Using Model Helicopters to Provide Wireless Access in Disaster Areas
A professor at Germany's Ilmenau University of Technology is working on a project to use 'quadcopters' to build self-assembling ad-hoc wireless networks in disaster areas where existing network infrastructure may have been destroyed. The helicopters are autonomous flying machines carrying VIA pico ITX computers with radio equipment. Equipped with satellite navigation, the machines can fly into an area and spread out to form a radio network for first-responders and for people to call for help. Using off the shelf parts the network can be assembled quickly, often before people on the ground can get in to the affected areas. The limiting factor is the batteries, which only provide about 20 minutes of flight time. But that's enough for the little fliers to reach a high point such as a building and land and then operate for several hours.