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  Reply # 837591 16-Jun-2013 12:52
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dwl:
nickb800: The idea is that the balloons adjust their altitude to take advantage of different winds, provided that there is a counter wind to the westerlys at some altitude, they would cycle from west to east coast


Sorry nickb800 but I'm afraid that the weather doesn't really work like that, especially in NZ.  The wind will change with altitude but I think the maximum change may be around 70 degrees and often a lot less. What is a westerly at ground level in Canterbury is still roughly a westerly at high altitude where speeds are often fairly high.

The idea of airborne broadband has been around a long time (ElectricNews.net, 25th July 2002): 

"By 2005, people could be receiving mobile phone services, broadband connections and even digital TV from solar-powered airplanes that fly at 65,000 feet. This week, US company SkyTower, a subsidiary of AeroVironment, said it had successfully performed a series of tests in Hawaii of its new technology, a communications airplane called Pathfinder-Plus.  Working with NASA and the Japanese Ministry of Telecommunications, SkyTower said it had launched the plane, which climbed to 65,000 feet above Kauai, Hawaii, and transmitted several hours of 3G mobile voice, data and video service to the ground, where it was received on an NTT DoCoMo 3G handset. Data was transmitted at 384 kbps during the test.

Pathfinder-Plus, with its 121-foot wingspan, is no ordinary airplane. The vehicle is unmanned and runs on solar power, which means it needs to land at night. But the company claims that advances in battery technology could give the airplane the ability to stay airborne 24 hours a day, allowing it to fly for six months at a time. The airplane also has a tight turning radius, which in conjunction with low-cost, stationary user antennas, makes the plane appears geostationary from the ground." 

Where high altitude winds are less the balloons may be a better idea than these expensive aircraft (which haven't yet been commercially viable).


On the face of it using drones sounds much more feasible than balloons. They could potentially provide good 3G 4G coverage to much wide areas and be less susceptible to the wind.

dwl

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  Reply # 837599 16-Jun-2013 13:18
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NonprayingMantis: On the face of it using drones sounds much more feasible than balloons. They could potentially provide good 3G 4G coverage to much wide areas and be less susceptible to the wind.

Cost difference will probably be massive. If rural areas haven't managed to justify a tall tower with cellular I doubt a drone would be viable although price reductions over time will be interesting to watch.

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  Reply # 837611 16-Jun-2013 14:15
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NonprayingMantis:
dwl:
nickb800: The idea is that the balloons adjust their altitude to take advantage of different winds, provided that there is a counter wind to the westerlys at some altitude, they would cycle from west to east coast


Sorry nickb800 but I'm afraid that the weather doesn't really work like that, especially in NZ.  The wind will change with altitude but I think the maximum change may be around 70 degrees and often a lot less. What is a westerly at ground level in Canterbury is still roughly a westerly at high altitude where speeds are often fairly high.

The idea of airborne broadband has been around a long time (ElectricNews.net, 25th July 2002): 

"By 2005, people could be receiving mobile phone services, broadband connections and even digital TV from solar-powered airplanes that fly at 65,000 feet. This week, US company SkyTower, a subsidiary of AeroVironment, said it had successfully performed a series of tests in Hawaii of its new technology, a communications airplane called Pathfinder-Plus.  Working with NASA and the Japanese Ministry of Telecommunications, SkyTower said it had launched the plane, which climbed to 65,000 feet above Kauai, Hawaii, and transmitted several hours of 3G mobile voice, data and video service to the ground, where it was received on an NTT DoCoMo 3G handset. Data was transmitted at 384 kbps during the test.

Pathfinder-Plus, with its 121-foot wingspan, is no ordinary airplane. The vehicle is unmanned and runs on solar power, which means it needs to land at night. But the company claims that advances in battery technology could give the airplane the ability to stay airborne 24 hours a day, allowing it to fly for six months at a time. The airplane also has a tight turning radius, which in conjunction with low-cost, stationary user antennas, makes the plane appears geostationary from the ground." 

Where high altitude winds are less the balloons may be a better idea than these expensive aircraft (which haven't yet been commercially viable).


On the face of it using drones sounds much more feasible than balloons. They could potentially provide good 3G 4G coverage to much wide areas and be less susceptible to the wind.


The whole point is to use the wind, and to saturate a 'band' around the earth of balloons that are all getting blown around like satellites (moving ones not geo-geosynchronous ones). 

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  Reply # 837621 16-Jun-2013 14:45
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It won't get off the ground in NZ unless the local Maoris get a slice of the action by saying that they own the air, sun and airways..




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Old3eyes


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  Reply # 837623 16-Jun-2013 14:50
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Actually the service will only be viable at md latitudes either side of the equator, because there arent any high altitude winds (think currents and doldrums).

The trail is based in the southern hemisphere for a number of reasons. Firstly they've got good data from similar high altitude projects (Ghost ballon project). Also the southern hemisphere has fewer geographical (and political) boundaries that these low altitude satellites will transgress. Plus we've a lot of ocean between us and the loons next land mass. ..... plenty of time to play with altitude contol algorithms and see if they can keep the cluster together before deciding they may have to ditch them. And there aren't a lot of busy air corridors between us and South America. We're a good starting place.


dwl

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  Reply # 837644 16-Jun-2013 15:27
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leaplae: The whole point is to use the wind, and to saturate a 'band' around the earth of balloons that are all getting blown around like satellites (moving ones not geo-geosynchronous ones). 

