In the event of a disaster, being able to communicate over long and short distances is key. Damage to cables and other communications infrastructure can sometimes hinder this process. We take a look at how drones can reestablish radio networks in the aftermath of a disaster.
Drones can be especially useful when used for, rather than against, people, a line of thought also held by Tobias Simon from the Technical University in Ilmenau, Germany, who has worked for numerous years on a type of drone network that can plug the holes in damaged radio networks in emergency situations.
The Quadrocopters, as Simon and project leader Professor Andreas Mitschele-Thiel call it, are capable of repairing damaged networks. Eight of the agile mini-helicopters build an airlift that serves as a mobile communications platform. Through the newly-established wireless connection, task forces would be able to communicate with each other again after a short time which could help save lives in areas that have just been affected by earthquakes, storms, flooding and terrorist attacks. The special thing about the technology: it operates without human input.
These modern "carrier pigeons", as Simon calls them, can send emergency messages or phone calls to injured people or people buried under rubble to assist those trying to find them. Another possibility would be that the drone receives sent messages, save them and then fly to the nearest base station in order to send them from there. Simon has been researching the network technology that will be installed in the drones since 2009.
There is always a concern that the technology could wind up in the wrong hands and be used for military or spying purposes. Simon is not worried about that, looking more at the positive aspects:
"Technology can always be used in both ways, civil or military". This is the flip side of almost every discipline. It was no different with the Internet. Once thought of as a purely military platform, it is now available to almost everyone everywhere.
To date, the Quadrocopters have been sent into the air and brought back down using remote controls but soon they will be able to take off and land on their own. Once ready, they will be able to move around autonomously (at wind force 7) using GPS.
From the bottom of the ocean to the outer reaches of the galaxy – the possibilities offered by drones and satellites are practically unlimited. Unmanned aerial vehicles are no longer only used in war zones. Equipped with cutting-edge technology, they are also valuable aids in the fight against pollution and social injustice. They can expose polluters and even locate people buried under rubble. In our RESET Special 'Drones and Satellites for Good', we will introduce projects that use satellites and drones towards sustainable development.