Today, several companies in the world, such as SoftBank’s HAPSMobile, are developing unmanned aerial vehicles that could provide connectivity in hard-to-reach areas. It is assumed that with the help of such devices, cellular operators will be able to expand their subscriber base and save money on the construction of cellular base stations.
A British startup, Stratospheric Platforms, is developing a hydrogen fuel-cell powered, long-endurance, stratospheric unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that will be used to deliver high-quality 4G and 5G cellular connectivity. The system will enable near 100% high-quality coverage over an area up to 140 km in diameter.
A promising stratospheric hydrogen drone is being developed according to a high-wing design with a V-shaped tail unit. The UAV’s wingspan will be 60 meters. Weighing at 3.5 tons, the device will be able to fly at an altitude of 18.3 thousand meters for nine days. The drone is expected to stay aloft for a couple of weeks. The first sample is planned to be launched into the stratosphere by 2024.
Previously, the Stratospheric Platforms tested a 4G communication system for aircraft. The demonstration carried out by DT was performed in Bavaria using a H3Grob 520 aircraft – a remotely piloted Aircraft System (RPAS). During the tests, the aircraft flew in the low stratosphere at an altitude of 45,000ft – and an LTE antenna, with architecture compatible with 5G standalone delivered signals, to user equipment at the 2.1 GHz frequency band.
The stratospheric test demonstrated download speeds of 70Mbps and upload speeds of 23Mbps over a 10 MHz bandwidth. The cellular system could be further developed to support 5G.
“We have operated quietly for the last five years to ensure that we significantly de-risked the key technologies before revealing the company to the world,” said Richard Deakin, Chief Executive Officer of Stratospheric Platforms. “Our lead partner Deutsche Telekom has now completed a world’s first proof of concept trial on our behalf using LTE/4G telecoms services, and we are looking forward to demonstrating our 5G antenna which will shortly be ready for stratospheric flight testing.“
“We will be working with our partners and others over the next few years to bring this to operational deployment around 2024 with key benefits that distinguish our solution from all other competition and a significant cost advantage, which allows the telecommunication companies to provide users, wherever they are, with an unparalleled high-quality customer experience.“