Robot Plane could replace cell towers and satellites

The makers of the “Stratellite” believe it will revolutionize the broadband and wireless industry — if it ever gets off the ground. Wisconsin communications company Sanswire recently unveiled its almost-finished prototype of a hard-framed, unmanned airship designed to fly in the stratosphere 13 miles above the earth and send broadband and mobile phone signals to an area the size of Texas.

“We’re shooting for satellite replacement at a lower cost,” said Leigh Coleman, president of Sanswire parent GlobeTel Communications Corp. “We believe this will change the way you communicate.” Flying above the jet stream but lower than a satellite — and one-tenth the cost at $25 million to $30 million — the Stratellite also would render land-based cell-phone towers obsolete, its makers say.

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