Facebook recently laid out its ambitious plans of using drones to spread the internet in far flung areas of the world. This novel idea can also improve internet connectivity in conflict zones where infrastructure is under constant threat of being reduced to rubbles. Looks like the military has also been thinking along the same lines. DARPA’s Mobile Hotspots program aims to give unused drones from the war in Iraq a second life by transforming them into aerial Wi-Fi hotspots.
Instead of the well known Predator drones, which are actually quite lethal, DARPA is using the much smaller and less-deadlier RA-7 Shadow drones. They will be retrofitted with equipment, though their 185 pound and 11 feet long constitution makes it hard not to overload them with heavy equipment.
Therefore the tricky part is to be able to actually fit the required equipment on the drone. DARPA researchers are believed to have developed small antennas that operate on the millimeter wave band, at an extremely high frequency. The antennas are coupled with special amplifies that boost the signal while only generating half as much noise as conventional amplifiers.
The pod that researchers have developed for this equipment is said to weigh less than 20 pounds. A RA-7 Shadow with one of these pods could remain airborne for nine hours at a stretch, but we’ll only know for sure once field testing begins after DARPA actually starts hooking up the drones with the pods.
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