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EC makes call on helicopters

Using helicopters as network cells to provide mobile telephony for emergency services in disaster zones where communication infrastructures have been incapacitated is the focus of a European Commission-funded project.

EADS is leading the Mobile Autonomous Reactive Information System for Urgency Situations (MARIUS) project, with field testing expected in July. The first laboratory tests were conducted last December. A helicopter would be equipped with an electro-optical/infrared sensor, GSM cellphone detection and location system, SMS broadcast capability and a datalink to a ground station.

In a disaster zone, a helicopter could act as a command post or a relay for text messages between rescue teams and survivors. "Dissemination of alerts and information to citizens in case of large emergencies is an essential concern in Europe nowadays," says project manager Philippe Chrobocinski.

Other technologies MARIUS will investigate include a mobile crisis management system, a micro-drone for disaster zone airborne surveillance and a deployable wireless communications network.

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