UNT demonstrates first ever drone provided cell service for disaster response

Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 14:34
UNT engineering professor Kamesh Namuduri tested his mobile cellular service with a drone team in Waxahachie.
UNT engineering professor Kamesh Namuduri tested his mobile cellular service with a drone team in Waxahachie.

DENTON, Texas (UNT) — When disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes strike, they often take down the technology emergency workers desperately need to keep in contact — cellphone service. Now a professor at the University of North Texas is working to make sure those first responders can get that vital access through an airborne communication system.

“We demonstrated a portable communication system that can be attached to a drone,” said Kamesh Namuduri, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at UNT. “The system, with just 250 milli watt transmit power, is capable of providing instant cellular coverage up to two kilometers during disaster relief operations.  If the system is scaled with a 10 watt transmit power, the system can provide cellular coverage to the entire city of Denton.”

Namuduri and his team recently conducted a successful field test of the first-of-its-kind Aerial Deployable Communication System in Waxahachie, Texas. The device was attached to a drone and lifted up 400 feet in the air. Its cellular technology was then programmed to tune into bandwidth allocated to the first responder community, proving that it can give them direct access to communication without the concern of an overloaded or damaged cellular towers. The complete results of this successful experiment will be presented and the device put on display later this summer at the 2017 Global City Teams Challenge Expo in Washington, D.C.

“The entire team is vital to this project,” he said. “We’ve partnered with Virtual Network Communications, loT+LTE Consulting Group, Unmanned Experts and AirRobot to make this possible. We also had help from the Lone Star UAS Center for Excellence, Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, the Federal Communications Commission, the Texas Department of Public Safety, FirstNet, AT&T, the City of Denton’s Fire Department, the Civil Air Patrol and of course we couldn’t do this without funding from the National Science Foundation. I’ve also got amazing graduate and undergraduate students who played key roles in this project.”

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