Advanced Television

Airbus and NTT demo ‘Zephyr’ HAPS

November 16, 2021

By Chris Forrester

Airbus and NTT have demonstrated their ‘Zephyr’ HAPS.

HAPS is a High-Altitude Platform System, a super-high solar-powered transmitter and receiver in the sky and capable of supplying signals for smartphones from the stratosphere.

Zephyr is a high-flying lightweight unmanned aircraft and on its own can cover around 250 cellular tower sites from its height of some 70,000 ft. It is also capable of staying aloft for up to 18 days.

A test flight, at an altitude of some 20 kms, and technical trial involving Airbus and Japanese telco NTT/DOCOMO demonstrated its ability to deliver future wireless broadband connectivity.

Airbus and NTT, in a statement, said: “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,” the statement added.

“DOCOMO believes that HAPS will be a promising solution for coverage expansion in 5G evolution and 6G,” said Takehiro Nakamura, GM/DOCOMO’s 6G-IOWN Promotion Department. “In this measurement experiment, we were able to demonstrate the effectiveness of HAPS, especially for direct communication to smartphones, through long-term propagation measurements using actual HAPS equipment. Based on these results, we would like to further study the practical application of HAPS in 5G evolution and 6G with Airbus.”

“Billions of people across the world suffer from poor or no connectivity. These tests show us the viability of the stratosphere to bridge this divide and provide direct to device connectivity via Zephyr without the need for base stations or extra infrastructure,” Stephane Ginoux, Head of North Asia region for Airbus and President of Airbus Japan K.K.

The test were carried out under three specific scenarios: clear, rainy and cloudy conditions, and in a multitude of flight patterns, data transmissions across various speeds were successfully demonstrated, up to a distance of 140km.

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