Date of Award


Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation


College of Aviation

Committee Chair

Mark Friend, Ed.D.

First Committee Member

Dr. Bruce A. Conway, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Dr. Ian McAndrew, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Dr. Michael R. Bartolacci, Ph.D.


In the wake of a disaster, infrastructure can be severely damaged, hampering telecommunications. An Airborne Communications Network (ACN) allows for rapid and accurate information exchange that is essential for the disaster response period. Access to information for survivors is the start of returning to self-sufficiency, regaining dignity, and maintaining hope. Real-world testing has proven that such a system can be built, leading to possible future expansion of features and functionality of an emergency communications system.

Currently, there are no airborne civilian communications systems designed to meet the demands of the public following a natural disaster. A system allowing even a limited amount of communications post-disaster is a great improvement on the current situation, where telecommunications are frequently not available. It is technically feasible to use an airborne, wireless, cellular system quickly deployable to disaster areas and configured to restore some of the functions of damaged terrestrial telecommunications networks.

The system requirements were presented, leading to the next stage of the planned research, where a range of possible solutions were examined. The best solution was selected based on the earlier, predefined criteria. The system was modeled, and a test ii system built. The system was tested and redesigned when necessary, to meet the requirements.

The research has shown how the combination of technology, especially the recent miniaturizations and move to open source software for cellular network components can allow sophisticated cellular networks to be implemented. The ACN system proposed could enable connectivity and reduce the communications problems that were experienced following Hurricane Sandy and Katrina. Experience with both natural and man-made disasters highlights the fact that communications are useful only to the extent that they are accessible and useable by the population.