2018 Call for Code Winner Project OWL advances its natural disaster communication network

For disaster-prone areas, fragile connectivity remains a major problem, often going offline in critical moments. Aerospace enterprises face a similar challenge when trying to run consistent high-altitude connectivity while operating in remote locations, which can also be very expensive. This is where Project OWL comes into play: developing new technologies to help address these challenges.

Formed in 2018 to compete in the inaugural Call for Code Global Challenge — which it won — Project OWL is a global team of entrepreneurs focused on creating radically cost-effective and easy to use aerospace technologies. In June, we took a major step in our journey by conducting a series of air bound tests dubbed “SpaceDucks 3” in San Luis Obispo, CA. We’re pleased to report that we successfully launched six balloons, including a group of five mesh SpaceDucks at one time.

We believe these balloons can make a difference during a natural disaster situation (e.g., an earthquake, hurricane or wildfire), and when we can deploy our technology to the skies and even space. This makes it easier to connect to the communities that have been devastated by disaster. 

Our sensors are designed to be less susceptible to being destroyed as they sit far beyond the reach of hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes. This enables them to provide more complete, global connectivity and reduces the risk of being destroyed by all the bad things that happen here on earth’s surface.

How SpaceDucks 3 enables the future of disaster connectivity

There are huge markets for aerospace technology, not to mention the societal impact we can make providing remote or disaster-struck regions with basic, low cost, simple communications when it is needed most. We are developing solutions that we believe can have a wide-ranging commercial and defense-focused impact on the world.

Collaboration was key during our mission. We were accompanied by a full Cal Poly Research team who assisted in the launch. We also worked with students from The University of Texas at Dallas, and received support through our partnership with Raytheon Technologies. OWL has U.S. Air Force to thank as part of the R&D funding as well.

We successfully completed our primary goal of establishing network links from the ground to our air-bound SpaceDuck sensor, and back down to a separate ground station. We covered 60 miles of total distance at 90,000 feet altitude. In fact, one of OWL’s SpaceDucks, TARAQUR-1, broke our previous altitude record and reached 91,863.5 feet.

IBM and the Call for Code team have been key to fueling our company’s growth through funding, the support of technical team members and countless resources over the years. We have been collaborating with IBM to use the IBM Watson Text to Speech Library for Embed. OWL used a cloud-based analytics dashboard, powered by IBM Watson, to intuitively observe and communicate with the balloons while air-bound. The AI-powered chatbot was able to read out the status of the balloons throughout the three-hour flights and keep our team informed.

OWL’s unique technical solution and problem-solving approach

Comms equipment that is lightweight, easy to use and radically cost effective are all characteristics needed during natural disasters. OWL can help enterprises control their applications with a resilient network floating above our heads.

During our test, we proved 915mhz LoRa communications at high altitude on atmospheric weather balloons. While doing so, we collected a variety of sensor data — including temperature, pressure, altitude, humidity and accelerometers — and visual media for analysis and publication.

Follow along with OWL’s test and journey

The growth of the team across OWL and our partners working on SpaceDucks has been sensational. 

In the future, our technology could help you message a loved one in a disaster scenario when other networks are down. We are now one step closer to making that vision a reality. We hope you’ll join us.

Join the Project OWL community

The post 2018 Call for Code Winner Project OWL advances its natural disaster communication network appeared first on IBM Blog.