Google, via its Alphabet parent company, has been developing its Loon high-altitude balloon-based platforms. The concept was that these very high-flying balloons would be platforms for distributing broadband signals to the ground.
Japanese media conglomerate SoftBank says it has bought about 200 IP patents for Google’s High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) from Loon and will now own about 500 HAPS patents. The portfolio includes applications and IP technologies covering services, operations and aircraft.
SoftBank and Loon are members of the HAPS Alliance and will continue to create standardisation and interoperability for members and the technology. The Alliance has 44 members.
In a statement SoftBank says: “HAPSMobile and Loon had a strong track record of collaboration. In April 2019, HAPSMobile and Loon formed a strategic relationship(Open in a new window) to advance the use of HAPS vehicles. In February 2020, both companies founded the HAPS Alliance and jointly completed development of a communications payload. In September 2020, this payload was used to deliver LTE connectivity from HAPSMobile’s ‘Sunglider’, a solar-powered unmanned aircraft system, during its first stratospheric test flight, marking a world-first for a fixed-wing autonomous aircraft. The sale of Loon patents is in line with SoftBank’s commitment to support the HAPS industry and find ways for Loon’s innovations and technology to live on.