Strategic Tac Radio and Tac Overwatch (STRATO)

PI: Donald Sullivan, NASA/Ames Research Center

The Strategic Tac Radio and Tac Overwatch (STRATO) system is designed to provide real-time fire observations and last-mile communications with firefighters from stratospheric platforms. By providing persistent communications to a wildfire response team for a week or longer, STRATO is expected to offer capabilities beyond the currently used tethered balloons, which have a limited range and coverage area. By achieving station-keeping at altitudes up to 70,000 feet above ground level—to be demonstrated in flight testing—the STRATO will be able to provide communications to incident response teams in areas with no cellphone coverage.

Technology Areas (?)
  • NA
Problem Statement

Active wildfire management depends not only on real-time observations but also on direct contact with firefighters (i.e., last-mile communications). Response teams often operate in areas with no cellphone coverage, which limits the ability to transmit data in and out. Although FirstNet (the U.S. network for emergency responders and public safety) can extend the communications range via its tethered balloons, the range and coverage are limited. Researchers are evaluating the technical, operational, and financial feasibility of using stratospheric platforms for providing last-mile communications for wildfires and other remote incidents. The goal is to provide persistent LTE wireless broadband and multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) radio communications to a wildfire incident response team for a week or longer. To be successful, the stratospheric balloon must achieve station-keeping at altitudes from 50,000 to 70,000 feet above ground level.

Technology Maturation

Flight testing will provide a valuable opportunity to demonstrate the potential for high-altitude, long-endurance imaging and communications with/by end users in an operational environment. The test apparatus includes an LTE transmitter, a Silvus-brand receiver and transmitter, and a microbolometer (i.e., thermal camera) contained on an Aerostar Thunderhead high-altitude balloon system.

Future Customers

• National Interagency Fire Center • U.S. Forest Service • Other firefighting agencies

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 0 Balloon

Development Team

  • PI
    Donald Sullivan
  • Organization
  • Sponsor
  • Partners
    Fire and Aviation Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

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