Airships and solar powered planes that can transmit high-speed data to remote communities will take to the skies thanks to plans partially funded by the European Union.
The Capanina project, named after the Italian restaurant where the idea was conceived, aims to develop high altitude platforms that can beam broadband to areas that are too expensive to receive cable.
It has received €3.1m in funding from the EU's Framework Programme, which supports research and development, and expects to have the first platforms in the air in three to five years.
The platforms are capable of transmitting data at rates up to 120Mbps and can even deliver signals to moving trains via a 'smart' antenna that can track the platform. The unmanned platforms would fly at an altitude of 20 kilometres powered by solar cells.
"Demand for fast communication is increasing all over the world, and this technology offers an innovative way of delivering broadband inexpensively to people at home, in the office, and on the move," said Peter Walters, of the EU's Framework Programme Six.
"The opportunities offered by high altitude platforms are exciting as they could deliver broadband connections 2,000 times faster than a traditional modem and 200 times faster than today's 'wired' ADSL broadband.
"They are also easier to maintain than satellites as they can be periodically brought back to earth for upgrades and maintenance."
Various transmission technologies are being looked at, but some research has already been done using WiMax (802.16) signals. BT is a partner in the venture.
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