Dual-Aircraft Platform: inspired by kitesurfing kites | Photo: ERAU

Scientists from the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) are developing an innovative aircraft that will be able to deliver wireless Internet access to dead zones.

Inspired by the sport of kiteboarding, the team led by William Engblom received $100,000 from NASA to improve the Dual-Aircraft Platform (DAP), essentially two gliders connected by an ultra-strong thin cable.

"The DAP is likened to a kitesurf setup, with one aircraft acting as the sail, and the other as the board. The DAPs could stay stationary in the stratosphere for years, running off power from the sun and the wind," explains Engblom, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering at (ERAU).

"Such platforms would diversify and expand observational capabilities - for example, NASA's Earth science missions - and communications bandwidth and availability in underserved remote areas of the United States, at a fraction of the cost of orbital satellite networks."

In the next months, the ERAU researchers will enter the proof of concept stage. The DAP will be tested for three months as a communications relay, remaining within 150 miles of Orlando, Florida, at an altitude of 50,000 to 60,000 feet.

If the mission goes as planned, the College of Engineering at Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach Campus will apply for a second phase valued up to $500,000, for two additional years of concept development.

Frances Osorio Rivera is just another kiteboarder. The only noticeable difference is that she rides the winds of her favorite spots with one only one leg.

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