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Enabling Broadband Internet Access Offshore using Tethered Balloons: The BLUECOM plus experience

Teixeira, FB; Oliveira, T; Lopes, M; Leocadio, C; Salazar, P; Ruela, J; Campos, R; Ricardo, M;


The growth of the Blue Economy has been boosted by a set of traditional and new activities including maritime transportation, fisheries, environmental monitoring, deep sea mining, and inspection missions. These activities are urging for a cost-effective broadband communications solution capable of supporting both above and underwater missions at remote ocean areas, since many of them rely on an ever-increasing number of Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASV), Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) and Remote Operated Vehicles (ROV), which need to transmit large amounts of data to shore. The BLUE-COM+ project has considered the usage of helium balloons to increase the antenna height, and overtake the earth curvature and achieve Fresnel zone clearance, combined with the use of sub-GHz frequency bands to enable long range communications. In this paper we present the results obtained in three sea trials. They show that the BLUECOM+ architecture is capable of supporting human and system activities at remote ocean areas by enabling Internet access beyond 50 km from shore, live video conference calls with the quality of experience available on land, and real-time data upload to the cloud by ASVs, AUVs and ROVs using standard access technologies with bitrates above 1 Mbit/s.