Former NASA manager Bob Jones wants to float robotic airships above the Earth as an alternative to unsightly telecom towers on the ground and expensive satellites in space.
Jones hopes to have a fleet of unmanned "Stratellites" hovering in the stratosphere to provide high-speed data and voice communications. Because of its altitude, one airship could cover an area the size of Texas.
He envisions the airships will rise to about 13 miles, and stay up for 18 months. They might prove most useful in niche markets -- hard-to-wire rural areas, for example -- or during natural disasters when terrestrial towers fail. (from The Associated Press)