Rural Broadband via Blimp

October 13, 2020

In an effort to solve the pervasive problems of the digital divide, many organizations are having to think outside of the box. 

In Indiana, the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network and their tech partners are thinking inside the blimp.

For the first time ever, a blimp (also known as an aerostat) will be providing commercial broadband access. The blimp, called the FirstNet One, was created by FirstNet, the broadband network for first responders. Introduced in late 2019, FirstNet One was initially created to provide broadband access for first responders at disaster sites. 

The Wabash Heartland Innovation Network (WHIN) is working with FirstNet and RTO Wireless to implement this aerostat technology. Their goal is to provide commercial broadband access to residents living in the 10 rural Indiana counties they represent. 

The FirstNet One blimp has the ability to float 1,000 feet in the air, and can remain aloft for two weeks before they need more helium. It was built to withstand windspeeds of up to 70MPH. These features mean that it could provide a means of communication even during times of crisis, because their location in the air offers a better and more direct connection than most land-based cell-towers.

The blimp will be equipped with a LoRaWAN gateway. According to the press release from WHIN: “The gateways will allow for millions of messages per day to flow through from sensors in agricultural fields and manufacturing facilities, informing decisions that affect the bottom line by reducing costs, increasing speed of operations and making operations more efficient.” 

The WHIN will be studying the efficacy of this approach to bridging the digital divide, and the technical details as well as the impact of this initiative will be published. 

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted dramatic changes in the way we work, communicate, educate our children, purchase essentials and even care for the sick. Americans in most cities take a high-speed connection for granted. However, the telecommunications infrastructure needed to make all this work for people in rural areas is not yet in place and – won’t be for some time.  Kinetx Prime is devoted to using technology and innovation to help bridge the digital divide and bring dependable broadband access to those in need.

Kinetx Prime salutes the innovative efforts of the Wabash Heartland Network and FirstNet at brining usable broadband connections to the unserved residents of Indiana.

Related articles:

WHIN Press Release

GovTech article

LoraWAN info

FirstNet article from Dec 2019

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