A three-year project led by the University of York, which aims to revolutionise broadband communications, reaches its climax later this year.
The CAPANINA project, which uses balloons, airships or unmanned solar-powered planes as high-altitude platforms (HAPs) to relay wireless and optical communications, is due to finish its main research at the end of October.
The consortium behind the project will open York HAP Week, a conference from 23 to 27 October, which will showcase the applications of HAPs, as a springboard for future development in this new high-tech sector.
The CAPANINA Final Exhibition will open the conference by highlighting the achievements of the project, which received funding from the EU under its Broadband-for-All, FP6 programme.
The consortium, drawn from Europe and Japan, has demonstrated how the system could bring low-cost broadband connections to remote areas and even to high-speed trains. It promises data rates 2,000 times faster than via a traditional modem and 100 times faster than today's 'wired' ADSL broadband.
CAPANINA's Principal Scientific Officer Dr David Grace said: "The potential of the system is huge, with possible applications ranging from communications for disaster management and homeland security, to environmental monitoring and providing broadband for developing countries. So far, we have considered a variety of aerial platforms, including airships, balloons, solar-powered unmanned planes and normal aeroplanes -- the latter will probably be particularly suited to establish communications very swiftly in disaster zones."
The final experimental flight will use a US-built Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and will take place in Arizona days before the York HAP Week conference at the city's historic King's Manor.
Following the CAPANINA event, a HAP Application Symposium led by Dr Jorge Pereira, of the Information Society and Media Directorate-General of the European Commission, will provide a forum for leading experts to illustrate the potential of HAPs to opinion formers and telecommunications providers.
Completing the week will be the first HAPCOS Workshop, featuring the work of leading researchers from around Europe. It will focus on wireless and optical communications from HAPs, as well as the critically important field of HAP vehicle development.
The Chair of HAPCOS, Tim Tozer, of the University of York's Department of Electronics, said: "There are a number of projects worldwide that are proving the technology and we want to convince the telecommunications and the wider community of its potential. We are particularly keen to attract aerial vehicle providers."
The CAPANINA and HAPCOS activities have helped to forge collaborative links with more than 25 countries, including many from Europe, as well as Japan, South Korea, China, Malaysia and USA. They are seeking to develop existing partnerships and forge new ones, with researchers, entrepreneurs, industry, governments as well as end users.
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