Victims of Hurricane Katrina found peace of mind in the aftermath thanks to an inflatable antenna that enabled emergency satellite communications for displaced Mississippians.

Paul Gierow spent a week with those made homeless by the storm at a shelter in Woolmarket, MS. There, he and his brother-in-law deployed a satellite communications antenna that inflates like a balloon.

An inflatable antenna enabled emergency satellite communications for displaced people in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina.

Using two computers, a 1,000-watt portable generator, and access to a satellite, Gierow was able to deploy the antenna and establish a remote Internet connection — a priceless asset in a region whose telephone and electrical services were obliterated. Dave Beering, a member of the technology development team at IGI, LLC, coordinated the satellite access with G2 Satellite Solutions. SRS Technologies, also a team member, provided antenna support.

Gierow previously spent decades designing inflatable space structures for a military contractor. In 2004, Gierow incorporated GATR Technologies in Huntsville, AL. Soon after, he applied for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract from the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to develop a fully functional satellite terminal using the antenna. For MDA, the technology could be used to establish satellite communications systems in remote areas such as Alaska.

How it Works

What was developed looks like a giant beach ball and weighs about 70 pounds. Made of a proprietary synthetic material, it can fold into a special backpack or container. It is anchored to the ground using guy wires and stakes, and is inflated with a blower. Inside, a parabolic-shaped reflector membrane is attached to the ball. Pressure is monitored and maintained on both sides of the reflector membrane by a sensor and a blower. At the top of the ball, a feed assembly allows the mounting of amplifiers and modulators. The 1.8-meter antenna is designed for X, Ku, and other bands. A lightweight mount holds the antenna and provides automated pointing and tracking.

Where it Stands

GATR has teamed with IGI and SRS Technologies to further develop and market the antenna technology for DOD and emerging commercial applications.

More Information

For more information on GATR Technologies' antenna, click here . (Source: MDA TechUpdate, Missile Defense Agency, National Technology Transfer Center Washington Operations)