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Flying drone swarm could bring free Wi-Fi access to protesters [video]

The Internet and mobile devices were instrumental in allowing protesters and activists to organize and even topple oppressive regimes in 2011. Global media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders called out several countries that attempted to stifle its citizens by blocking Internet access in its “Enemies of the Internet” report on Monday, but protesters may not have to rely on traditional land-based or even wireless Internet service providers in the future. Read on for more.

Electronic Countermeasures, a project launched by the Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today organization’s Liam Young, is a revolutionary effort that could create wireless networks on the fly. The solution involves a swarm of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that carry wireless base stations and broadcast what is essentially a portable, scalable local wireless network. Such a solution would allow protesters and activists to communicate with one another using mobile devices without the need for a cellular Internet connection. In fact, no connection to the Internet would be required at all.

“These drones would fly off and hover above the city, and create ad hoc connections and networks in a new form of nomadic territorial infrastructure,” Young said while speaking with Co.Design. “A flock of interactive autonomous drones that form their own place specific, temporary, local, Wi-Fi community–a pirate Internet.”

While the purpose of the solution varies significantly, a similar concept on a smaller scale is utilized by NYU professor David Darts’s PirateBox. By creating a free local network and removing the need for ISPs, PirateBox users are able to create local file-sharing networks that are completely off the radar and free from any possible detection by authorities and copyright holders.

The local peer-to-peer network described by Young’s Electronic Countermeasures project could have a significant impact on citizens living in regions where access to the Internet and freedom of self expression are not guaranteed. What’s more, the solution would make it significantly more difficult for communications between protesters and activists to be monitored.

A video detailing the Electronic Countermeasures project follows below.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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