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High-Speed Internet to Come to Rural Indiana Via Blimp

The Wabash Heartland Innovation Network, a regional group that represents 10 counties in Indiana, has set in motion a plan to deliver rural broadband with an aerostat, a type of blimp.

Aerostat - WHIN
An aerostat is being used to deploy high-speed Internet service in some Indiana counties.
Courtesy Wabash Heartland Innovation Network
Rural areas within 10 Indiana counties are expected to benefit from a broadband-providing blimp. 

The blimp, or aerostat, will be deployed from a base called the AeroSite, which will be launched by company RTO Wireless. The 10 counties are represented by a consortium called the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network (WHIN).

In a press release, the group said this project will mark the first time an aerostat has provided commercial high-speed Internet to anywhere in the United States. The idea is to provide connectivity for Internet of Things technology in the 10-county region in order to boost precision agriculture and advanced manufacturing. 

Additionally, residents in rural communities will be able to utilize broadband because of the blimp. 

In the release, RTO Wireless CEO Steve Hubbard said the innovation network’s commitment to technological innovation set this project in motion. 

“The RTO AeroSite is perfectly suited for rapidly providing thousands of square miles of wireless coverage, enabling many emerging technologies and applications for these industries as well as rural broadband, remote learning and telehealth solutions,” Hubbard said. “WHIN's dedication to the advancement of the region was pivotal in RTO's decision to establish an AeroSite Technologies team and lease a hangar in West Lafayette.”

According to its website, RTO Wireless already “supports AT&T’s FirstNet One Aerostat deployments under its Network Disaster Recovery unit.” Late last year, FirstNet announced the launch of its blimp, which can hover 1,000 feet above ground and remain in the air for two weeks before requiring helium, making it a potentially life-saving communication tool during large disasters. 

Aerostats have superior line-of-sight capability compared to terrestrial towers, according to the press release. Such aerostats have also been utilized by the military for communication purposes. 

Jed Pressgrove has been a writer and editor for about 15 years. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in sociology from Mississippi State University.