The UK's next generation telecoms network could be reaching for the skies, with the ambitious application of a technology put on the industrial back burner years ago - airships.
A Bedford company specialising in "lighter than air technologies", otherwise known as blimps, airships and hot air balloons, has put forward the idea of using airships as base stations for mobile networks.
According to the Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), the StratSat concept would place a geo-stationary airship platform at 20Km altitude capable of remaining on-station for up to five years.
The airship's payload would be a base station capable of bouncing on signals for next generation mobile phone networks or high-speed wireless internet services.
The company is banking on the communication industry's interest in saving some cash after the big 3G splash. By way of manufacturing and maintenance, airships cost a lot less than satellites or traditional infrastructure.
ATG reckons that less than 20 airships in orbit over the UK could provide almost total coverage, the equivalent of 4000 standard mobile phone masts, or 10,000 third generation masts.
Hanging 20Km above the country, the platforms would be solar powered with a small diesel engine as backup, to hold its position within a 1Km area.
A test flight, which took place over the weekend, successfully sent a one-tenth scale model of the airship to an altitude of 500ft.
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