Public: Communication: Telephone
Mobile Cell Mobility   (+6)  [vote for, against]
Eliminating the weak-signal problem

My idea is pretty simple: I've seen just how fast a cell tower can be installed in a neighborhood. I've also read in the papers how this guy or that group got lost / fell off a cliff / froze to death etc. but had working cell phones.

Partly this relies on the individual needing rescue to have done a little planning: notify someone where they're going, how long they expect to be there, when to set rescue activities in motion. When rescue activities are underway is when my idea comes into play.

There are two approaches:

1) Mount a cell phone repeater in a helicopter or other search aircraft. I don't know what they weigh or how big they are, but I'm guessing that a transceiver with enough juice to pull a signal from the ground, to a groundbased tower, and back to the ground, wouldn't have to be very big. Its coverage would actually be pretty big, since tower height need only be limited by the performance of the aircraft.

2) Drop a tall, temporary tower with its own power source in the area where searches are being conducted. When the search is over, pick it back up again and haul it away. If we assume installation will be done via a helicopter drop with a useful payload of a ton, we could design a tall tower with a broad "parachute" sort of base that would rest on top of the tree canopy (a more standard tripod base for areas where there are no trees) and raise the antennae above the treetops.

3) Man-portable units not unlike what the military uses, but geared to civilian telephone bands.

I keep reading about disasters in the Great Smoky Mountains where people had to rely on park rangers relaying messages from one to another, since their radios can only reach so far and cell phone coverage in the park is virtually nil. (There's excellent reception on top of Clingman's Dome, but that's the highest point in TN, so there are quite a few towers in line of sight, if you can actually see that far) This idea would eliminate that without causing permanent damage to the parks.
-- elhigh, May 01 2007

Infostations for Emergency Applications http://www.winlab.r...s/Infostations.html
Short-term emergeny mobile connectivity [Jinbish, May 01 2007]

http://www.cellante...repeater/cae750.htm [Ronx, May 05 2007]

Airship Internet Relay http://www.usatoday...ireless-blimp_x.htm
Aarrr, where be me pirate downloads, in the skies ye say. [marklar, May 07 2007]

Forgive me for guessing what you're about to post...
-- Jinbish, May 01 2007

No, not like that. My experience is that hotspots are generally very limited in their range, and this is for farther flung searchers in the field to communicate with each other and the command station over distances of several miles.

And, NUTS! I thought I was having an original idea. I'll leave it up for a day or two...
-- elhigh, May 01 2007

I think this is completely different than the infostation linked, especially if you just look at the first approach and the original problem of a lost/injured individual needing to contact someone. Presumably the searcher already have some kind of communication, although it may be somewhat problematic.

But the searchee has no communication at all, yet does have the means to do so if his cellphone could just get through. The first approach addresses this problem. I don't know if it's technically possible or workable, but the idea is interesting. What if you used a dirigible instead of a helicopter? Might give you a more stable target for the searchee.
-- Noexit, May 02 2007

I have seen complete cellphone stations on a trailer deployed at large public events ... though I think the purpose in that case was to provide more connections for the crowd, not connections in an area with no service. Still, the hardware should be the same. Putting it in a search aircraft is a good idea anyway; at the frequencies used by cellphones, line-of-sight is everything. [+]
-- batou, May 03 2007

Better than a helicopter, or a temporary tower, how about a fleet of unmanned blimps? Each has a base station and fuel to remain on station for a few days. A simple autopilot attached to GPS would find a given terrain point and hover over it. Central control could keep the elements fleet ten kilometers apart and they could relay for each other back to a fixed base station. One hundred of these could blanket coverage on ten thousand miles of wilderness. Probably far more than any search would need. When no longer needed they could be recalled and flown to the next area where they are needed.
-- Galbinus_Caeli, May 04 2007

I love the blimp idea, even better than the helicopter. No fuel, no noise to disturb the hikers who DO know how to find their way home, etc.
-- elhigh, May 07 2007

The airship (the proper name for a blimp with a motor) idea is baked for internet repeaters in the US, linky.
-- marklar, May 07 2007

random, halfbakery