Pakistani researchers have developed a solar-powered portable mobile phone network that can be used when the regular mobile phone networks are down due to natural disasters. Dubbed as the Rescue Base Station (RBS) for Pakistan, the system has been jointly developed by a team from the Information Technology University (ITU) in Lahore and the University of California.
“When the RBS is installed in a disaster-struck area, people automatically start receiving its signals on their mobile phones. They can manually choose it and then call, send messages and even browse (internet) data free of charge,” said Umar Saif, ITU vice chancellor and an adviser to the project.
The RBS is a lightweight, compact rectangular box fitted with an antenna, a signal amplifier and a battery, which can be carried easily and even dropped by helicopter in hard-to-reach disaster zones. It has a solar panel to charge the battery, to keep it working in places without electric power.
An alternative communications system like this could help save lives when disasters strike by connecting survivors with rescue workers and government officials.
Saif said the RBS signal can be received within a 3 km radius, and people in the area can easily register by sending their name, occupation, age and blood group to a special number.
“This helps generate an automatic database of people in distress, and eventually helps both the rescue and relief teams and the victims,” he said.