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SoftBank happy with HAPS

August 14, 2023

By Chris Forrester

HAPS (High Altitude Platform Station), sometimes in the shape of a giant balloon or – as in this case – a high-flying unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has caught the eye of Japan’s SoftBank. The objective is to use a HAPS vehicle or balloon to serve broadband to a very wide region below. On October 1st SoftBank Corp will absorb HAPS Mobile into its core business.

SoftBank has embraced a recent test flight by the ‘Sunglider’, which was developed by a SoftBank subsidiary, HAPS Mobile and in in conjunction with AeroVironment, which carried out a high-altitude test on a smaller-scale version of the full-size aircraft. The test flight was carried out earlier this year over Arizona.

Based on the achievement and lessons learned from Sunglider’s stratospheric flight test, SoftBank and AeroVironment are developing a next-generation UAS. When developing an aircraft, it is necessary to verify whether it will fly as designed before actually developing and producing the actual one. In this flight test, carefully crafted multiple sub-scale models were used to create conditions equal to those of the full-scale aircraft’s shape and characteristics.

SoftBank and AeroVironment will apply the data and know-how obtained in this flight test to the development of the next-generation UAS. Both companies are also continuing to focus on acquiring Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) type certification and making design improvements to enable mass production.

SoftBank will continue to promote its HAPS business with the aim of creating a society where all can be connected to stable networks, anytime and anywhere, and to bridge the digital divide.

“By creating multiple sub-scale models that replicate the shape and characteristics of the full-scale next-generation candidate aircraft and conducting repeated flight tests, we were able to obtain crucial data on next-generation design and control policies that could not be otherwise obtained from computer-based simulations. We will continue our efforts to develop aircraft and foundational technologies to realise commercial HAPS-based stratospheric telecommunication services,” said Junichi Nakajima, Director of SoftBank’s Advanced HAPS Research Office and SVP of HAPSMobile’s Technology Administration Division

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