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Drones for disaster relief

Texas researchers demonstrate unmanned aerial vehicles capable of providing wireless communications to storm-ravaged areas

man with unmanned vehicle (UAV)
Video available View video

Unmanned aerial vehicles capable of providing wireless communications when telephone access is out.
Credit and Larger Version

July 29, 2014

The following is part 4 of the Smart America series showcasing National Science Foundation (NSF) researchers designing improved cyber-physical systems. In parts 1, 2 and 3, learn about cyber-dogs, tele-robotics and smart shape technology research.

At the Smart America Expo in June, Yan Wan from the University of North Texas exhibited unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) she developed that are capable of providing wireless communications to storm-ravaged areas where telephone access is out.

Typical wireless communications have a range limit of only a hundred meters, or about the length of a football field. However, using technology Wan and her colleagues developed, she was able to extend the Wi-Fi reach of drones to 5 kilometers, or a little more than 3 miles. The secret is designing directional antennas that can rotate and adjust automatically to assure a strong connection.

"This technology would be very useful in disaster scenarios when the cell towers are down and there's no communication infrastructure," Wan said. "However, in order to enable the information dissemination between the rescue teams and control centers, we need to have a structure available to make this happen. And this is what we're trying to provide."

In a grant from NSF, Wan is applying similar technology to next-generation aviation systems. One day, Wan's research will enable drone-to-drone and flight-to-flight communications, improving air traffic safety, coordination and efficiency.

The Smart America Expo brought together leaders from academia, industry and government to demonstrate the ways that smarter cyber-physical systems (CPS)--sometimes called the "Internet of Things"--can lead to improvements in health care, transportation, energy and emergency response, and other critical areas.

--  Aaron Dubrow, NSF (703) 292-4489 adubrow@nsf.gov

Yan Wan

Related Institutions/Organizations
University of North Texas

Denton , Texas
Washington , District Of Columbia

Related Programs
Cyber-Physical Systems

Related Awards
#1035386 CPS: Small: Collaborative Research: Dynamical-Network Evaluation and Design Tools for Strategic-to-Tactical Air Traffic Flow Management
#1058110 EAGER: Collaborative Research: Stochastic Environmental-Impact Modeling for Automated Decision-Making in Infrastructure Networks: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach

Years Research Conducted
2010 - 2014

Total Grants

Related Websites
Smart America: http://smartamerica.org/
Yan Wan research page: http://ee.unt.edu/public/wan/


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