How the Airborne Internet Will Work

A HALO Over Head
The Proteus plane will carry the network hub for the HALO Network.
The Proteus plane will carry the network hub for the HALO Network.
Photo courtesy Angel Technologies

One the three companies developing an airborne Internet network is Angel Technologies. Its HALO Network  uses the Proteus plane, which will carry wireless networking equipment into the air.

The Proteus plane was developed by Scaled Composites. It is designed with long wings and the low wing loading needed for extended high-altitude flight. Wing loading is equal to the entire mass of the plane divided by its wing area. Proteus will fly at heights of 9.5 and 11.4 miles (15.3 and 18.3 km) and cover an area up to 75 miles (120.7 km) in diameter. The plane still needs to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

At the heart of Angel's Proteus planes is the one-ton airborne-network hub, which is what allows the plane to relay data signals from ground stations to your workplace and home computer. The airborne-network hub consists of an antenna array and electronics for wireless communication. The antenna array creates hundreds of virtual cells, like mobile-phone cells, on the ground to serve thousands of users. The payload is liquid-cooled and operates off of about 20 kilowatts of DC power. An 18-foot dish underneath the plane is responsible for reflecting high-speed data signals from a ground station to your computer.

Each city in the HALO Network will be allotted three piloted Proteus planes. Each plane will fly for eight hours before the next plane takes off. Angel CEO Marc Arnold says his company has identified 3,500 airports in the United States that can meet HALO's operational needs. After takeoff, the Proteus plane will climb to a safe altitude, above any bad weather or commercial traffic, and begin an 8-mile loop around the city. Each plane will accommodate two pilots, who will split flying duties during their eight-hour flight.