This information is mostly taken from information posted by SamChurchill on the MailingList. I thought it was interesting and so I posted it here where it will hopefully be added to in the future. The idea is that instead of building a tower (which is fairly expensive) you could suspend an antenna, and possibly an access point, inside or beneath a weather balloon filled with helium.
Equipment and Price List
- Antenna (depends on intended usage)
- Balloon $300-$500
- Helium tank and misc ($100-$200)
- Tethers ($??)
- Ground Anchors ($??)
LMR-400 ($0.60/foot) or
- CatV ($?/foot)
PowerOverEthernet Adapters (Homemade for $25)
- Ham Ballooning FAQ
- The FCC and Ballooning
- A ham repeater at 45,000 feet
- Weather ballons and blimps for sale
- Relevant Software
I've been thinking about this for a while too. I'm sure it wouldn't be legally pheasable in nyc (manhattan) where I live, but laws may be less restrictive in other localities. Laws aside, however, one might encounter opposition on grounds of safety and asthetics.
I still think this is something to try, tho. For this application, it will be necessary to achieve great stability in the balloons. They must not vary too much in position nor sway from side to side. This problem might be resolved through the use of 3 or more tethers, rather than just a single line. The additional tethers would provide stability necessary for line of sight communications.
Balloon Telecommunications Platforms
SpaceData plans to use weather balloons and aquired the 900Mhz band nationwide to connect cellular towers. They piggyback on weather balloons.
SpaceData intends to provide wireless communications coverage in unserved suburban and rural areas. The system consists of a network of wireless repeaters operating at approximately 20 miles above the earth's surface. Our system will enable users of wireless devices to communicate from areas that are not economical to cover with antenna towers. Towers can only cost effectively serve 80% of the U.S Population. However, Space Data's network of wireless repeaters operating at 100,000 feet will provide ubiquitous, nationwide coverage and work cooperatively with terrestrial networks.
Providing interoperability with existing user equipment, the system combines low-cost, commercial electronics with the wide field of view previously available only from satellites.
Our vision is to attach communication electronics to small, expendable weather balloons that will float to 20 miles above the earth's surface, provide communications services for approximately 12 to 24 hours, and then be replenished with a new "constellation" of ballooncraft. Our ballooncraft will operate in a layer of the earth's atmosphere known as the stratosphere.
These small expendable balloons are ideal launch vehicles for several reasons: balloons are inexpensive, require only one person to launch, can be prepared for launch in minutes, and can be launched with no special facilities.
If the balloon and its contents weigh less than six pounds (which our ballooncraft systems do), the Federal Aviation Administration (the "FAA") allows such balloons to be launched without restriction in domestic airspace, including without lights or transponders, restrictions on weather, or notice to airmen.
Nearly a thousand launch sites around the world have launched weather balloons twice per day for over 50 years, proving that the required balloon launches can be performed reliably on a coordinated basis under real world conditions.
In World War II Oregon was a target for Balloon Bombs. Some 10,000 were launched from Japan and drifted over the Pacific. They started forest fires in Oregon and throughout the West Coast.
The Blimp hanger in Tillamook, Oregon, may house a major development in using blimps for repeaters. Here's a Navy balloon radio project (pdf), that drifted over the Pacfic to the Tillamook Hanger. The UK is testing a telecommunications blimp (top photo) at 60,000 feet.
An exhaustive set of tests are necessary in preparation for long-term balloon flights in the stratosphere. Listed below are some of the tests and experiments performed since the inception of the Shear Directed Balloon project, now known as GAINS, in September 1995. A majority of the experiments take place in the laboratory environment, where individual components and various configurations are tested under simulated flight conditions. Early tethered experimental flights took place at the NOAA site on Table Mountain, north of Boulder, Colorado. Experimental flights of 1-12 hour duration have been launched from Tillamook, Oregon and southern New Mexico, near Socorro and Las Cruces.
More recently, Aerovironment (below) is testing out there telecommunications platform with a solar-powered, autonomous aircraft. The idea is to orbit for up to 6 months at a time providing telecommunications services. Connectivity for high tech soldiers and sensors may be the main business of the NASA-funded project. [http://www.skytowerglobal.com/news-archive/stnasa228.html they'll be in Hawaii this summer testing out some of the telecommunications gear. It's cheaper than risky $1 Billion TRW geosynch platforms with antennas the size of football fields.
A world record shattering autonomous aircraft is being developed across from Hood River at Bingin. The Insitu Group is keeping a low profile but their autonomous airplane, about the size of a large RC aircraft made an extraordinary accomplishment - it was the first automous aircraft to travel across the Atlantic. A Pacfic launch could happen this year. Insitu is located on the Columbia River because, among other things, launching the aircraft is easy. They are working with the University of Washington Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, under sponsorship from the Office of Naval Research, to develop a trial Aerosonde weather reconnaissance program off the west coast of the United States. Perhaps an Insitu hyperspectral scanner could relay submarine info to the Aerovironment platform and be distributed to a Navy fleet in real-time.
Watch the skies.