UAS use expands Wi-Fi range for disaster areas

By Emily Aasand | August 28, 2014

The University of North Texas (UNT) has created a new technology offering capable of supplying Wi-Fi to damaged disaster areas with a range of up to 5 kilometers using UAVs.

According to Yan Wan, assistant professor of electrical engineering at UNT and leader of the research project, a typical Wi-Fi antenna has a range of around 100 meters. Wan and her team developed a directional antenna, which rotates to automatically align with a target to maintain a stronger communication link, which helps prevent signal disruption to maintain a wider Wi-Fi range.

“This technology would be very useful in disaster scenarios when the cell towers are down and there’s not communication infrastructure,” said Wan.

Damages to communication infrastructure make it difficult for response teams to communicate efficiently and to keep disaster victims informed.

“In order to enable the information dissemination between the rescue teams and control centers, we need to have a structure available to make that happen,” said Wan. “And this is what we’re trying to provide.”

Wan, who was awarded a grant for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop this new technology said that there is still work that needs to be done before it’s implemented into the real world. According to the NSF, Wan’s research will, one day, “Enable drone-to-drone and flight-to-flight communications, improving air traffic safety, coordination and efficiency.”