Floating balls to serve as satellite dishes in disaster areas

When disaster hits, keeping lines of communication open is essential. With that in mind, Paul Gierow developed the GATR-Com: a beach ball-shaped balloon that's actually a floating satellite dish. Tested during in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the GATR-Com can provide a solid satellite connection even if conditions on the ground aren't good enough for setting up a dish.

The balloon weighs less than 70 pounds and all the gear, including electronics and tethers, can be carried in a pair of backpacks, then assembled at the site in just 15 minutes. Its power demands are modest — all you need is a car cigarette-lighter socket or small generator. The flexible-plastic antenna is actually inside the balloon itself; the round shape of the design is resistant to gusts and can keep the dish locked onto a satellite to a tenth of a degree.

Just one GATR-Com costs $50,000, so it's not likely to come optional in any RVs anytime soon, though that's said to be less than other portable satellite antennas. Check some video of the GATR-Com in action after the jump.

Popular Science, via Gizmodo