One of the great things about HAPS Alliance Member Meetings is how inspiring they can be. Because our teams are usually off in their corners doing their part to advance the HAPS Alliance vision, it can be easy to lose track of how much work is being done, and how amazing it really is.
On June 6 and 7, 2023, members of the HAPS Alliance gathered online to share the latest updates that affect the development and commercialization of HAPS technology. It was an important chance to rekindle our collective sense of pride and wonder, as well as to address the many practical details of bringing these technologies to market.
Growth of HAPS
There are a lot of indicators that suggest that HAPS is gaining momentum.
In his opening remarks, Ken Riordan, HAPS Alliance president and principal architect for Nokia America, noted that HAPS Alliance comes up first on Google searches for “HAPS” and similar keywords. Activity from analysts is also increasing, judging from the number of consultancies that now have their own articles talking about the industry. In particular, mobile network operators (MNOs) are talking about the new investments that they’re making in non-terrestrial networks (NTN).
Many enterprises are making announcements about HAPS as well. British Telecom has recently talked publicly about plans for adopting HAPS. AALTO HAPS and Airbus have been publicly communicating about its collaboration with STC in Saudi Arabia. Deutsche Telekom, in collaboration with Intelsat, delivered a global first when it demonstrated 5G connectivity from the stratosphere at 200 megabits per second. These are just a few of the many examples.
The growing industry interest in HAPS has been reflected in our membership growth in 2023. We now have 57 members in 16 countries on five continents, representing telecommunications, OEM and manufacturing, higher education, research, IT services, consulting, and government.
Since our last meeting in November, our membership has grown to include:
- Florida Atlantic University — Harbor Oceanographic Institute
- Near Space Labs
- Newspace Research and Technologies
- Space Data Corporation
- Technology Park of Fuerteventura
- MITRE Corporation
- WX Company
Working Group Updates
The Marketing Working Group highlighted our highly successful first event at MWC 2023 in Barcelona and announced that the Alliance podcast will debut in Q3. This podcast will allow everyone to hear directly from the innovators who are overcoming the technical challenges and doing the commercial development for HAPS. Part of the idea is to frame this as the next space race.
The Telecommunications Working Group has been meeting with telecom regulators in almost every region of the globe and has achieved positive positions in the groups that have made decisions. NTT DOCOMO had completed the world’s first successful radio propagation experiment in the 38 GHz band from the lower stratosphere. The working group also has a task force focused on a white paper that outlines the use cases of HAPS in telecommunications, due out in Q3.
The Aviation Working Group is continuing to get our ideas in front of global aviation regulators and is providing input into standards as they’re being developed. The group’s white papers and articles are continuing to stimulate and even shape conversations with groups like NASA, and there are two more white papers on the way. They’ve also been contributing to groups such as ICAO on regulations for unmanned systems. One of their next big events is a panel at Air Navigation World in August.
Commercialization and Market Understanding
Compelling past data about the market includes an NSR assessment that the market size will be $2.6 billion in cumulative revenues over the next decade. HAPS Alliance member representative, Fatema Hamdani, co-founder and CEO of Kraus Hamdani Aerospace, outlined the need to get analysts and Wall Street talking about HAPS to stimulate funding and strategic partnerships.
Upper Class E Traffic Management (ETM)
Sherri Magyarits, project manager for New Entrant Concepts in the FAA’s NextGen organization, shared that they are working closely with organizations like NASA to manage Upper Class E airspace. Demand for this airspace is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years, as a diverse set of operations and vehicle types are expected to want to access the space to provide services. A set of cooperative operating practices (COPs) needs to be defined for both operators and the regulator and/or ANSP providers.
Next-Generation Battery Cell Power for HAPS
Yoshiki Takayanagi from SoftBank Corp.’s Research Institute of Advanced Technology Advanced Battery Research Office explained the latest in HAPS battery pack technology. He showcased SoftBank’s newest experimental battery pack, and the test results conducted in the stratosphere with the help of Aerostar.
AALTO HAPS Introduction
Founded by Airbus, AALTO was launched at MWC in Barcelona. Its Zephyr platform is the only fixed-wing HAPS to have proven day/night longevity and holds several world records for altitude and duration. Jeff Smith, head of connectivity for the Zephyr program at Airbus and vice-chair of marketing and communications for the HAPS Alliance, provided an overview.
Hydrogen as a Fuel for HAPS
Hydrogen is by far the most energy-dense fuel available and is ideal for airborne applications because it has good volumetric density and gravimetric density. Perhaps most importantly, it is also non-polluting.
Martin Chan, lead engineer at Stratospheric Platforms and Mark Ketcham, advanced stratospheric projects manager at Aerostar, gave the members a tour of how it can be used as a fuel and as a lift gas, and the roles of infrastructure and modern safety improvements in making it viable.
The Momentum is Building
The HAPS Alliance membership is becoming more and more engaged with outside bodies and in finding synergies with each other. As their work continues, the financial and regulatory support for HAPS is growing as well. It won’t be long until we see the successful commercialization of HAPS in multiple uses.