Zephyr High Altitude Platform Station achieves connectivity in trial conducted by Airbus and NTT DOCOMO

Airbus and NTT DOCOMO, have demonstrated the ability to use its solar-powered Zephyr High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) to deliver future wireless broadband connectivity. Carrying an onboard radio transmitter, the Zephyr S provided an agile datalink during a stratospheric flight to simulate future direct-to-device connectivity. Test data was captured at different altitudes and at different times of day and night, focusing on assessing how connectivity is affected in the stratosphere by factors including weather conditions, different elevation angles and aircraft flight patterns.

Tests included various bandwidths to simulate direct-to-device service from the HAPS to end users using low, nominal and high throughput. The demonstration confirmed the viability and versatility of the 2GHz spectrum for HAPS-based services and also the use of a narrow (450MHz) band to provide connectivity in a range of up to 140km. Based on the results of this experiment, Airbus and NTT DOCOMO aims to provide communication services to mountainous areas, remote islands, and maritime areas where radio waves are difficult to reach.

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In addition to coverage of the air and sea, stratospheric HAPS networking will be useful for disaster preparedness and many industrial use cases, for example, to increase communication capacity in densely populated areas such as event venues, and remotely controlling heavy equipment at construction sites. The test data will be used to inform future LTE direct-to-device services that are expected to be provided via the Airbus Zephyr HAPS solution. The trial took place in the United States in August, when the Zephyr S aircraft undertook approx. 18-day stratospheric flights to test various capabilities.

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