THEY WERE known as Zeppelins and “blimps”, they were used as bombers in the first World War and for several decades later, they provided first-class air travel until the 1937 Hindenburg disaster.
Now the application of the airship design to monitor offshore drug-smuggling and for remote sensing is being discussed at a European conference in Galway.
More than 50 experts in radio communication, optical communication and aircraft design are attending a two-day meeting at NUI Galway as part of an EU project on the development of high altitude platforms. The EU High Altitude Platforms for Communications and Other Services project involves NUI Galway researchers in applied optics.
Airships can be deployed to provide “immediate response communication networks in disaster recovery situations”, according to NUI Galway applied optics researcher Ruth Mackey.
“These platforms are also being designed for remote sensing applications – for example for crop-monitoring, traffic-surveillance or for security in areas such as monitoring the oceans for drug-smuggling activity.
“Optical wireless communication is particularly useful for transmitting large quantities of data to and from remote locations, where it is not possible – or too expensive – to lay optical fibre,” she explains.
“One of the obstacles to the technology is the adverse effect caused by propagation through the atmosphere – such as beam wander and beam spreading that can reduce signal quality.”
The researchers have already established a 3km terrestrial optical link across Galway city to measure the effects of atmospheric turbulence on optical wave propagation and other factors.