Americas Multirotor

No wires, no laws, no limits: How a flying drone network could liberate the Internet from above

Use for UAS that regulators never thought of continue to pop up. The practicalities of actually keeping platforms in the air long enough to be useful seem to be being ignored over the sex appeal of multicopters. Multicopters are super simple to build and fly hence their popularity. Once they start finding out that fixed wing platforms can lift more for longer, then we might see something interesting. The WASP  was a good example of that.

Open source autonomous thermal soaring will become mainstream this summer. Flying a 3 or 4 metre wingspan with perhaps a 1 kg payload for six or seven hours at 10,000′ would make all the difference to these plans. If these groups would have the skill sets and organisation required to fly large platforms for long durations is another matter.

In the UK there are rules in place that allow the CAA to prosecute unlicensed activity if they choose. The USA is slightly different, but again this use would fall outside of AMA guidelines for hobby flight so would have to conform with FAA non hobby guidelines.

Will the privacy advocates have something to say about this? Its unlikely that people will just be spreading love if they start flying UAS with wifi sniffing equipment onboard.

Of all the sensational articles published this is the best to date and hence the first one that we have chosen to promulgate.


Flying server drones hovering outside the reach of Earth-bound authorities could prevent well-intentioned laws – and even dictators – from strangling the Internet.

Internet pirates have a problem. As the shutdown of MegaUpload, rise of legislation like SOPA, and even new “six strikes” rules have all demonstrated, authorities are cracking down on illegal file sharing.

When The Pirate Bay recentled announced its plans to build GPS-controlled server drones, the torrent community was enlivened with excitement. It was a novel, futuristic and all-around badass concept. Imagine server drones whizzing overhead, actively eluding the detection of law enforcement officials. As officials are scrambling to take down these flying servers, nearby users will be sharing files without apprehension. The days of file sharers receiving threatening emails or having their connections throttled by ISPs would be just a fleeting memory. It sounded too good to be true, and not surprisingly, skeptics expressed their doubts. The Pirate Bay does, after all, throw around great ideas that aren’t being built.

But server drones aren’t science fiction — they already exist. The website Torrent Freak was quick to point out that a London-based thinktank has been cracking on the problem for some time. In fact, the group was months ahead in the game and had already tested artistic (yet fully functional) prototypes for a media-arts festival in the Netherlands.

We dug deeper to find out more about the promise of flying server drones, the complications, and how far they might be from spreader further.

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3 thoughts on “No wires, no laws, no limits: How a flying drone network could liberate the Internet from above
  1. You forgot to mention the really long endurance aerial servers due out this year ie: LEMV and the Blue Devil M1400.
    The March issue of The Journal of The Airship Assoc. had very in-depth article on the M1400’s progress.
    As for how long people have been working on this concept does anyone remember SKYSTATION or SANSWIRE/Globetel ?
    I seriously doubt the pirate networks have enough money to float something this big.

  2. It’s been thought of and standard in the military to build networks off of UAS

  3. As a pilot, an electronics hobbyist, a UAS aficionado and a professional network administrator, drone networks are an area where a number of my interests and skills coincide. Because of that, I am both excited by and rather skeptical of the idea of drone networks.

    On the plus side, there is the promise of users finally being liberated from excessive legislation (SOPA, etc.) by building alternative networks that are outside the reach of the authorities or draconian policies of some Internet Service Providers (disclaimer: I work for an ISP/telco). Additionally, I would be a liar if I said that the “geek factor” of building such a network just to see if it could be done is a powerful incentive to me, as well.

    On the negative side, I have a lot of doubts about the feasibility of such a scheme. There are serious problems with building servers or routers that are small and efficient enough to fit in an autonomous drone and that have power sources that are capable of operating 24×7 off the power grid. Keeping a UAS aloft 24×7 is a similar challenge. These are technical difficulties, and, if you consider how far miniaturization and power efficiency have grown in the last decade, I suspect it is safe to say that they will be overcome within a matter of years. *Right now*, however, I don’t think it can be done by hobbyists without prohibitive costs. Even that, however, is not the most serious objection I can think of. Ultimately, how will users access such a network? If they are traversing the public Internet, then what problems have you solved? The Feds can still send a CALEA request to duplicate your traffic, you still have bandwidth caps/throttling, your IP address can still be tracked, etc. On the other hand, if you create a network that is separate from the Internet, it now is a lot less useful to people. Can you communicate overseas through an aerial network? It would take a *lot* of drones to cover the Atlantic or the Pacific…

    Then there are the legal issues. Will the drones be flying below 400 feet? Line of sight of the operators/owners? Are they still flying in the airspace of a sovereign nation? If so, do you really think that will grant any immunity to those using them? Unless they are flying over international waters, I doubt that the government (any government) would consider them outside of their jurisdiction. Even if the UAS is outside of the government’s jurisdiction, what happens when they land for maintenance or to refuel?

    I am sure there are more objections, but these are what I can come up with offhand. It would be cool to build an airborne networking platform, but I think you are fooling yourself if you expect to be free of oppressive legislation by putting your network in the air.

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