Deployable Aerial Communications Architecture
Today the FCC release a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) regarding Deployable Aerial Communications Architecture (DACA). In a nutshell, this technology involves deploying a light aircraft containing communications equipment over a disaster area to provide emergency communications. Those familiar with mobile wireless will recognize this as somewhat analogous to a COW (cellsite on wheels), and the military has been using similar technology for years.
A whitepaper on DACA describes the potential for this technology:
The DACA vision for disasters involves an aerial capability that is deployable within the first 12-18 hours after a catastrophic event to temporarily restore critical communications, including broadband, for a period of 72-96 hours. This capability would be useful in situations where the power grid may be inoperable for 5-7 days, depleting back-up power supplies and resulting in an almost complete failure of landline, cellular, land mobile radio, broadcast, and cable transmissions, as well as Wi-Fi and Internet services. In such circumstances, access roads and bridges may be impassable, preventing communications repair crews and fuel suppliers for generators from entering the area. If DACA systems were available, users on the ground could continue to rely on their day-to-day communications devices in a transparent manner.
While DACA technology does not involve amateur radio, nor does amateur radio have a horse in this race, amateurs may find DACA technology interesting, as the recent interest in unmanned balloon experiments with amateur radio payloads would suggest. The FCC in the NOI is seeking comment from industry on logistical, regulatory, and technological questions. I imagine it will be several years before we see DACA technology ready for prime time and probably only in major metropolitan areas.
This would be very viable here in Tornado Alley in North, West and the Panhandle of Texas. Ham radio operators are very sparse and not co-located. Give a major Tornado out break in an area the DACA would assist in emergency operations. Ideally we would like to be able to communicate with cities 100 miles away where all our support comes from.
All those users on the ground that “continue to rely on their day-to-day communications devices in a transparent manner” are sure gonna hav a tough time charging them with no power, perhaps?
A lot of folks have generators these days and it’s not difficult to charge a cell phone in a vehicle and be able to use it much of the day. I think the biggest challenge with this technology is backhauling all that traffic, and having enough capacity to truly support all those communication devices in a transparent manner. Supporting a handful of VHF and UHF repeaters on such an aircraft probably isn’t too hard, but replacing the cellsites of several carriers is quite a task.