Its HALO Networkmay be ready for deployment at the end of 2003 and in place over 10 cities by 2006. Wing loading is equal to the entire mass of the plane divided by its wing area. Proteus Aircraft Weight Wingspan Length Height Engines Range 9. The plane still needs to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.4 miles (15.7 km) in diameter.y More Tech Videos » A HALO Over Head Photo courtesy Angel Technologies The Proteus plane will carry the network hub for the HALO Network. The Proteus plane was developed byScaled Composites.300 pounds of thrust 18 hours 4 . Proteus will fly at heights of 9.

Each plane will fly for eight hours before the next plane takes off. Angel CEO Marc Arnold says his company has identified 3.7 kph) to 250 knots (288 mph/463. The airbornenetwork hub consists of an antenna array and electronics for wireless communication. like mobile-phone cells. the Proteus plane will climb to a safe altitude. and begin an 8-mile loop around the city. which is what allows the plane to relay data signals from ground stations to your workplace and home computer. above any bad weather or commercial traffic. on the ground to serve thousands of users. Each city in the HALO Network will be allotted three piloted Proteus planes. In the next three sections. we will take a look at the three aircraft that could be bringing you broadband Internet access from the sky. Previous PageNext Page Photo courtesy Angel Technologies Airborne-Internet systems will require that an antenna be attached to the side of your house or work place. The payload is liquid-cooled and operates off of about 20 kilowatts of DC power. The antenna array creates hundreds of virtual cells. After takeoff.5 kph) At the heart of Angel's Proteus planes is the one-ton airborne-network hub. Each plane will accommodate two pilots.Speed 65 knots (75 mph/120.500 airports in the United States that can meet HALO's operational needs. who will split flying duties during their eight-hour flight. An 18-foot dish underneath the plane is responsible for reflecting high-speed data signals from a ground station to your computer. Previous PageNext Page 5 .

and plans to station these airships over at least 250 cities worldwide. 3. Previous PageNext Page How the Airborne Internet Will Work 6 . one over each city. 4.500 square miles (19. Each station would fly at an altitude of 13 miles (21 km) and provide wireless service to an area of approximately 7. The blimps will be able to carrying payloads of up to about 2. Sky Station Blimp Diameter Length Width Power 203 ft (62 m) 515 ft (157 m) approx. Sky Station believes it can have its first blimp deployed by 2002. 7.200 pounds (1. Sky Station calls its blimps lighter-than-air platforms. 6. 5.000 kg).000 square km). Click here to see how the Sky Station system works. Sky Station says that its user terminals will enable broadband connections of between 2 and 10 megabits per second (Mbps). Print Cite Feedback Share Recommend Inside this Article Introduction to How the Airborne Internet Will Work The Net Takes Flight A HALO Over Head Floating On Air NASA's Sub-space Plans Lots More Information See more » Wifi Videos y More Tech Videos » Floating On Air Sky Station International is counting on its blimps to beat Angel to the punch in the race to deliver highspeed Internet access from high altitudes.How the Airborne Internet Will Work by Kevin Bonsor y y y y y 1. 2. 300 ft (91 m) Solar and fuel cells Each blimp will be equipped with a telecommunications payload to provide wireless broadband connections. Each blimp will have a life span of about five to 10 years.

NASA is also playing a role in a potential airborne Internet system being developed by AeroVironment. 6. 4. NASA and AeroVironment are working on a solarpowered.000 feet. 3. Print Cite Feedback Share Recommend Inside this Article Introduction to How the Airborne Internet Will Work The Net Takes Flight A HALO Over Head Floating On Air NASA's Sub-space Plans Lots More Information See more » Wifi Videos y More Tech Videos » NASA's Sub-space Plans Not to be left out of the high-flying Internet industry. AeroVironment plans to use these unmanned planes as the carrier to provide broadband Internet access. at 60. lightweight plane that could fly over a city for six months or more. without landing. 2. 7 .by Kevin Bonsor y y y y y 1. 7. 5.

