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Tuesday, January 20, 2004


Broadband blimps over Britain?

"London -- An international group of communications companies and research institutes has launched a project to develop a network that will make broadband available to remote rural areas and even to moving trains, using airships."

"The team will build 'High Altitude Platforms' (HAPs) that will be permanently located in the skies at an altitude of 20 km. The target is to provide access at 120Mbit/s anywhere within an HAPs' 60km diameter coverage area. The team says this will be cheaper and more efficient than cable or satellite based delivery as such HAPs do not require underground cabling or masts."

From a communications standpoint, this should probably work fine. From an aeronautical viewpoint, there are probably some challenges which the article does not elaborate on. Unless tethered, these airships will need refueling to stay in position at 65,000 to 70,000 feet. If tethered, the tether lines represent a hazard to aerial navigation.

Since the wind could blow from any direction over the course of the year, a tethered blimp could require blocking off a cone of airspace that, although narrow at the bottom, could be 5 to 10 miles across at the cruising altitudes for commercial airliners. Alternately, the developers could reduce the cone's diameter by using very thick, strong cables, but then they'd need a bigger blimp (with a larger surface area for the wind to push around).

The problems are much bigger for aerostats or blimps at 65,000 feet than for the aerostats the U.S. government operates at 5,000 to 10,000 feet along the border:

"Lighter-than-air Force (Aerostat radar balloons)"

DailyWireless and have follow-up articles.


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