Skip to main content

Connectivity from the Stratosphere by Airbus' Zephyr


The following post uses a report from ITU news in combination with a presentation from UNESCAP.

Zephyr is an ultra-light solar-powered high-altitude platform station (HAPS). Solar energy powers daytime flight as well as re-charging batteries for night-time operations. It has a 25 metre wingspan (one third the width of an Airbus A380) and can launch from a selection of sites strategically positioned across the globe.

Zephyr flies above the weather and regular air traffic, covering distances of over 1000 nautical miles a day — that’s 1852 kilometres! Of particular interest to telecoms operators is Zephyr’s ability to remain persistent over a designated location for long periods of time, delivering connectivity services across a wide area.

Zephyr weighs less than 75 kilograms, the same as two aircraft seats. It is this highly optimized aircraft mass, together with the available power of the Zephyr propulsion system and the high efficiency of the solar cell technology, which permits Zephyr to remain continuously within the stratosphere after launch, day after day, performing station keeping, mission specific manoeuvres and providing sufficient power for connectivity payloads during service delivery.


On 11 July 2018, a Zephyr S aircraft took off on its maiden flight in Arizona. It flew for 25 days, 23 hours and 57 minutes, marking the longest flight duration ever achieved without re-fuelling. The Zephyr aircraft has also flown in excess of 74 000 feet and repeatedly demonstrated an ability to remain in the stratosphere overnight. These achievements of un-interrupted and persistent flight have proven the readiness of Zephyr as a platform capable of delivering connectivity services from the stratosphere, and are the result of a 15-year journey.

The Zephyr S aircraft that set the endurance benchmark in Arizona was the first serial production Zephyr aircraft. In July 2018, Airbus opened a dedicated Zephyr production facility in Farnborough (United Kingdom), the world’s first HAPS assembly line. In addition, Airbus has established a permanent operations and evaluation facility in Wyndham, Western Australia. The site has been operational since September 2018 and has been selected due to the largely unrestricted surrounding airspace and reliable weather conditions.

(click image to enlarge)

Delivering connectivity

The Zephyr platform provides a unique combination of advantages for the delivery of connectivity services:
  • Persistence: Providing controlled coverage over a designated area. The tight stationkeeping capabilities of Zephyr have been well proven in flight trials.
  • Low-latency: Zephyr is close enough to ground stations to have little latency and offer real-time services.
  • Flexibility: The ability to re-position/re-task the platform after launch. Providing the ability to re-deploy connectivity assets to areas where demand is peaking.
  • Scalability: The ability to add/remove aircraft to adjust the combined footprint of a Zephyr constellation.
  • Rapid Evolution: Aircraft can be fitted with enhanced payload capabilities and returned to service rapidly with enhanced performance/coverage capabilities as technology advancements become available. The same is true of platform technologies which can extend the life and service intervals for aircraft.

Connectivity markets

Configured with the corresponding payload Pod, the Zephyr platform is able to provide a range of connectivity applications: public protection disaster relief (PPDR), emergency communications, theatre backhauling, cellular backhauling, 5G connectivity, direct to device communication and direct to home services. In the near-term, Zephyr will provide cellular backhaul services to rural and semi-urban under-served regions, and where temporary capacity is required.

Some interesting videos from Airbus Defence & Space about Zephyr




Related Posts:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

High-level Architecture Introduction of Mobile Cellular Networks from 2G to 5G

Here is an old tutorial explaining high level mobile network architecture, starting from GSM and then looking at GPRS, UMTS, LTE & 5G. Slides and video below


High-level architecture of Mobile Cellular Networks from 2G to 5G from 3G4G
Related links:
Free 2G, 3G, 4G & 5G Training Videos5G (IMT-2020) Wireless5G vs 4G: what is the difference?

5G Drone Cell Towers

I was involved with looking at how Aerostats & Drones can help bring connectivity, especially in hard to reach areas or in case of disaster recovery and other emergencies. I wrote about it in detail here.

Last month, 3GPP did a summary of all things 3GPP is doing in this area.

To address the needs of a new and quickly maturing sector, there has been a lot of activity in the 3GPP Working Groups to ensure that the 5G system will meet the connectivity needs of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) – consisting of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (aka. drones) and UAV controllers under the watchful eye of UAS traffic management.

Release 15 - Enhanced LTE Support for Aerial Vehicles (TR 36.777)

A study to Investigate the ability for aerial vehicles to be served using LTE networks is now published, identifying further performance enhancements for UE-based solutions, Network-based solutions, downlink interference mitigation, uplink interference mitigation, mobility performance and aerial UE Identification…

5G Connectivity will Enable New Use Cases

While we have been discussing advanced 5G use cases for years, it is only now, with the Standalone 5G (5G SA) that it is going to become possible to have many of these in practice. Of course they will take time to mature and be popular with the end users.


As a part of our Free 5G Training initiative, we made a short video that will provide you with ideas and motivation for why 5G could do a lot more than just faster speeds. The video is embedded below.



In addition, Parallel Wireless, one of the companies I consult for, did a webinar on 5G Use Cases which is available here.

A good webinar on BrightTALK on 5G Use Cases by @Parallel_tw - https://t.co/AdpLOIOW6u#Free5Gtraining#5G#5GNetworks#5GUseCases#5GSpectrum#eMBB#mMTC#URLLC#5GRoadmaps#OpenRAN#5GXR#FWA#Vodafone#TMobile#Healthcarepic.twitter.com/LV677HrJ2G — 5G Training (@5Gtraining) May 28, 2020Let us know which one is your favorite and which ones do you think will make operators money.

Related Posts:
The 3G4G Blog: 5G Remote Surgery an…