3 m) 12 ft (3.7 m) 1. AeroVironment plans to launch its system within three years of receiving funding for the project. 2-horsepower. direct-current electric motors 1 to 3 hours in prototype tests 6 months when fully operational 19 to 25 mph (30.6 to 40.976 square ft (183. and there is still a lot of testing to be done to achieve the endurance levels needed for AeroVironment's telecommunications system. When it does.2 kph) 8 .048 pounds (929 kg) 247 ft (75. a single Helios airplane flying at 60. Helios Aircraft Weight Wingspan Length Wing Area Propulsion Range Speed 2.Photo courtesy NASA The Helios aircraft will be equipped with telecommunications equipment and stay airborne for six months straight.6 m2) 14 brushless. Helios is currently in the prototype stage.000 feet will cover a service area approximately 40 miles in diameter.

graphite epoxy. covered with a thin. and is thicker on the top than on the bottom in order to absorb the constant bending during flight. each 41 ft (12.even if we live somewhere in that "last mile. It seems that airborne Internet could take off in the very near future. If and when those planes and blimps start circling to supplement our current modes of connection. plastic film is wrapped around the entire wing body.The Helios prototype is constructed out of materials such as carbon fiber. flight-control computers and data instrumentation. transparent skin." Previous PageNext Page 9 . A pod carrying the landing gear is attached under the wing portion of each section. Kevlar and Styrofoam. The main pole supporting the wing is made out of carbon fiber. and a clear. These pods also house the batteries.5 m) long. Network hubs for AeroVironment's telecommunications system would likely be placed here as well. Styrofoam comprises the wing's front edge. downloading the massive files we've come to crave for entertainment or depend on for business purposes will be a snap -. The all-wing plane is divided into six sections. The wing's ribs are made of epoxy and carbon fiber.

are capable of transmitting only 56. Components and Advantages Accessing the airborne Internet is relatively simple. The relative proximity of the aircraft virtually eliminates the time lag issue with satellite-based Internet systems. If the idea proves commercially viable. Finally. The only problem with satellite Internet is a perceivable 'time lag' involved in transmitting data to and from satellites orbiting hundreds of miles above the earth. reliable access to the Internet as well as quick and easy file 'sharing.Airborne Internet refers to installing a broadband network hub in an aircraft flying at 52. ground-based transmitters. The Need for Airborne Internet Airborne Internet is seen as the perfect answer to the demand for fast. money and resources. All three companies believe their systems will be operational within the first decade of the 21st century. The aircraft will provide Internet connection to places and establishments within its range.which reduces the costs involved in Internet access.too slow and often unreliable for large file transmission. The end user (whether individual or company users in residential or commercial areas) will have to have an external antenna which will be provided by an Internet Service Provider with 'wired' and wireless systems which will act as distributors. An airborne Internet system also provides an answer to the growing legions of mobile Internet users. there are no physical limitations on the amount of data that can be transmitted.since data is sent over the air. having an Internet hub installed in an aircraft implies that there is no need to set up a 'wired' infrastructure .' Currently. Satellite-based Internet provides a way around the 'wired' problem . The flight pattern that the aircraft takes ensures coverage of a wide area and a large population of users. TV cable systems and satellite transmission. Conventional telephone lines.000 feet above sea level . Internet users can expect wider access to broadband Internet sooner than originally planned or anticipated. Having a flying network hub implies a reduction in the cost of setting up a wireless Internet with its network of nodes. There are at least three US companies working on the airborne Internet concept.high enough to be out of weather disturbances and way outside the flight envelope of commercial aircraft. etc. setting up the infrastructure for a land-based broadband network with universal access requires enormous investments in time. for example. A second issue is the cost involved in sending an internet-capable satellite out of the earth's atmosphere. A second company has developed an aircraft specifically for the purpose. the problem lies in the physical limitations of the channels used for the purpose: telephone wires. One company envisions the use of lighter-than-air crafts (blimps or dirigibles) as their main Internet carriers in the sky.500 cities and towns from which their planes can be based. 10 .000 to 69.000 bits (56k) per second under ideal conditions . Cable or direct subscription lines (DSL) lines can handle up to 100 million bits per second but the service is not widely available. this company has identified at least 3.

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