A new solution has been proposed to keep vital communications running when natural disasters destroy the existing ground-based transmitters and signal amplifiers. It consists of "disaster balloons," that automatically inflate when a natural disaster strikes or seems imminent and deploy communication transmitters until the ground ones are repaired.
Lack of communication right after a natural disaster like a tropical depression, an earthquake, a hurricane, a tornado, a tsunami, a wildfire, or even a human terrorist attack is the main cause of the chaos that is created in the aftermath and many people lost their lives because search and rescue teams couldn't be announced and guided towards them.
The balloons rely on a set of ground- and air-based monitoring systems that look for signs of a natural disaster, which include various sensors for barometric pressure, temperature, seismic activity and water levels.
Immediately after detecting high winds, indicating a hurricane, the ground movement that accompanies an earthquake, and the noxious gases produced by a volcano, the balloons are automatically launched into the atmosphere.
Equipped with communications transmitters, much like cellphone base stations, these balloons ensure that communications channels remain open by retransmitting the signals, when critical communication and information infrastructure have taken heavy damage or are out of order.
Aris Mardirossian of Maryland, US, is the one proposing the balloon-based communications applications and has requested a patent for his invention.
The actual communication systems can be one or more of, for example, a cellular system, satellite broadcast, short-wave radios, etc. The system may operate at various frequencies, depending on, for example, the communication system chosen, the specific needs of responders, the nature of the disaster.
This new solution is hoped to speed up the response time and help to guide emergency crews to the affected areas and their inhabitants.