The new unit will commercialise the company’s solar-powered Zephyr, an unmanned High Altitude Platform System (HAPS) that delivers connectivity from the stratosphere
This week, aviation giant Airbus has announced it has launched a new dedicated HAPS Services Business unit, aiming to provide connectivity to those currently underserved by terrestrial and space-based solutions.
The new subsidiary of Airbus Defence and Space will focus on providing connectivity to customers via its Zephyr HAPS platform, a solar-powered, unmanned aerial system with a 25m wingspan that glides through the stratosphere and beams down low-latency connectivity from above.
Late last year, working alongside Japanese telco NTT Docomo, Airbus announced that Zephyr had achieved 36 days of stratospheric flight in two sessions, as well as setting a new world record in absolute altitude for devices of its class at 76,100 ft. While doing so, the system successfully completed various connectivity tests, delivering broadband services using both 2GHz and 450MHz spectrum.
More recently, reports have suggested that the latest version of Zephyr has successfully flown for 26 continuous days, breaking the record for the longest flight by an unmanned aircraft.
Now, following these various trials, including direct-to-device connectivity tests, Airbus says that Zephyr is ready for commercial deployment to provide connectivity in hard-to-reach areas.
“With thousands of flight hours in the stratosphere and an admirable entrepreneurial spirit, the Zephyr team are well placed to develop future connectivity services. This is an exciting time for the team, building on our success with the leading HAPS, and it is now time for the next step,” said the unit’s new CEO, Samer Halawi.
“Our connectivity services will provide a viable alternative and complement to terrestrial and satellite-based connectivity solutions, allowing for the first time low-latency and direct-to-device connectivity across vast geographies, and economically. Our sustainable technology allows us to save and improve people’s lives whilst ensuring a better outcome for our planet,” he added.
Prior to taking on this role, Halawi was executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Intelsat. Both Intelsat and Airbus are members of the HAPS Alliance, formed back in 2020 to develop the technology and promote industry standardisation and interoperability of HAPS networks.
In future, Airbus suggests that Zephyr will be used for more than just providing connectivity, including imaging services for environmental monitoring and border protection. Unlike the imaging satellites, Zephyr will be able to move at will to desired locations, as well as being easily customised with the latest sensors and payloads.
The company has said that it ultimately hopes that Zephyr will be able to fly continuously for up to six months at a time.
Airbus says they consider HAPS technology to be complementary to traditional telecoms infrastructure, saying they will target the 3.7 billion people currently severely underserved by existing solutions.
How will the growing presence of HAPS technology impact the dynamic of the global telecoms industry? Find out from the experts at this year’s live Total Telecom Congress