The European Commission plans to test and implement a system for communicating with the populace in disaster-stricken areas by broadcasting text messages to cell phones from an orbiting helicopter.
The commission is underwriting the initiative, which is intended to close the communications gap that typically results when a natural disaster or terrorist attack knocks out or overloads a large portion of a local telecommunications network.
The communications initiative is part of a larger EU project, called Marius (for Mobile Autonomous Reactive Information System for Urgency Situations), to develop a helicopter command post, equipped with sensors and information and communication systems, that could be deployed quickly to monitor a crisis and support inter-agency cooperation and decision making. It is being developed by a consortium of 13 industrial and academic partners. They are led by EADS Defence and Security Systems of France, a unit of Eurocopter parent EADS.
The concept is to mount a mini-mobile network in a helicopter that would fly above stricken areas. It would be used to send SMS text messages to all cell phones in the immediate area to help coordinate rescues and keep the populace informed. The system is expected to undergo field-testing in July in Valencia, Spain.