Flying Robots & Free Fuel?

I don’t mean to go on about those flying robots. You know, the ones with the tentacles? In Europe? Yeah, those. I don’t mean to go on about them, but they always seem to be in the news.

This time they’re going by a different name: Stratellites. And they’re taking up a new function: wi-fi.

StratelliteBob Jones has a lofty idea for improving communications around the world: Strategically float robotic airships above Earth as an alternative to unsightly telecom towers on the ground and expensive satellites in space.

Jones, a former NASA manager, envisions a fleet of unmanned “Stratellites” hovering in the atmosphere and blanketing large swaths of territory with wireless access for high-speed data and voice communications.

…Jones believes his solar-powered, helium-filled Stratellites _ so named because they would hang in the stratosphere — could replace unsightly cell towers and cost less than satellites. Because of the airship’s altitude according to Jones, its radio equipment can cover an area the size of Texas.

Cell towers are hampered by line-of-sight limitations and limited range. Geostationary satellites suffer from the quarter-second it takes a signal to travel out 22,300 miles and back — insignificant in one-way TV transmissions, but terrible for two-way Internet computer communications.

The idea bubbled up and popped around the same time as the bust, yet it may be an idea whose time has come again. If so, Jones might want to consider some alternative fuels for getting his stratellites aloft.

Fuel Cell UAV

For example, he might look into fuel cells. These guys at the Georgia Institute of Technology got their flying robot aloft using a hydrogen fuel cell. And if hydrogen is cost prohibitive, Boing Boing says this company has build a machine that generates free energy.

Then again, if the comments and tags on that Google video are right, maybe not.