Advanced Television

Airbus flies high with Zephyr HAPS

January 25, 2023

Aerospace giant Airbus has relaunched its high-altitude Platform Station business (HAPS) with a new name, Aalto, and is targeting high-altitude surveillance, 5G and direct-to-device connectivity. The company is expected to seek outside investment for the programme which will then be spun-off as a separate business.

Zephyr/Aalto, using very high-flying solar-electric drones, will initially be 100 per cent owned by Airbus Defence & Space. Airbus says it is seeking outside investment to help scale and accelerate the new business and its development. Morgan Stanley has been appointed to find external partnerships for the business which is now at its final design stage.

Samer Halawi, named as CEO of Aalto HAPS, said the “Zephyr aircraft is the only HAPS platform that delivers long-lasting, environmentally-friendly low-latency 5G direct-to-device (D2D) connectivity solutions”.

One test flight last year managed an impressive 64 days in the stratosphere at around 70,000 ft (21,000 metres) and Airbus says Zephyr now represents “the only fixed-wing HAPS to have proven day and night longevity in the stratosphere”.

Halawi says that the Zephyr concept had the persistence of satellite but offered greater terrestrial coverage than conventional infrastructure. By being close enough to Earth it was able to “talk directly to end-user devices.”

Airbus says it is looking to see Zephyr launch commercial service by the end of 2024.

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