You have probably heard of the "satellite" progress that are taking telecommunications to the next level. But did you know that there is a solar-powered unmanned plane that is about to revolutionize many such services?
High-altitude platforms (HAPS) are an alternative to satellites, and operate in the stratosphere rather than in space. HAPS Mobile, a subsidiary of a Japanese company called SoftBank, is one of the pioneers in this emerging industry and has developed the Sunglider.
Sunglider, telecommunications take off
This innovative aircraft is intended to bring the telecommunications payload right where it is needed. The fact that it was funded by NASA shows the importance and potential of this new way of providing connectivity. It is still an unconventional aircraft, which can remain at operating altitudes for a long time without having to return to the ground for refueling.
The Sunglider is completely sustainable, because it is powered only by batteries and solar energy. During the day, the solar panels charge the batteries so that during the night the plane can continue to fly and hold telecommunications, powered by charged batteries. This gives it impressive operation 24/24. Thanks to its lightweight construction with carbon materials, it is able to fly even when the wind is not as strong and can also withstand turbulence thanks to a remarkable wingspan of 78 meters (256 feet).
A solar and intelligent aircraft
Sunglider is controlled by an onboard computer which constantly changes its attitude according to the wind patterns. When it takes off, it is guided by the ground control center and when it reaches the stratosphere, an operating system directs it to the specific service position. Once you reach that area, can fly autonomously for several months. The solar telecommunications aircraft is designed to operate at an altitude of 20 kilometers (12 miles) at a maximum speed of 110 kilometers per hour (68 mph).
The Tokyo-based company founded the HAPS Alliance together with Loon (remember them? Google's "internet balloons"), and from Loon has acquired more than 200 patents. The Sunglider successfully conducted its stratospheric flight test last year, and its HAPSMobile platform became the first in the world to provide telecommunications based on LTE connectivity from an unmanned fixed-wing aircraft in the stratosphere.