Hurricane Sandy knocked out several cell towers when it hit the Northeast last month, leaving thousands without wireless communications service. The FCC has subsequently decided to examine the possibility of beaming 3G or Wi-Fi signals from drones or weather balloons in future crises. Commercial carriers currently rely on wheeled temporary cell towers to restore service to affected areas, but the hope is that deploying wireless signals from the air would speed-up the process.
- 20 percent of commercial cell towers across 10 states failed as a result of Sandy.
- Some important issues to overcome include how the airborne technology would be regulated to coordinate with federal aviation requirements, as well as ensuring that they would not interfere with operational phone tower signals.
Food for Thought:
- The military has successfully used drones and balloons to create communications networks for years, so the technology already exists, but the airborne broadcasters may not be able to handle a large amount of commercial traffic.
- This is yet another domestic application for utilizing drone technology, which has thus far largely been viewed as belonging to the foreign policy sphere. It remains to be seen how the federal government will handle the use of drones within the United States.