The latest technology is changing the way companies, municipalities and other organizations are able to monitor critical infrastructure and provide communications in the aftermath of disasters such as the recent spate of hurricanes which have slammed our country and the Caribbean.
On June 20, airborne LTE connected first responders during a mock disaster exercise in Cape May County, N.J., to a first-of-its-kind “flying cell site,” which was mounted on a RS-20 long-endurance Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) and made calls, sent text messages, photos and video from a simulated “communications-denied” environment back to command centers across the state. American Aerospace also assisted Cape May in securing FAA approval for the test use of an unmanned aircraft flying beyond the line of site to its land-based pilot and crew. Verizon was the wireless partner for this test providing their Airborne LTE Service.
This tweet has been sent via @verizon‘s “flying cell site” aboard our RS-20 UAS.
The future is here. #AirborneLTE
— American Aerospace (@AmericanAeroInc) June 20, 2017
To learn more we met with David Yoel and Dave McCarely who told us they consider their company to be an airborne sensing and communications-as-a-service company. Their InstiMaps mapping and sensor payload is behind providing airborne imagery across an enterprise for the monitoring of pipelines, power lines and more. Analytics can be done in the cloud so companies receive images as well as intelligence.
The company provides near-real-time dissemination of 2-inch resolution photos at 75 miles per hour or can transmit 10-30 square miles an hour on broader patrol. It uses 400 MP cameras, on a 17-foot aircraft which weighs 185 pounds, has a 23,000 foot ceiling and can fly between 10-16 hours at a time once shot from a catapult. They call it a UAS, we might consider it a drone – the company thinks the fact it doesn’t run on batteries means its not a drone.
What’s more important is it has compute power, has full auto-pilot, a transponder, aviation lights, redundant command and control communications links, 400 watts of power via a generator, power sensors for computational devices and the ability to provide LTE.
The system can be flown over smart cities after a disaster to monitor IoT sensors for things like low-oxygen levels or other signals which may be considered at alarm levels or out of the norm.
Other benefits of InstiMaps is it can immediately be used to map roads in the aftermath of a natural disaster. This can be crucial in life-threatening situations as first-responders can’t be hung up dealing with downed trees when trying to get to a victim in trouble.
The flying cell site connects to a land-based control center on a vehicle which in-turn could be connected to a satellite. If a satellite link isn’t feasible, the drone can take-off and land repeatedly, downloading data between trips.
Some of the company’s customers include Shell, Chevron, NASA, numerous universities and the U.S. Army.