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HAPS Flight Test Success: SoftBank's UAV Development Milestone

Source: Softbank

Tokyo, Japan - The Stratospheric Communication Platform (HAPS) has taken a significant step forward in its ambitious journey to global connectivity.

Why it matters:

The development of a high-altitude platform station is remarkable. The successful test is part of an ongoing effort to make communications networks accessible and resilient.

The Key Points

  • Flight test details: SoftBank used a subscale model, a smaller version of the next-generation unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for HAPS, for a low-altitude flight test at Wilcox Playa, Arizona. The unmanned aircraft used was the Sunglider, developed by HAPS Mobile Corporation (a subsidiary of SoftBank) and AeroVironment, Inc.
  • Historical context: The Sunglider has a history of success, having flown into the stratosphere in an experiment in September 2020. The current test builds on that previous success.
  • Significance of Test: The test verified the design of the aircraft before manufacturing. Unlike computer simulations, actual flight data allowed to aggregate detailed structural characteristics.
  • Next steps: SoftBank and AeroVironment will use the test data for further development. Other goals include FAA certification for commercialization, design improvements for mass production, and the merger of HAPS Mobile Corporation into SoftBank Corp. on October 1, 2023.

The Big Picture

SoftBank's successful flight test represents an evolution in unmanned aircraft technology for stratospheric communications platforms.

It's part of a broader effort to improve the stability and accessibility of communications networks.

Using a subscale model and applying actual flight data rather than computer simulations represents a systematic approach to the design validation process.

The announced merger of HAPS Mobile Corporation with SoftBank Corp., scheduled for later this year, and plans for FAA certification and mass production underscore the commercial aspirations associated with the project.

Junichi Nakajima, one of the leaders of the Advanced HAPS Laboratory, acknowledged that the data generated will be critical to the design and control of next-generation aircraft.