Vocus, is a telecommunications company in Australia that specializes in providing fibre-optic cable internet and other network solutions. Last year, on November 30, 2022, Vocus signed an agreement with SpaceX to distribute Starlink satellite internet service to Australian enterprise and civil government customers.
Today, July 6, Vocus announced it partnered with NSW Telco Authority to develop a new method of delivering crucial mobile connectivity to emergency responders, particularly natural disasters. The groundbreaking solution utilizes a tethered drone that receives signals from SpaceX’s Starlink satellites while flying, as well as two-way radio communications from Vocus and NSW Telco Authority.
The Australian-made drone serves as a "mobile tower" or "Wi-Fi network" in the sky, enabling 4G/5G service and 100Mbps (megabits per second) internet connectivity across an expansive area of up to 28 square kilometers. With its tethered ground-based power supply, the drone has the capability to remain airborne for an entire rescue operation. To illustrate the drone's operations, consider a scenario where someone is lost in a remote region, like a forest, with no mobile reception. In such cases, first responders can fly the drone above the region and beam Starlink Wi-Fi service to the lost person's smart device to coordinate rescue operations directly with the lost individual. During a natural disaster the drone technology can compensate for disrupted or damaged ground-based infrastructure.
The drone idea was conceived and developed by Challenge Networks, a Vocus subsidiary specializing in constructing private 4G/5G networks. Through the integration of SpaceX's Starlink satellite connectivity, ground-based power, heavy-lift drones, and compact mobile network equipment, Challenge Networks successfully developed the system. “This is an example of how Vocus is using its strength in satellite technology, and Challenge Networks’ expertise in wireless and systems integration to deliver a brilliantly simple solution for a particularly Australian challenge,” the Vocus Development Manager Ashley Neale told The Critical Communications Review.
Vocus and the NSW Telco Authority's collaborative efforts have resulted in a groundbreaking solution that harnesses cutting-edge technology to address critical communication challenges during emergencies. By leveraging the power of tethered drones and SpaceX's Starlink satellite connectivity, this innovative flying mobile network has the potential to make a substantial difference in disaster relief efforts and safeguard lives in Australia.
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Featured Image Source: Vocus
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.