Softbank unit HAPSMobile completed the first test flight of its unmanned Hawk30 solar-powered high-altitude platform system (HAPS) last week at NASA’s California Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC). Hawk30 is designed to serve as a stratospheric telecommunications platform for delivering next-generation global connectivity.
“While this successful test flight represents just the first step, we’re moving forward with tests in the stratosphere and long flight duration tests lasting several months up to half a year,” said Junichi Miyakawa, CTO of SoftBank and HAPSMobile CEO. After operations at AFRC, Hawk30 will perform stratospheric test flights at the Hawaiian island of Lanai.
The Hawk30 has a wingspan of 256 feet and is equipped with wing-embedded solar panels that power electric motors driving 10 propellers. It flies at speeds of approximately 60 knots and is designed to stay airborne for months at a time.
Softbank intends to use HAPS to build stable internet networks unserved by telecommunications, including in mountainous terrain, remote islands, and developing countries. Hawk30 is designed to use a system that does not interfere with terrestrial base station networks. The technology will enable connectivity for drone operations, contribute to the adoption of the Internet of Things and 5G, and provide stable communications networks regardless of situations on the ground, such as natural disasters, the company said. HAPSMobile anticipates launching Hawk30 commercial service in 2023.