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HAPS Payload Demonstrates LTE Connectivity in Sunglider Test 

By Rachel Jewett | October 9, 2020

Sunglider’s test flight in the stratosphere. Screenshot via HAPSMobile

AeroVironment, Inc. has demonstrated mobile broadband communication in a recent test of Sunglider, a solar-powered High-Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS). In the Sept. 21 test, the Sunglider broadband communication demonstration linked teams in Tokyo, Spaceport America in New Mexico and Silicon Valley in California using an LTE payload jointly developed by Alphabet’s Loon LLC and HAPSMobile Inc. Using standard LTE smartphones, a team at Spaceport America conducted multiple video calls via the Sunglider’s payload. 

[Read more about HAPS in our September edition cover story.]

The Sunglider reached stratospheric altitude of 62,500 feet and also hit objectives relating to propulsion, power systems, flight control, navigation and datalink integrity, and structural performance. 

The Sunglider is a solar-powered HAPS with a wingspan of 262 feet. It is propelled by 10 electric motors powered by solar panels, and designed to carry payloads weighing up to 150 pounds. Its development and testing is funded by HAPSMobile, a joint venture between SoftBank Corp. and AeroVironment. HAPSMobile shared video of the test. HAPSMobile is a founder of the HAPS Alliance, which is working on a standard for interoperability for HAPS. 

“In less than three years AeroVironment and HAPSMobile have made incredible progress, developing two Sunglider solar HAPS unmanned aircraft and performing five consecutive flight demonstrations, culminating in this latest significant milestone,” Wahid Nawabi, president and CEO of AeroVironment said in a press release. “Reaching stratospheric altitude, maintaining continuous flight for more than 20 hours, achieving key test objectives and demonstrating seamless broadband communication illustrate the tremendous potential HAPS technology offers to expand connectivity globally. We look forward to maintaining our momentum toward aircraft certification and commercialization.”