A Bird, a Plane? No, It Is A Flying Cell Tower

In the latest development in the mobile realm, cell towers are now mounted under the bellies of airplanes. They are not going to be connecting your smartphone anytime soon, unless you are in the military. This is designed for war and for the soldiers who wage it. The airplanes are going to be drones and distributing 3G or 4G service to the troops in the area underneath their flight pattern.

If you have visions of a normal cell tower strapped under the belly of an airplane, it is not quite that way. The entire apparatus to transmit and recieve cell signals is in the form of two pods, similar to a fuel tank. The setup is called FASTCOM, which stands for "Forward Airborne Secure Transmission and Communication". It is created in concert with two companies, Viasat and Textron. The drone used as the mule to deliver the cell signals is the gas powered "AAI RQ-7 Shadow". It is not the size of a regular airplane. It has a wingspan of 14 feet and is 3.3 feet tall. The drone is launched with a pneumatic catapult and recovered with the help of an arresting hook. If you have seen a jet land on an aircraft carrier, a wire on the ship "arrests" the landing of the jet after its mission is complete. The AAI RQ-7 Shadow lands in the same manner. The Shadow had its first flight in 1991. Twelve of them are in use in Pakistan.

The traveling cell tower is destined to provide "industry leading" broadband performance to the troops while they are in combat. As the digitization of the armies of the world continues, the drone will be helping the US Army's Second Battalion to be connected with a high speed cell network. The network that is created with the pods and the drone are good enough to provide top secret communications to those on the ground. The cell-powered drone was recently seen in a TED presentation by the head of DARPA. It was demonstrated alongside things like a digital flying hummingbird.

Look for the militaries of the world to continue developing smaller and smaller flying devices. The flying cell tower idea, like other military ideas, may find its way into civilian life, but no time table is yet in place. There are already suitcase-sized machines that intercept ( or facilitate, depending on your point of view ) cell calls on the ground in Britain. Putting that on a drone should not be a problem. The FBI in the United States use something called "Triggerfish", which masquerades as a real cell tower. The mobile revolution is filled with many interesting facets. The "flying cell tower" drone now gives some new meaning to the word "mobile".


Add new comment