So, a quick calculation for say 30km spacing and 30,000km around the planet at this latitude is 1000 per 30km of latitude. Every 1 deg of latitude might need 4000 balloons.

A wider footprint for less balloons will push the radio frequency issues harder as there is unlikely to be beam forming at either end (at this stage). Where there are low expectations of data rates (just happy to be connected) less of an issue.

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  Reply # 837652 16-Jun-2013 15:44
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raytaylor: I wonder what the greens will have to say about this.

Interesting fact- they are using the 2ghz band. Probably 2.4ghz but i know the radios are capable of running in 2.5ghz but not sure if they have a license for 2.5.

2.4ghz is really overcrowded so i am pretty keen to see what the results are.


unlicensed 2.4, proprietary radio protocol to filter out all the ground WiFi

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  Reply # 837677 16-Jun-2013 16:54
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ISM band is great for this sort of stuff.... no license needed.

I'm guessing the service delivery side is simplified at the moment. If the trials prove there is some viable solution in this space then the way of delivering it locally will no doubt change.

Current platforms deliver their bandwidth using 90 degree beamwidth antennas.

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  Reply # 837972 17-Jun-2013 10:59
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dwl: I can see this might work nearer the equator (as shown in their maps) but in NZ "roaring forties" with typical strong high altitude westerly winds wouldn't you need a new one launched every few hours from the West Coast ? (or probably even more frequent - work out how long a 60 knot wind will take to move it across the whole width of the South Island)

Unfortunately I think this may be taking "availability" to new lows at these latitudes but still good on Google for ideas on getting service to countries like Africa.


My undertsanding of this (and this is just from watching the video) is these will be in stratosphere and hence, not in the same winds you are talking about. Typically these winds are anywhere from 100 - 200 mph. As well the winds here operate in bands so if some ballons get ahead of others, their altitude can be adjusted moving them into either a different direction of winds, or a slower wind.

But thats just from watching the video...

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  Reply # 837991 17-Jun-2013 11:32
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It was causing quite the confusion among the plane geeks :)

I couldn't figure out what these strange ADSB IDs were popping up on the port hills and then near tekapo the following day and being registered at over 65,000ft by my receiver. Thought it was bung data.

No sign of NOTAM warning aircraft or other mention to explain the baloons but we worked out they were infact baloons after about the 2nd/3rd one then saw the blog posts to tie up who was releasing them.

Fastest I saw them get to out of Tekapo was about 110km/h. Hovered around 35-40kts (50-60k) for the most part at lower levels.

The following day (sat) they released from the waimak gorge.. methinks their wind calculations to hit CHC were off for test day.

You can replay some of them on flightradar24..

http://www.flightradar24.com/#!/2013-06-14/20:34/HIBAL060

All had IDs of HIBALxxx

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  Reply # 837992 17-Jun-2013 11:36
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There's a cool tool called 'hysplit' that uses NOAA wind data (forecast & archived), to model how particles move at different altitudes, origins, times. 

If you click run hysplit trajectory model, then compute forecast trajectories, then 1 normal trajectory, GFS meteorological data, NZCH (for Chch airport), then set frequency & altitude parameters, you can generate your own GIF plots

I just ran a few models simulating release from 15,20,25km altitude every hour for the next 24 hours from Christchurch Airport, and all 24 follow a consistently Westerly path like this below (which shows a 20km altitude release). I'm not suggesting this is remotely conclusive, just showing what you can find out for yourselves.



Also, sounds like DWL knows his stuff...

Edit: Cropped/Changed image

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  Reply # 838002 17-Jun-2013 11:46
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That's pretty consistant to the actual plots we got from the ADSB signals. Which is why they moved to the Waimak we can only but imagine.

Thats the oceanic jetstream for you (and why it takes longer to get TO aus than home most the time) with the upper atmosphere prodcuing a westerly for most the south island.

dwl

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  Reply # 838071 17-Jun-2013 13:45
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Byrned: My undertsanding of this (and this is just from watching the video) is these will be in stratosphere and hence, not in the same winds you are talking about. Typically these winds are anywhere from 100 - 200 mph. As well the winds here operate in bands so if some ballons get ahead of others, their altitude can be adjusted moving them into either a different direction of winds, or a slower wind.

But thats just from watching the video...

The video graphic certainly shows this but the later voice-over says "However, in the stratosphere, most of the time the winds actually flow from west to east".  Interesting analysis from hysplit and the data from the transponders suggest the action is west to east.  The balloon enthusiasts will know how much directional control is available with height but I don't think the concept shown in the graphics where they rotate around the balloons in an area using opposing currents is valid (in this part of the world).  The later concept of a whole lot of balloons may give the coverage when over land but a pity about those huge expanses of ocean which must diminish the practicality.

Some aspects of the technology like the solar powered radios with mesh between balloons is also applicable to ground based (e.g. between low cost guyed towers in remote areas) and I wish Google well with these innovative ideas to extend the Internet.

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