HAPSMobile’s Sunglider Succeeds in Stratospheric Check Flight – Drones Information


The milestone was reached approximately three years after development began

HAPSMobile Inc. (“HAPSMobile”), a subsidiary of SoftBank Corp. (TOKYO: 9434) and minority stake in AeroVironment, Inc. (“AeroVironment,” NASDAQ: AVAV), today announced an altitude of 62,500 feet (approximately 19 kilometers) was reached during the fifth test flight for “Sunglider,” a solar-powered one unmanned aerial vehicle system (“UAS”) designed for stratospheric telecommunications platform systems.

The test flight took place on September 21, 2020 (MT) at Spaceport America (“SpA”) in New Mexico. Sunglider successfully reached the stratosphere in the short span of approximately three years since its development began

The test flight lasted a total of 20 hours and 16 minutes, of which 5 hours and 38 minutes were in the stratosphere. The world-class UAS not only reached the stratosphere, but successfully completed its flight on a pre-flight battery charge and solar energy in-flight. Sunglider also demonstrated its high performance capabilities in extremely demanding conditions, with wind speeds exceeding 58 knots (approximately 30 meters per second) and temperatures dropping to -73 degrees Celsius.

5. Test flight overview (all times given in US Mountain Time)

Maximum height Approx. 19 kilometers
Total flight time 20 hours and 16 minutes
Start: September 21, 5:16 am
Landing: September 22nd, 1:32 am
Time of flight in the stratosphere 5 hours and 38 minutes
Stratospheric entry: September 21, 1:57 p.m.
Exit of the stratosphere: September 21, 7:35 p.m.
Test environment Max. Wind speed 58 knots (approx. 30 meters per second)
Lowest temperature -73 degrees Celsius

The footage of the test flight can be seen here

The footage of the test flight can be seen here

In addition to reaching the stratospheric flight milestone, an Internet connectivity test was successfully performed during the test flight using a communications payload developed jointly with Loon LLC (“Loon”). Members of Loon and AeroVironment successfully made a video call to HAPSMobile members in Japan using smartphones connected to the internet through the payload in the stratosphere.

The success of this test flight in the stratosphere is an important step forward for HAPSMobile as it continues its mission to bridge the digital divide by building its business in the stratosphere, a new frontier for humanity. HAPSMobile will continue to work to revolutionize cellular networks through the use of HAPS.

Junichi Miyakawa, assistant director and CTO of SoftBank Corp. and President and CEO of HAPSMobile, said, “When I saw this test flight, I was reminded of ‘Castle in the Sky’, the anime directed by Hayao Miyazaki in 1986, and how The Airship in History was aspirational. We are one step closer to our goal of building a base station that floats in the sky using only solar energy. Although the temperature fell below 73 degrees Celsius, our work on endurance tests bore fruit and resulted in a successful test flight.

On the day of the test, the Sunglider was exposed to air currents of around 30 meters per second, so I was relieved when it hit the runway after erasing all test items. In this test flight, we also successfully carried out communication with smartphones on the ground and received data for fully automated piloting. While there is still a lot of room for improvement, we will continue to work to make our dream come true. “

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