Deployable Aerial Communications Architecture in Emergency Communications

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Deployable Aerial Communications Architecture

Disaster Preparedness

Security Management Expert Ed Levy, Firestorm Expert Council Member on Deployable Aerial Communications

Edward M. Levy is a senior security executive with nearly 30-years in the corporate and government sectors. Mr. Levy was the VP & Global Head of Security for Thomson Reuters. He served in other corporate security positions with Pfizer, CIT Group, and the Empire State Building. Mr. Levy is also a retired Lieutenant Colonel form the US Army and former Assistant Professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

FCC explores aerial communications for emergencies

SUMMARY:  The FCC says that federal, state, and local governments are constantly working to improve their emergency communications capabilities when a disaster strikes.  Yet, there remains a gap during the first seventy-two hours after a catastrophic event when communications may be disrupted or completely disabled due to damaged facilities, widespread power outages, and lack of access by restoration crews into the affected area.


Commentary by Ed Levy, Firestorm Expert Council Member

The FCC initiative of applying Deployable Aerial Communications Architecture (DACA) technologies makes good sense and has significant merit, but its exploratory effort should be expanded to include visual capabilities.

During wide-area catastrophic events, authoritative and mass communications are a critical component to provide warning and direction.  As recognized, that is a component that can easily get severed or out of reach for victims and emergency managers during a disaster – TV, Radio, Wireless Coverage, etc.  Emergency management authorities having a capability to launch airborne communications for wide-area coverage fills a gap for one-way communications.  Its limitations are that the operational requirement described in the Notice of Inquiry is one-way and appears to operate in the dark.

An expanded capability for DACA technologies should also include a real-time surveillance platform that can communicate back damage assessments and potential emergency response requirements.  This information will allow emergency managers to provide an authoritative and consistent message to people impacted during a consequential event.  More importantly, it will give emergency managers a visual capability to accurately assess the situation, prioritize requirements, respond accordingly, and communicate with authority on the situation at hand and adjust, when the situation changes.

The Federal Communications Commission on 06/15/2012 issued a notice to solicit comments; comments are due on or before July 25, 2012 and reply comments are due on or before August 14, 2012.

The current DACA technologies available that can support current communications services:

  • Small unmanned aerial vehicles (SUAV): Hand-launched, battery-powered vehicles that fly to about 500 feet above ground level (AGL).
  • Weather balloon technologies (Balloons): Balloon-borne technologies in a six-pound package that can act as repeaters
  • High altitude long distance unmanned vehicles (HALE): Allow for deployment at potentially higher operational altitudes, for longer durations, with greater payloads
  • Deployable suitcase systems: Deployable suitcase transceivers that can be placed on low flying aircraft to be used as repeaters
  • Other technologies, such as quick-mounted antennas, repeaters and transmitters on wheels, and satellite technologies, were also identified in the record as potential solutions for communications during emergencies where the terrestrial infrastructure is compromised

For more information, and to contribute comments to the DACA discussion, visit Federal Communications Commission


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