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lead Story:

Lead By: Sandy-Mackenzie

Flying cellphone towers: Internet coverage for remote areas?


Startup Telelift is an attempt to create a "flying cellphone tower." It uses drones the size of a dining table, which are attached to the ground by a long wire and, according to their maker, can stay in the air for at least a month.

Rahul Tiwari, 22, came up with the concept in the summer of 2017 while studying engineering at Purdue University in Indiana.

His drones hover at 200 feet while attached to solar panels or a power source on the ground, using around the same amount of power as a microwave.

iwari initially intended his drones to be used as anti-poaching "flying watchtowers" in Africa, but when he spoke to industry insiders, he saw a bigger potential.

"If we took the drones that we were building — that were very powerful, they could fly for a very, very long time — and basically stuck 4G routers on them, we could bring the internet wherever we want it," he tells CNN Business.

His Minnesota-based startup Spooky Action now wants to deploy Telelift in areas with poor internet coverage, beginning in Kenya, Niger, Botswana and Senegal.

There are roughly 4 billion people still without internet access globally, according to GSMA, which represents mobile operators worldwide.

Tiwari says mobile coverage drops "substantially" just outside the main cities, so he is working with network providers to target suburbs, where they can cover the most people per drone.

Then they could move on to more remote areas. "They [network providers] are willing to pay for a product that can do it," he says. "It's good business and it happens to be good for the world."

Each drone can provide high-quality internet for several hundred people over a radius of between 20 miles and 30 miles, says Tiwari, so remote areas may only need one drone, while suburbs may need several.

The drones cost from $40,000 and are fully automated in flight, but would have a pilot for take-off and landing. Tiwari adds that some countries require more oversight from a pilot.

Spooky Action has run tests with Verizon (VZ) and Orange (FNCTF), which used Telelift to deliver internet to the French National Windsurfing Championships in Quiberon, France, last November.

It is now working with non-profit WeRobotics, which Tiwari says is providing advice and introductions to African network providers.

New connections

Mobile access is growing quickly in Sub-Saharan Africa, and internet is central to improving opportunities in rural communities, according to a report from GSMA.

But maintaining infrastructure in sparsely populated areas is often uneconomical for networks.

Sam Twala, from South African consultancy NTSU Aviation Solutions, tells CNN that drones could make "business sense," at least in the short term.

Satellites provide wider coverage, but "complement" other solutions, including drones, he says.

Loon, a project run by Google's parent company Alphabet (GOOGL), has been developing tennis-court sized balloons that fly 12 miles high, capable of serving the internet within a 25-mile radius. In 2018, Loon announced it was partnering with Telkom Kenya to deliver internet to regions of central Kenya.

Drone concerns

Telelift faces a range of potential hurdles — civil aviation authorities are becoming more concerned about issues like flyaway drones, motor failure and busy air spaces, according David Lemayian, from Code for Africa, a civic technology group.

Twala says regulators could be appeased by the "umbilical cord" that allows a tethered drone to be recovered.

Telelift has a back-up battery and control system so it can remain aloft even if the tether is cut, landing when safe.

Gokhan Inalhan, professor of Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence at Cranfield University, in the UK, said Telelift appears to be an "excellent product" for emergency response or search and rescue.

But he adds that continuous use could be "problematic" because many drone components are "not intended to be used 24/7" in extreme conditions. He says that improved engines and materials are needed for drones to cope with continuous operation and the African heat.

Tiwari says that while some of his components are off-the-shelf, the moving parts he uses are specially designed to be resistant — and although they should be able to fly indefinitely, in practice, some of the drones would land at times of day when there is less internet demand.

2019, What A Year.

2019, What A Year.

Updated : 24-12-2019 12:03:07

There is no doubt that this year has been an eventful one for us all, filled with a mixture of good and not so good times for our community and region.

But I can’t tell you enough how proud I am of our whole community, and the way in which we have come together to support one another during the challenging times, particularly with the recent bushfire activity and drought conditions that have been impacting our region.

It’s indeed inspiring to see that during the challenging times, our community never fails to rally together and provide a helping hand to those in need, and this is when our real heroes truly do shine brightly.

To our local firies, emergency service crews, and the many wonderful volunteers who are working tirelessly to protect our homes and loved-ones, we owe you a huge thankyou.

However in light of this heartache, we will recover, and your Council will continue to support all those in our community who have in some way been impacted.

Whilst these recent events may be at the forefront in the minds of many of us, it’s important to remember all the great and exciting times we had this year. From community events like Countdown to Christmas, Artwalk and Ironman, through to the many projects which have been delivered like the Flynns Beach Seawall, Wauchope CBD upgrade and the continuation of the Camden Haven Beach to Beach Riverwalk… and let’s not forget all of the wonderful playgrounds delivered throughout our towns and villages.

And it doesn’t stop there, with many exciting projects and events to look forward to in 2020, right across our growing region.

I want to thank everyone in our community who has engaged with and assisted Council during the year, and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.

And I really hope that our wonderful firies, emergency services personnel and volunteers get a chance to rest and enjoy the Christmas season with their family and friends - there is no doubt that they deserve it.

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Editorial |  :

The celebration of Australia Day on 26 January is not set in stone. Surely it is not beyond us to select a different date that represents how we all want to see ourselves?

There is everything right about having a unifying national day to celebrate and reflect upon all things Australian such as the land, our values and our lifestyles.

If the date of Australia Day celebrations also needs historical significance, let it have positive and meaningful associations for all Australians.

Unfortunately that is not what 26 January offers, especially for indigenous Australians.

For the First Peoples, the raising of the British flag on 26 January to establish a convict colony in New South Wales marked the beginning of an invasion that led to their decimation through murder, disease and famine.

Indigenous Australians called this same day a Day of Mourning in 1938, Invasion Day in the bicentennial year of 1988 and since 1992, Survival Day.

'Aboriginal Australians have continued to feel excluded from what has long been a British pioneering settler celebration' stated historian Elizabeth Kwan in 2007.

More inclusive alternatives to 26 January include the first day of spring - 1 September.

This was officially proclaimed National Wattle day in 1992 but wattle days in August and September have been celebrated at the state and territory level for more than a century.

The national version offers both a symbolic and practical alternative says Tammy Solonec, lawyer and Nyikina woman from the Kimberley WA.

'First it is nationally celebrated on the first day of spring; it is a beautiful time across Australia, connected with concepts of new life and fresh beginnings.

It also falls nicely in the national public holiday deficit between July and November.

And being in September and it does not clash with any State or Territory wide celebrations. Apart from the timing being good, however, the really poignant aspect of wattle day is its underlying ethos and rich history'.

The movement for the celebration of a national Wattle Day began in 1889 in Adelaide and was revived in 1909 in Sydney.

'With a view to stimulating Australian national sentiment, and connecting it with love of our beautiful flora, we suggest the desirableness of setting apart throughout the Commonwealth a day on which the Australian national flower – the Wattle Blossom – might be worn and its display encouraged.

Wattles might also be sown and planted on this day. It is suggested that a date in September would be universally suitable' (Will J. Sowden 1913).

The first wattle day was held on 1 September 1910 and took place in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

A celebration of Australia Day on 1 September would recognise our connection to the beautiful and bountiful land that sustains us.

As long-time wattle day campaigner, Dawn Waterhouse says, 'Together, we could share the love we have for this magnificent country and the joy and privilege of being part of it'.

Suzette Searle, President Wattle Day Association Inc.

M:  0451680554    E: suzettesearle24 @ gmail.com

web: www . wattleday . asn . au

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