Also known simply as AI, the airborne Internet is a communication network that is designed to include nodes or points of contact or interaction on different types of aircraft. First conceived in 1999, the idea of an Internet communications and delivery system that is air-based for use by passengers and crew on airplanes has undergone some revisions over the years, especially as technology continued to advance during the first decade of the 21st century. In additional to consumer applications, the airborne Internet is also perceived as being a means of creating a communications and information network that could be used in emergency situations or as part of military strategies.
The idea behind the airborne Internet is to eliminate the need for any type of communications infrastructure that is land-based. Instead, the equipment needed to create the network would be installed in aircraft of different types, essentially making it possible to maintain communications and information flow even if key facilities located on the ground were rendered inoperable. At the same time, the air-based Internet would have full capability to interact with land-based facilities when and as practical.
There are a number of advantages associated with the use of an airborne Internet. One has to do with maintaining the flow of information and communication functions in the event of some type of natural disaster. By eliminating the need to route signaling through any type of land-based facility, it would be possible to keep in constant contact with the area affected by the disaster, making it easier to coordinate rescue and disaster relief efforts. Another has to do with enhancing safety for commercial airlines, since the infrastructure of this type of network would allow aircraft to monitor movements in the sky with a greater degree of efficiency than more traditional methods.
Use of an airborne Internet in war would make it easier to coordinate military campaigns even if ground level communications had been disrupted in some way. As a result, the campaigns would have a greater degree of success while also decreasing the potential for loss of life. Even in peacetime, military use of the airborne Internet would mean greater coordination in plotting flight plans and tracking progress of flights of interest from the point of origination to the point of destination.
Over the years, the concepts used to define how to configure an airborne Internet have shifted as technology has opened additional opportunities for the setup of this type of network. At different types, prototypes for the network have been launched and tested, with varying degrees of success. Efforts to create a truly worldwide airborne Internet are continuing today, and will likely continue until this important communication tool is fully operational.