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Image by Alessio Soggetti

Picture this: A person is lost in the desert. Local first responders initiate a search and rescue operation. As they conduct the search, they’re faced with a problem: loss of broadband signal.

This isn’t a made-up scenario. First responders often work in conditions where communication networks are weak or not available. One possible solution is to use drones to deploy broadband networks, making signals available anywhere. But today’s drones often can’t provide adequate support to first responders. The equipment is too heavy for drones to carry for very long.

Hurricane Map

In their effort to reconnect southeastern communities cut off by Hurricane Ida, telecom companies are taking to the skies with flying COWs. Far from heifers, however, those cell-on-wings units are ultra-buffed, extreme weather-resistant drones that provide phone service to isolated people with the outside world.

Polytechnic UAS-3749.tif

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division, in conjunction with Kansas State University and Mississippi State University are hosting this challenge to identify top designs.