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Communications satellites replaced by constantly circling balloons powered by ground lasers.
  (+4, -3)
(+4, -3)
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Hundreds or thousands of these hot air balloons that carry the same communications systems as satellites are powered by laser stations along their flight path as they're moved along by the jet stream.

Hanging below the balloons are the heating systems powered by the heat from ground lasers hitting specially configured absorbtive plates that act as heating elements. The laser absorbing panels under the gondola get hit with the ground based lasers which in turn heat air pumped through a tube up into the balloon above.

There's no reason these couldn't circle the earth for months if not years without being brought down for maintenance, but when that did become necessary, instead of having to send a spaceship up like you'd have to do with current communication satellites, you'd just push the "Land at next base" button.

So basically, re-usable, maintainable VERY low Earth orbit satellites. And free to launch, you just let them go.

Goes without saying there are solar panels on top to get their electricity from so might be more accurate to call these semi-dirigibles. Might be able to get some juice from the lasers too.

I think it would be cool to just try a cross Atlantic flight with a laser mounted on an airplane flying at the same speed as the jet stream and seeing how often you need to zap it. Although that could be easily calculated, but cheaper proof of concept that setting up multiple laser stations.

Once you did that you could put up enough laser stations around globe to get your first record setting ground powered around the world balloon flight and start getting investors for this new communications satellite replacement or augmentation system.

Might be able to embed the envelope itself with something laser absorbent but seems like that would probably add weight, dunno. Plus the suspended heating element might lend itself to power generation too.

doctorremulac3, Feb 03 2024

Places on Earth without birds. https://birdcontrol...-free-destinations/
Is there any concept that's not talked about extensively on the internet? [doctorremulac3, Feb 03 2024]

Project Loon https://x.company/projects/loon/
"network of stratospheric internet-beaming balloons ... that might finally bring abundant, affordable internet access, not just to the next billion, but to the last billion..." [a1, Feb 03 2024]

Solar Balloons https://en.wikipedi.../wiki/Solar_balloon
Heated by the sun. Article provides some figures that might help design ground-based laser heating system. [a1, Feb 03 2024]

Ground to air microwave power https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9angvpwHOy8
[a1, Feb 03 2024]

Stackexchange comments from 2018 https://robotics.st...ground-like-a-drone
Discusses electrically heating the air, optionally using a laser. Mentions the MW helicopter I linked earlier. [a1, Feb 04 2024]

Coherent beam combining https://www.rp-phot...beam_combining.html
[a1, Feb 06 2024]


       Not bad - the number of ways this could go catastrophically wrong is only in the dozens, which is a good score for the Halfbakery
hippo, Feb 03 2024

       You mean deadly lasers shooting into the sky all over the world? What could possible go wrong?   

       Hmm, maybe have them based where there aren't any birds. Are there any places without any birds? I mean aside from the skies above these laser bases after a few months.
doctorremulac3, Feb 03 2024

       Of course, your idea is completely new, relying on laser beams from the ground and a lot of hot air - but Project Loon was all about the rest of it (link).
a1, Feb 03 2024

       Hmm. Pretty sure the laser to the heat module thing to fill the hot air balloon is patentable.
doctorremulac3, Feb 03 2024

       //maybe have them based where there aren't any birds// - and also where there are never any storms or high winds
hippo, Feb 03 2024

       or mountains
hippo, Feb 03 2024

       // Pretty sure the laser to the heat module thing to fill the hot air balloon is patentable //   

       Possibly, with a narrow enough definition. Ground to air power transmission via microwaves has already been done, to power a helicopter (link). But I don't know if anyone has used beamed power to heat a balloon envelope for lift.
a1, Feb 03 2024

       Black balloons should work with sufficiently low intensity (if you'll pardon the heresy) lasers so as to not cause ecological harm directly.
Voice, Feb 05 2024

       Riiiiight, Russia, China and North Korea DEFINITELY wouldn't get sketched out by westerners floating a shit ton of communications balloons over their territories, and DEFINITELY probably wouldn't shoot them down. Ya know, like that Chinese balloon we shot down last year?
21 Quest, Feb 05 2024

       They’d be using and maintaining them too. Good example of how cooperation in commerce, trade and tech can help bring peace.
doctorremulac3, Feb 05 2024

       What if instead of using hundreds or thousands of large lasers, use hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of small lasers, networked together to point at a single target. Down near ground level you could only ever see the light from one laser at a time, and these could even use beam expanders so that the intensity at any location close to the source is very low. Of course all these beams meet at the hovering target. These will be at an altitude where there aren't any birds to be injured. Oh, and don't worry about someone hijacking the network and redirecting them all to point at passing aircraft (or at least don't talk about it until after I've cashed out my stock options).
scad mientist, Feb 06 2024

       Interesting, cumulative of a bunch rather than one bird blaster.   

       I did a quick check though and there are places under the jet stream that don't have birds.
doctorremulac3, Feb 06 2024

       Sorry, I've lost the plot. Are these lasers intended for controlled heating and keeping a balloon aloft, or simply incinerating things? Would you consider the latter an unintended consequence or a happy accident?   

       Attractive as it might seem for point defense or an offensive weapon, [scad_mientist]'s suggestion of multiple lasers focused on one point is harder than it sounds. Every beam has to be collimated and in phase with the others or it won't work.
a1, Feb 06 2024

       I didn't think the lasers were for anything particularly, they were just very big and powerful and shining in lots of different directions.
pocmloc, Feb 06 2024


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