An unmanned, solar-powered aircraft that Japanese scientists worked on for years, is about to revolutionize telecommunications services.
High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) are an alternative to satellites operating in the stratosphere instead of space. HAPSMobile, a subsidiary of a Japanese corporation called SoftBank, developed the craft and name it Sunglider. Backed by NASA, this innovative aircraft is meant to carry the telecommunications payload to the required area.
This air vehicle is supposed to stay at operational altitudes for a long time without having to return to the ground for refueling. The Sunglider is completely sustainable, powered only by batteries and solar energy.
During the day, the solar panels charge the batteries so that during the night, the aircraft can continue to fly, powered by the charged batteries. This gives it an impressive 24/7 operation.
Thanks to its lightweight construction from carbon materials, it's able to fly even when the wind is not that strong, and it can also withstand turbulence due to the 78 meters wingspan.
This sustainable aircraft also uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and an onboard computer controls it according to wind patterns. When it takes off, it's guided by the ground control center, and when it reaches the stratosphere, an operation system directs it to the specific service location. Once it reaches that area, it's able to fly autonomously for several months.
The Sunglider is meant to operate at 20 km above the ground, and it can reach a speed of up to 110 kph.
According to the Auto Evolution website, the Sunglider successfully conducted its stratospheric flight test last year, when HAPSMobile became the first in the world to deliver LTE connectivity from a fixed-wing unmanned aircraft in the stratosphere.