A huge fixed-winged solar-powered drone that can act as a mobile cell tower from 62,000 feet high has taken to the skies.
The idea behind it all is that airborne cell towers would allow greater network coverage, and could also move to areas that need a signal. With this in mind, developers have been attempting to get such a concept to work. Since the aircraft would have to be in the air at all times, renewable energy has been explored, and now Alphabet – Google’s parent company – and Japanese tech giant SoftBank have now tested the solution.
The Sunglider aircraft successfully took to the skies and ran a stable LTE connection that allowed people to connect to an online meeting. It is impressive that this project has been a success, as it is a pilotless craft that relies on solar power. Furthermore, the project was only announced in April in 2019, and with that in mind, this has been a rapid process that could result in exciting new possibilities in creating green aircraft that can provide high-speed internet anywhere in the world.
The drone has a single wing that’s 78 meters in length, and despite its size it can move relatively quickly. The Sunglider can travel at 68mph with the help of its 10 propellers. However, it is not only an incredible achievement because of its speed and renewable elements; it is also the first fixed-wing autonomous aircraft to provide an LTE connection.
The LTE connection was used to support a video conference when the Sunglider was airborne, with senior directors from Loon, HAPSMobile and Google attending. According to HAPSMobile, the meeting had ‘low-latency’ and ‘high-definition’, but connection speeds have not been released. Nonetheless, the Sunglider could be the beginning of an exciting journey for the companies involved.
The video below illustrates the Sunglider’s journey to the skies.
The fact that an autonomous solar-powered aircraft took off is impressive in itself, but many will be excited about how LTE connections can now be achieved sustainably going forward.
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