Wednesday, April 24, 2019

SoftBank looks to solar-powered aircraft, partnership with Google Loon

SoftBank is launching a High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) business through HAPSMobile, a joint venture between SoftBank and US-based company AeroVironment.

HAPSMobile has developed an unmanned aircraft called “HAWK30 that will serve as a telecommunications platform at altitudes of approximately 20 kilometers. The aircraft will function like telecommunication base stations to deliver connectivity across wide areas.


The “HAWK30” unmanned aircraft is approximately 78 meters long. Its wings contain solar panel and 10 propellers. The aircraft can fly at speeds of approximately 110 kilometers per hour on average. Softbank expects it will be able to keep the aircraft in flight for months at a time.


In addition, HAPSMobile and Alphabet's Loon have formed a long-term strategic relationship to advance the use of high altitude vehicles, such as balloons and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Specifically, the companies have entered into formal negotiations on a number of areas of potential technical and commercial collaboration, including:

  •  A wholesale business that would allow HAPSMobile to utilize Loon’s fully-functioning vehicle and technology. Likewise, Loon would be able to utilize HAPSMobile’s aircraft, which is currently in development, upon its completion. 
  • A jointly developed communications payload that is adaptable to multiple flight vehicles and various ITU compliant frequency bands. 
  • A common gateway or ground station that could be deployed globally and utilized by both Loon and HAPSMobile to provide connectivity over their respective platforms. 
  • Adapting and optimizing Loon’s fleet management system and temporospatial SDN for use by HAPSMobile.
  •  Creating an alliance to promote the use of high altitude communications solution with regulators and officials worldwide. 
  • Enabling flight vehicles from each party to connect and share the same network connectivity in the air.

Junichi Miyakawa, Representative Director & CTO of SoftBank Corp., also President & CEO of HAPSMobile stated “Building a telecommunications network in the stratosphere, which has not been utilized by humankind so far, is uncharted territory and a major challenge for SoftBank. Working with Alphabet’s subsidiary Loon, I’m confident we can accelerate the path toward the realization of utilizing the stratosphere for global networks by pooling our technologies, insights and experience. Even in this current era of coming 5G services, we cannot ignore the reality that roughly half of the world’s population is without Internet access. Through HAPS, we aim to eliminate the digital divide and provide people around the world with the innovative network services that they need.”

 Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth said "We see joining forces as an opportunity to develop an entire industry, one which holds the promise to bring connectivity to parts of the world no one thought possible. This is the beginning of a long-term relationship based on a shared vision for expanding connectivity to those who need it. We look forward to what the future holds.”

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