Not to be outdone by Facebook’s vision of a drone internet, the military is whipping up unmanned aerial Wi-Fi hotspots of its own. Unused drones from the war in Iraq are getting a second life as part of DARPA’s Mobile Hotspots program.
In remote areas where communication is critical, having your very own Wi-Fi drone circling overhead makes a big difference. The RA-7 Shadow drones DARPA has been retrofitting are much smaller than the deadlier and more infamous Predator drones. In fact, at just 3m long and 84kg, you have to be careful not to overload them with heavy internet equipment. War is Boring explains the details:
The trick, of course, is to fit the wireless equipment on the drone. DARPA researchers say they have developed small antennas operating on the millimetre wave band — that’s extremely high frequency — as well as special amplifiers that can boost the signal while generating just half as much noise as regular amplifiers.
The pod with all this equipment comes out to about 9kg, and the drone itself can fly for nine hours at a time. Now it’s up to DARPA to put it all together and make sure a Wi-Fi equipped drone actually works for troops on the ground. In the future, even drone armies could be Wi-Fi equipped. [War is Boring]
Top picture: An RQ-7 Shadow drone in Iraq, US Army