EghtesadOnline: The Iranian Space Research Center has developed a communication balloon called Baam 300, marking a vital step toward extending communication services to less developed areas or in emergency cases.
According to Rahim Ehsani, the head of ISRC's Institute of Space Transportation Systems, feasibility studies began in March and, after six months of nonstop work, the balloon is now ready for launch, Mehr News Agency reported.
"The upgraded balloon is a more advanced tool compared to the earlier versions. It can provide stronger on-site communication and internet services during emergencies," Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
“It can offer high-speed WiFi and LTE internet connection, and simultaneously amplify WiFi antennas and scan the environment and climate conditions within a perimeter of 20 kilometers.”
Ehsani noted that ISRC has started work on a lighter and more operationally flexible balloon.
“Researchers are currently finding a way to reduce the weight of the balloon to below 20 kilograms,” he said.
"This will boost the speed and the maximum height the balloon can ascend to, making it possible to deliver communication services to a larger area."
Ehsani called on domestic mobile operators to further collaborate with ISRC in accelerating the project’s progress.
The Iranian government has also started working on airships and satellite communication devices. However, no significant progress has been reported yet.
Explaining the difference between a communication balloon and an airship, Ehsani said the former is immobile, while airships are capable of controlled flight.
Airships are equipped with an electric motor, enabling it to navigate through the air and provide communication services in different areas.
"Depending on the type of application, airships can be built in different shapes, with the ability to move vertically and horizontally with low and high speed," he said.
On the other hand, communication balloons are stationary facilities that can help establish connectivity in a limited area and useful when ground-based infrastructure is nonexistent or inadequate.
In the last three years, communication balloons were used to provide mobile network and internet connection services to pilgrims traveling to Iraq on foot to attend religious ceremonies.
Large numbers of pilgrims prefer to walk from Iran to Iraq to attend the annual mourning ceremonies in the holy city of Karbala, which journey usually takes one to two weeks.
Balloons have also helped in emergency situations when heavy floods hit several provinces in the spring of the current fiscal year (started March 21).
During the deluge, communication services were disrupted in several provinces. For instance, on April 1, flooding cut off three optic fiber lines connecting Ilam Province to the world wide web for about 24 hours. The lines were restored soon.
Communication services were disrupted in Pol-Dokhtar County in Lorestan Province for several days. To partially restore communication services in the area, the ICT Ministry deployed communication balloons.
Employing emergency communication balloons are commonplace in the world. In October 2018, Google brought emergency connectivity to Puerto Rico through its internet-by-balloon project after the Irma and Maria hurricanes flattened vast areas and left more than 90% of the island without cellphone coverage.