AeroVironment has announced a joint venture (JV) with Japanese telecommunications operator SoftBank to develop and produce a solar-powered unmanned highaltitude pseudo satellite (HAPS) system for commercial operations. The JV, called HAPSMobile Inc, is a Japanese corporation 95% funded and owned by SoftBank and 5% by AeroVironment.
AeroVironment has a history of producing high-flying solar and fuel-cell-powered UAVs. In the early 2000s, it developed an evolutionary series of aircraft as part of NASA’s Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology programme.
This included the Pathfinder Plus prototype, which in 2002 performed the first telecommunications relay demonstrations at 65,000ft by providing HDTV and 3G mobile voice, video and data and high-speed internet connectivity. Separate from the HAPSMobile ventures, Facebook is also developing a HAPS system called the Aquila to provide internet connectivity to remote regions. Mark Broadbent