Communication blimps aim to compete with satellites

31 May 2016

KuangChi Science is showcasing blimps at CommunicAsia2016 that aim to provide satellite-level services at lower altitudes and a fraction of the cost.

The “KuangChi Cloud” is a blimp - more formally known as a tethered aerostat - that can carry up to 600kg of communications or surveillance equipment up to one or two kilometers in the sky. This translates to a coverage radius of up to 30 km, enough to cover a medium sized city.

The company claims its blimps can deliver communications services on par with satellite at less than 1% of the cost.

Vincent Lee, marketing director of KuangChi Science, said that the Cloud has been deployed in three cities in China already: Dongguan, Zunyi and Haikou.

While the first customer is from the government sector, the company is eager to sign up telecoms companies with a view to providing mobile broadband services for IoT, ship and aircraft automatic identification systems, or radio and television broadcasting.

Other key uses include surveillance and emergency communication systems for law enforcement.

The Cloud can stay aloft for 15 days at a time before a short service to top up the helium reserves.

The company’s core strength are in metamaterials, changing the structure to give it a completely different electromagnetic feature. This means it can be used to scatter and act as a radar cloak or can reflect radio waves in different angles.

The latter allows for thin, flat satellite dishes that weigh half that of conventional designs. KuangChi also offers a 13-cm low profile Ku-band satellite solution using metamaterial antennas that can be fitted to vehicles for satellite communications on the move.

Apart from communications blimps, KuangChi makes solar-powered cargo blimps, jetpacks and will soon offer space tourism via its near-space helium solutions called “Traveler”.

Booth: 1H3-01

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