Japanese telecoms giant SoftBank aims to use drones for delivering internet and IoT connectivity by 2023.
SoftBank is teaming up with US drone builder AeroVironment for the project. The pair’s first drone, the HAWK30, is powered by solar energy.
Using the stored power, 10 electric motors will enable the HAWK30 to fly 12 miles (65,000 feet) above sea level – around twice as high as commercial aircraft.
The high altitude helps to provide a steady current for the drone’s operations while also enabling more widespread coverage of LTE and 5G.
SoftBank claims one of the HAWK30’s base stations, called High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS), has the potential to provide service over 125 miles. Around 40 HAPS could provide coverage across Japan’s islands.
The aim of the project for SoftBank is to provide a connectivity solution that isn’t so likely to be affected by natural disasters. Earthquakes, for example, often damage traditional wired or radio-based assets.
“Smooth handovers between networks provided by terrestrial base stations and by HAWK30 will also be possible,” SoftBank says. “As a result, communication disruption will not occur even when a person using a smartphone moves from a base station covered area to a HAWK30 covered area.”
Beyond internet connectivity, supporting IoT devices is also being explored.
HAPSMobile, SoftBank’s subsidiary running the infrastructure side of things, wrote on its website: “HAPSMobile will support telecom standards for IoT to accommodate various IoT solutions”.
SoftBank and AeroVironment’s project is a fascinating look at how the future of reliable connectivity may be delivered, especially in emergencies. Telecoms will keep you updated on any developments.
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