Last week at Spaceport America in New Mexico, test flights of a solar-powered high-altitude platform system (HAPS) were conducted. HAPSMobile officials said that additional test flights are planned for Lanai as part of a plan to bring internet connectivity to rural areas worldwide.
HAPSMobile expands test flight operations at New Mexico’s Spaceport America
HAPSMobile Inc. has expanded test flight operations at New Mexico’s Spaceport America to further develop the massive drone. The unmanned aircraft has a 260-foot wingspan and can fly in the stratosphere for extended periods of time at an altitude of up to 65,000 feet, reports Maui News. HAPSMobile is a subsidiary of SoftBank Corp. which is privately funding the project.
“Last year, we conducted a number of low-altitude tests at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, and based on our learnings and results, decided to expand our options to advance the business,” HAPSMobile spokesman Matthew Nicholson said. “We continue to have test flight plans for Lanai and decided to include Spaceport America as a new test base as part of our mid- to long-term business plan.”
Nicholson added that HAPSMobile will be helped by Spaceport America and AeroVironment to obtain government certification.
Co-owner of Drone Services Hawaii, George Purdy helped bring the program to Lanai. He said earlier that there are no other updates at this time.
“We’re extremely pleased that we successfully completed all basic tests. The test flight validates the research results we have steadily accumulated, and the graceful flight at our new facility in Spaceport America has given us great confidence,” said Junichi Miyakawa, representative director and chief technology officer of SoftBank Corp. and CEO of HAPSMobile, in a news release. “Based on our experience and learnings from these basic tests, I feel there are even greater possibilities for the HAPS business. “We’ll continue to work toward our ultimate goal of bridging the world’s digital divide and revolutionizing mobile connectivity by leveraging the HAPS platform.”
The recently renamed drone, the Sunglider reached altitudes higher than those of previous flights and maintained high altitudes for a long duration during recent test flights. The drone program aims to provide education and develop and test the airworthiness of two high-altitude platform drones. Long-duration flights over deep valleys, remote land areas, and the ocean, solely powered by solar and electricity will be part of the test operations.
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