High-Altitude Balloons Carry Wi-Fi Routers for Rapid Disaster Aid

Disasters frequently knock out communications infrastructures, isolating desperate people from the outside world. The internet would enable these people to contact rescuers - if an internet-to-ground linkage could be established. Aaron Ridley, a Michigan Engineering associate professor, is leading a team that is exploring the use of high-altitude balloons that can be launched within an hour of a disaster to carry Wi-Fi routers to positions above affected zones. The balloons would become platforms from which internet-to-ground signals could be sustained and controlled throughout emergencies. This kind of rapid response and reliable, real-time communications with first responders could mean the difference between life and death for otherwise helpless victims.