Crossing drones with satellites: ESA eyes high-altitude aerial platforms

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ESA is deliberation fluctuating a activities to a new segment of a sky around a novel form of aerial vehicle, a ‘missing link’ between drones and satellites.High Altitude Pseudo-Satellites, or HAPS, are platforms that boyant or fly during high altitude like required aircraft though work some-more like satellites – solely that rather than operative from space they can sojourn in position inside a atmosphere for weeks or even months, charity continual coverage of a domain below.

High-altitude pseudo-satellites

The best operative altitude is about 20 km, above a clouds and jet streams, and 10 km above blurb airliners, where zephyr speeds are low adequate for them to reason position for enlarged periods.From such a tallness they can consult a belligerent to a setting 500 km away, variously enabling accurate monitoring and surveillance, high-bandwidth communications or behind adult to existent satellite navigation services.

Several ESA directorates have teamed adult to examine their potential, explains future-systems dilettante Antonio Ciccolella: “For Earth observation, they could yield enlarged high-resolution coverage for priority regions, while for navigation and telecoms they could cringe blind spots in coverage and brew far-reaching bandwidth with immaterial vigilance delay.

Record-breaking Zephyr

“ESA is looking into how these several domains can be best brought together.”

Earth regard dilettante Thorsten Fehr explains, “We’ve been looking into a judgment for a final 20 years though now finally it’s apropos reality.

“That’s come about by a sappy of pivotal technologies: miniaturised avionics, high-performance solar cells, lightweight batteries and harness, miniaturisation of Earth regard sensors and high-bandwidth communication links that can broach competitively labelled services.”

Navigation operative Roberto Prieto Cerdeira adds “There’s apparent intensity for puncture response. They could also be employed semi-permanently, maybe fluctuating satnav coverage into high, slight valleys and cities.”

European companies have already denounced product lines. For instance, Airbus has grown a winged, solar-powered Zephyr, that in 2010 achieved a universe record 14 days of continual moody but refuelling.

Lighter-than-air Stratobus

Zephyr-S is designed to fly payloads of a few tens of kilograms for adult to 3 months during a time, with delegate batteries employed to keep it powered and aloft overnight. A incomparable Zephyr-T chronicle in credentials will support incomparable payloads and energy needs.Thales Alenia Space is duration scheming a lighter-than-air Stratobus, with a initial moody approaching in 2021.

The expansive Stratobus airship can lift adult to 250 kg, a electric engines drifting opposite a zephyr to reason itself in position, relying on fuel cells during night.

Many other firms are also building vehicles, payloads and services. Last month saw them collected during ESA’s initial workshop, together with member of intensity customers, including a European Defence Agency, Frontex – a EU group tasked with Europe’s limit government – and EU Copernicus environmental monitoring services.“This was a initial assembly of a kind in Europe, with some-more than 200 HAPS experts” explains Juan Lizarraga Cubillos, from ESA’s telecoms area.

“We listened from them on a needs, opportunities and vicious issues within a field, quite as a element for existent satellite services, to start scheming a destiny ESA programme.”

ESA regards a vehicles as a profitable approach of substantiating applications that element a satellites while also accelerating space technologies by early, high-altitude moody testing.The indicate was also done that marketplace acceptance of HAPS would come down to their potency and cost-effectiveness – and a best approach to uncover that would be by proof projects.

Solar-panel-topped Stratobus

“We have to fly them,” remarked Alvaro Rodriquez of a EU’s Satellite Centre. “The record is there, all a mixture are there, now it’s time to brew them into a good recipe.”

Source: ESA




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