Nanosatellite and balloon to establish emergency communication

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Nanosatellite and balloon to establish emergency communication

95% of the world’s population has access to broadband Internet via cable or mobile network. However, there are places and situations where staying connected can be very difficult.

Rapid response is essential in emergency situations, such as after an earthquake or during a conflict. Reliable telecommunication networks that are not subject to interruptions and infrastructure damage can be used to exchange data vital to human well-being.

A recently published open-access research article proposes the use of nanosatellites to provide comprehensive and stable coverage in areas that are difficult to reach for long-distance communications.

The importance of a quick response

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the number and financial losses from extreme weather events have been steadily increasing in recent decades. Climate change has significantly increased the likelihood of climate-related disasters worldwide. However, thanks to improvements in emergency services and early warning, the increase in the number of extreme events has not led to an increase in the number of victims. The ability to anticipate and respond to an emergency is crucial to minimize damage.

Climate disasters are the latest addition to an already long list of natural disasters, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and tsunamis, as well as human-caused emergencies such as wars, accidents and infrastructure damage. In all of these situations, having a reliable telecommunications system that can be used to share information is essential for a quick and coordinated response in situations where every second counts.

This is a technological solution proposed by the research team.

Carlos Monso, professor and researcher at the Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications of the UOC“Our project offers a solution that means that a communication network for emergency relief can be set up quickly,” explains Carlos Monso, professor and researcher at the Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, UOC).

The project uses equipment that ensures the rapid provision of communication services when it would not be possible in other conditions. It is specially designed for emergency services so that they can work more safely and in a more coordinated manner in difficult situations.

Printed satellite and balloon

The solution proposed by the researchers involves a rapid deployment system consisting of three components – two ground-based and one space-based: CubeSat (nanosatellite design standard). The ground-based components are a pilot telecommunications station deployed at the emergency site and a base station.

The CubeSat can connect these two locations from anywhere, acting as a repeater and enabling network users to exchange information wirelessly. All three components are equipped with long-range radio technology (LoRa) and allow for a large communication area.

A CubeSat is a small nanosatellite that can be created from scratch using a 3D printer in just 90 minutes and launched over a disaster area using a hot air balloon. The route the balloon will take can be determined by a preliminary simulation that takes into account the characteristics of the balloon and the meteorology of the area. The CubeSat is also equipped with a GPS system, which means it can be found and reused.

Рауль Парада, викладач курсу на факультеті комп'ютерних наук, мультимедіа та телекомунікацій UOC

“Our solution enables long-distance communication and also provides a scalable system for a large number of users that can be used anywhere and anytime,” says Raul Parada, course instructor at UOC’s Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications.

The scientists chose CubeSat for communication in difficult conditions because of its speed of deployment and operation. It operates independently of existing communication systems that can be damaged during natural disasters and provides long-distance communication. After the first successful trials, the system will continue to be tested in various conditions, and experiments will be conducted with an energy system powered by photovoltaic panels to make the solution fully autonomous.

This solution is designed to provide fast service delivery in complex scenarios, so scientists have prioritized ease of deployment over using it as a telecommunications solution in normal situations where other infrastructures would be more suitable.

“The next step will be to work on services that can be incorporated into this type of infrastructure, minimizing deployment time and enabling its use in a wide range of situations,” Monzo adds.

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