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Mobile ad hoc network-enabled stratospheric balloons could support rapid response

Swatches | May 1, 2021 | By:

A constellation of stratospheric balloons, airborne and ground-based networking devices and tracking antenna has applications for the recovery of downed pilots and operations in GPS-denied environments, according to Adrien Robenhymer, vice president of business development for Air Force and Intelligence Community at Persistent Systems LLC. Photo: Raven Aerostar.

Persistent Systems LLC of New York City, a leader in mobile ad hoc networking solutions, and lighter-than-air platform provider Raven Aerostar, a division of Raven Industries Inc. of Sioux Falls, S.D., have successfully conducted a demonstration of how a stratospheric constellation of communications and sensor nodes could be established using Persistent’s Wave Relay® mobile ad hoc network (MANET) and used over a battlefield.

The event, which took place in Sioux Falls, linked Persistent’s ground-based Auto-Tracking Antenna System to two Raven Aerostar Lightning Balloon Systems, extending Wave Relay® MANET coverage over 200 miles via a low-SWaP (size, weight and power) MPU5 tactical networking device riding on both balloons. These networked balloons allowed users to track the position of other MPU5 devices on the ground, provide network connectivity for sensors, and create voice communications coverage throughout the flight path area.

“Utilizing multiple stratospheric balloon systems, users were able to get a long-range network capability in addition to high throughput,” said Scott Wickersham, division vice president of Raven Aerostar, in a press release. “This is a scalable concept, which can be extended with both the Raven Lightning and Thunderhead Balloon Systems to include a wide range of ground subscribers well beyond the traditional line-of-sight, point-to-point concept.”

Additionally, Raven Aerostar enhanced Thunderstorm, its command and control software, to seamlessly integrate with the MPU5 Application Programming Interface (API) in order to interact with the balloon systems and payloads. This enables a real-time ability to identify and track the balloons, sensors and other users in the network using apps like TAK and Google Earth. The network also spanned beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) communications by leveraging Persistent’s Cloud Relay solution.

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