Would a satellite dish the size of a cereal bowl intrigue you?
A recently revealed development -- from Toronto offers that
possibility in the not-too-distant future. Cable companies will not
It's called S.H.A.R.P. (Stationery High Altitude Relay Platform).
A small prototype has already been successfully test-flown and worked
fine. Now a further advance.
SHARP is a very lightweight airplane -- that carries no fuel,
has no solar panels and operates at an altitude of 70,000 feet.
That's about twice the height of normal jetliners, still higher than
the Concorde flies and avoids the jet stream flow. It can
theoretically stay up for ever but plans call for it to be returned
periodically for updated improvements.
At only 14 miles up a reflected video signal might travel less
distance vertically than your local TV station transmission moves
horizontally, and with better clarity. It will have more power than
present satellite signals coming from the Clarke Belt 22,300 miles
out in space. On-board transponders will handle multi-frequency video
as well as data and phone. The latter without that annoying quartersecond delay in present satellite conversations.
Developed by Ottawa researcher George Jull, it is the joint work
of a team from the Univ. of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies,
headed by James DeLaurier, who designed the test planes used so far,
and an Ottawa group led by John Martin from the federal Department of
Communications staff, who refined the power system - an invisible
Their larger second-generation model, resembling a nuclear submarine, has also been built and tested. This one is called ISIS. Phase
three would be a commercially operated full-sized version. That unit
would still only weigh 1,000 kilograms but be as wide as a Boeing
When I pointed this out recently at the Communications Forum in
Chicago held by Channels Magazine and Columbia College, big shots
from Group W (Westinghouse) and other cable companies reacted with
total silence. In a rapidly changing environment specialization can
make a business rapidly obsolete.
How does that invisible extension cord work, you ask? Energy will
be continually beamed to a "rectennae" on the bottom of the remotecontrolled aircraft. This will feed an electric motor aboard the
craft from an earth-bound micro-wave uplink. This is believed to be
the first such successful transfer of energy, in this fashion, to an
aircraft from anywhere in the world.
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