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I understand that Nikola Tesla proposed a wireless transmission system that used electrical conduction instead of radio waves.  This method was put forth in his U.S. Patents No. 645,576 and 649,621 where he mentions a 15-mile high antenna wire.  It seems to me that the obstacles to building such an elevated structure would be insurmountable, as all existing materials would self-destruct from their own weight, although a fiber of carbon nanotubes might come close.  Add to this the shearing forces and whipping stresses by existing winds up to 80,000 ft. and no, the materials to build such "antennas" which did not exist in Tesla's time, still do not exist.  What could he have been thinking?

The reference to, "maintaining terminals at elevations of fifteen miles or more above the level of the sea" is followed by the following self-explanatory statement.

Through my discoveries before mentioned and the production of adequate means, the necessity of maintaining terminals at such inaccessible altitudes is obviated . . .  

Tesla expanded upon this assertion in the 1916 interview.

Counsel

I have read in some of your writings that you went to Colorado to further experiment with certain apparatus which you had tested to your own satisfaction at sea level. . . . was that demonstration undertaken in Colorado for the purpose of getting the higher altitude of the air?

Tesla

No, it was nothing of the kind.  I simply went there because in Colorado my system of power transmission was introduced.  All around the plants in the mountains, my three-phase system, and the induction motors were employed. . . . I had friends there who were only too delighted to give me all the power I wanted, and not charge anything for it. . . . My experiments [on Houston Street] showed that at a height of 5 miles the air was in conduction to transmit the energy in this way, but my experiments in Colorado showed that at a height of 1 mile it is plenty enough rarefied to break down under the stress and conduct the current to the distant points.

I have to say here that when I filed the applications of September 2, 1897, for the transmission of energy in which this method was disclosed, it was already clear to me that I did not need to have terminals at such high elevation, but I never have, above my signature, announced anything that I did not prove first.  That is the reason why no statement of mine was ever contradicted, and I do not think it will be, because whenever I publish something I go through it first by experiment, then from experiment I calculate, and when I have the theory and practice meet I announce the results.

At that time I was absolutely sure that I could put up a commercial plant, if I could do nothing else but what I had done in my laboratory on Houston Street; but I had already calculated and found that I did not need great heights to apply this method.  My patent says that I break down the atmosphere "at or near" the terminal.  If my conducting atmosphere is 2 or 3 miles above the plant, I consider this very near the terminal as compared to the distance of my receiving terminal, which may be across the Pacific.  That is simply an expression. I saw that I would be able to transmit power provided I could construct a certain apparatus -- and I have, as I will show you later.  I have constructed and patented a form of apparatus which, with a moderate elevation of a few hundred feet, can break the air stratum down.  You will then see something like an aurora borealis across the sky, and the energy will go to the distant place. . . .

Also, if such a device did exist for global wireless transmission, wouldn't it disrupt all existing wireless radio-frequency communication systems worldwide?

Not necessarily.  It is likely that the present 'Hertz-wave' system and Tesla's form of wireless transmission can co-exist, especially if international frequency coordination were to be practiced.

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