This might be of interest to some folks here: Make Magazine partnering with Field Ready is co-sponsoring a design challenge of sorts to crowdsource solutions for Hurricane/Disaster relief problems. Ideas that they deem viable will be put into production and used for the relief effort in the US Virgin Islands.
There are only two days left to submit ideas but it looks like some of the submissions are hand-drawn. They have 8 categories for projects. I’ve pasted the description for the Telecommunications category below.
Challenge #6: Telecommunications
Problem: Disasters often result in overloaded or destroyed communications infrastructure. Cell phone towers are damaged or overloaded, internet connectivity is sparse or non-existent, and traditional phone lines are often damaged or compromised. Providing the community with low cost ‘call boxes’ that connect neighborhoods with the local fire/police departments even when the communications infrastructure is damaged is much needed. Ideally, this call-box network would push information through the radios like a self-healing or ad hoc network so that there is no need for hierarchical coordination.
Solution: Using radios other than cell phones might be part of the solution, like Xbee or other similar radios, that can form their own network independent of existing infrastructure. The information passed to fire/police departments would ideally be voice messaging or real time voice communications but, at a minimum, text-like messaging. The system may operate off of upcycled solar panels and, if absolutely necessary, car batteries and inverters. The system must be extremely easy—from a human factors and operational perspective—to use but can be assembled and coded, if necessary, by Field Ready and Building Momentum engineers. The hardware for each call box, not including the wood/solar panels/batteries, must be as low cost as possible and minimize power usage when not in use. If keyboards and/or other I/Os are required ensure they are part of the total solution package.
Using Arduino and/or Raspberry Pi is preferred as these are well known platforms for support and implementation.
Transmitters must be able to push data at least 5 km in free space.
Any code needs to be available to the Building Momentum and Field Ready team to edit, if needed, for different scenarios.
The ‘call box’ itself can be made in situ by the Field Ready team from a provided design using reclaimed wood and plywood, the communications hardware should leverage low cost components as much as possible.