HAPSMobile and Loon First within the World to Ship LTE Connectivity from a Mounted-Wing Autonomous Plane within the Stratosphere – Drones Information


The jointly developed communication payload enables video calls during Sunglider’s stratospheric test flight

TOKYO / MOUNTAIN VIEW – HAPSMobile Inc. (“HAPSMobile”) of SoftBank Corp. and Alphabet’s Loon LLC (“Loon”) announced today that they have successfully tested their jointly developed communications payload in the stratosphere on HAPSMobile’s solar-powered “Sunglider” unmanned aerial vehicle system (UAS). The test took place during Sunglider’s first stratospheric test flight on September 21 at Spaceport America (SpA) in New Mexico and was the world’s first successful delivery of LTE connectivity from an autonomous HAPS (High Altitude Platform Station) aircraft in the stratosphere .

The stratospheric payload used in the test flight was unique to a fixed wing, autonomous HAPS with an autonomous aircraft to provide LTE connectivity. With the help of MIMO technology, thanks to the payload, LTE connectivity could be provided continuously for around 15 hours during the test flight of Sunglider. The payload ran as planned under the demanding conditions of the stratosphere, where wind speeds exceeded 58 knots (approximately 30 meters per second) and temperatures were only -73 degrees Celsius.

During the test, the communications payload enabled a video call between Loon members and team members at AeroVironment, Inc. (“AeroVironment”) using smartphones at SpA and HAPSMobile team members in Tokyo. The test system consisted of a service connection from Sunglider using the 700 MHz spectrum band (LTE band 28) and a feeder connection between the aircraft and a ground gateway using the millimeter wave spectrum *. Since the radio waves sent and received by Sunglider operate on the same frequencies as existing smartphones and devices, Loon and AeroVironment members at SpA could use regular smartphones to participate in the video call. During the test flight, smooth processes and connection speeds enabled high-resolution video calls with low latency.

  • * The service connection used a 5 MHz band of the 700 MHz frequency band for this test. In addition to an outdoor environment, the indoor video call test was successful.

Vint Cerf, recognized as one of the “Fathers of the Internet” and VP and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google, LLC, and Jun Murai – known as the “Father of the Internet in Japan” and professor in the Faculty of Environment and Information at Keio University Studies and HAPSMobile External Director also participated in the video call discussing the importance of HAPS in the future of the Internet.

The footage of the test flight can be seen here

The footage of the test flight can be seen here

Pictures of the video call

Pictures of the video call

During the test flight, HAPSMobile also performed basic measurements of radio wave propagation data from the stratosphere to the ground, which will be used for future contributions to the ITU radio communications sector (ITU-R) with a view to international standardization. Using the valuable data and insights the teams gathered during this test, HAPSMobile and Loon will partner with ITU, 3GPP, regulators and telecommunications companies to advance the work already underway on HAPS. The test also provided insight into the use of HAPS in disaster situations and among other life-saving technologies.

Junichi Miyakawa, assistant director and CTO of SoftBank Corp. and President and CEO of HAPSMobile, said, β€œI am thrilled that our wireless communication devices developed in collaboration with Loon have exceeded our expectations in difficult altitude conditions. Through this test we obtained important data that will accelerate the development of commercial services and improve the coverage and quality of our HAPS connectivity. We look forward to further developing the payload with Loon so that we can revolutionize mobile connectivity and bridge the world’s digital divide. “

Alastair Westgarth, CEO of Loon, said: β€œThis successful test is another step in the development of a new level of connectivity in the stratosphere. This is also an important step in our ongoing strategic partnership with HAPSMobile. By developing technologies to harness the opportunities of the stratosphere, we are making strides toward our common goal of connecting disconnected and disconnected populations around the world. “

Vint Cerf, VP and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, said, β€œI had the privilege of attending a milestone demonstration on September 21st. A HAPSMobile solar powered sunglider aircraft flew over 62,000 feet with a Loon LTE base station. This floating stratospheric base station connected a cell phone to the Internet, where a high-definition four-way video conference was taking place. Participants in the video call were in New Mexico, Tokyo, Mountain View, California, and Washington, DC. This technology holds great promise for the future of connectivity, especially as part of efforts to expand Internet access to places that don’t already have it. “

Jun Murai, professor in the Faculty of Environmental and Information Studies at Keio University and external director of HAPSMobile, said: β€œHarnessing the stratosphere for the mobile internet will be the next most innovative challenge and complement the existing and achieved innovations of the internet. It was an honor for me to take part in this historic test of internet-based video conferencing with the Sunglider from HAPSMobile, which actually flew in the stratosphere. The result was a perfect success that, with high definition, fluid videos and virtually no latency, left very strong impressions on everyone, resulting in exciting and natural conversations. HAPS technology is desperately needed by all of us for natural disaster recovery and internet integration, which are important functions of the internet today. The internet is for everyone, everything, everywhere. Now we are stepping forward to make that dream come true. “

About loon

Loon’s mission is to connect people everywhere by inventing and incorporating bold technologies. By leveraging these advanced technologies, Loon enables Internet access to be expanded to the billions that are currently lacking. Loon works with a number of partners to expand and complement existing networks and enable new solutions that meet the connectivity needs of the future. To date, Loon’s stratospheric balloons have traveled more than 40 million kilometers around the world, connecting hundreds of thousands of people.

About HAPSMobile

HAPSMobile Inc., a subsidiary of SoftBank Corp. and a minority owned by AeroVironment Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV), plans and operates a High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) business with the aim of bridging the world’s digital divide. HAPSMobile is mainly concerned with the research and development of network devices for the HAPS business, the establishment of core networks, the planning of new business areas and activities for frequency usage. AeroVironment, Inc. is the minority owner and aircraft development partner of HAPSMobile for its solar powered unmanned aircraft, the Sunglider, designed for stratospheric telecommunications platform systems that fly approximately 20 km above the ground in the stratosphere. HAPSMobile has a strategic relationship with Loon, a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. Please visit https://www.hapsmobile.com for more information.

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