European Commission To Fly In Emergency SMS Messages By Helicopter

from the didn't-they-try-something-like-this-in-Independence-Day? dept

We've noted in the past that mobile operators continue to have problems delivering text messages at times, calling into question the wisdom of using SMS to deliver emergency messages. A new European Commission project hopes to get around the problem of natural disasters or other events disrupting SMS delivery by sending text messages via helicopter. Basically, it sounds like they're strapping a cellular base station and some other network equipment to a chopper, so they can disseminate alerts and emergency information to people in a given area. It's an interesting project, and one that could be potentially useful, since a lack of communications infrastructure is often one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in a disaster zone. However, this seems like it's more focused on one-way, top-down communications, rather than providing a replacement infrastructure allowing two-way communication. It's a good start, though, and hints at possible future solutions. Perhaps there is a future for stratellites after all...

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    drkkgt, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 4:46pm


    Maybe they should get with those guys making the little balloon/blimp wireless networks

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    drkkgt, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 4:47pm


    that's what I get for not looking at the final link....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Stu, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 5:57pm

    The more sophisticated the infrastructure, the more fragile it is.
    "Progress is the exchange of one set of nuisances for another."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    entropyembrace, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 6:20pm

    peer to peer

    Peer to peer transmission of text messages between cell phones like what David Brin has been talking about in his blog sounds like a much more workable solution to the problem of cell phone failure in disaster areas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    zl3cat, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 6:34pm

    I don't get it.

    If they're trying to get information to the general public, wouldn't broadcast radio make more sense? SMS is designed for one-to-one messaging and I'm not sure how easy it is to send the same text to thousands of phones.

    And for communication between emergency workers, a helicopter-mounted FM repeater might be more use.

    "The more sophisticated the infrastructure, the more fragile it is." -- too true, and when the shit really hits the fan they usually end up relying on Amateur Radio Operators with very simple and very reliable SSB or FM radio equipment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Enrico Suarve, Jan 26th, 2007 @ 4:39am

    Re: I don't get it.

    With you on that score - a nice add-on maybe since so many people have mobiles these days but when the shit is hitting the fan it would pay to keep things simple

    Radio is definitly the way to go for both respects

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    chris (profile), Jan 26th, 2007 @ 6:49am

    the military does it already

    they put high powered antennas for all kinds of things into helicopters so you can get communications equipment in the air fast.

    the best example is the quickfix:

    which is basically a sophisticated intelligence platform in a helicopter. they use them to intercept and jam enemy communications.

    choppers make good short term/short range communications platforms. they are easier to put up than a fixed antenna, easier to move, and you can expand coverage by adding more choppers.

    the downside is that choppers are expensive to keep in the air long term. they require crews and tons of fuel compared to ground based communicaitons equipment.

    a more ecconomical solution would be an unmanned aerial vehicle like the airforce's predator:

    presumably a cellular signal booster is lighter and uses less energy than the quickfix gear, so you could keep the UAVs in the air longer and they would cost less to operate.

    either way, using aircraft as makeshift antennas is no substitute for mobile, gound based infrasturcture. trucks and generators are cheaper to build and operate and can run for much longer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Enrico Suarve, Jan 26th, 2007 @ 7:35am

    Re: the military does it already

    Fully with you but when our European representatives have had a hard day arguing over how bendy bananas should be, and what figure between 80 and 90 percent of gross European taxes should go to french farmin subsidies they need something sexy to talk about

    Choppers are so much sexier than trucks - they have whirly blades and the pilots say things like 'roger' and everything

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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