How HAPS technology and business solutions are contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Helene Lemonnier, HAPS Alliance Executive Member for Airbus and Secretary Officer

Our planet faces massive economic, social and environmental challenges. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) define global priorities and aspirations for 2030, which represents an unprecedented opportunity to fight against poverty and inequalities.

Within the HAPS Alliance, Airbus is proud to be part of a community looking into the future of unmanned flight and unlocking the potential of the stratosphere. In several aspects, High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) technologies and business solutions will serve SDGs and targets.

HAPS such as Airbus Zephyr, offer unique capabilities to provide solutions contributing to the 17 UN SDGs. Located in the stratosphere, above the weather and ground networks, once presented unattainable environmental barriers, now enables HAPS the opportunity to enhance the accomplishment of several of these goals and bridge societal divides. Whether this is connecting the 47% of our global population that remains unconnected or providing coverage during natural disasters when ground infrastructure is down. 

HAPS is able to provide a variety of connectivity services from the stratosphere. When current ground infrastructure is disrupted, one Zephyr has the coverage equivalent to 250 cell towers, expanding the footprint of terrestrial solutions, in a flexible and scalable way. Through connecting users, HAPS has the ambition to support SDG 10 (Reduce inequality within and among countries), connecting the unconnected in their daily life, by closing white spots in remotely populated regions or during disaster relief.

As a result of increasing global connectivity, HAPS in turn, can support an increase in quality education, SDG 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all). Beyond aiming to achieve global internet connectivity we are one step closer to continuous and inclusive learning opportunities for all, even in remote regions, currently un-connected to online learning resources.

HAPS is driven by innovation, with recent technological advances making the dream of persistent flight in the stratosphere a reality. Improvements in solar cells, sensors and battery technology will enable endurance to exceed 100 days and provide additional power for payloads that can offer new services from the stratosphere.

Since the stratosphere is above the clouds, solar-powered HAPS can be continuously charged throughout the day, storing power to charge secondary batteries to power overnight flight. The solar array ensures that solar energy is converted into power and increased efficiency in solar technology leads to longer and more effective missions. Offering sustainability in flight, relying on 100% solar power, HAPS platforms contribute to achieving SDG 7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) and SDG 13 (Climate change), relying on unsustainable power, to provide connectivity services from the stratosphere. Powered flight with zero CO2 emissions is additionally supporting our planet’s fights against climate change. HAPS flight offers eco-efficiency and additionally provides services around earth observation from the stratosphere to monitor change to protect our planet.

Airbus Zephyr is the leading, fixed-wing, solar-electric stratospheric Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). Built to offer persistence and flexibility, securely and discreetly, this ultra-lightweight solution can provide communications and earth observation for months at a time. Beyond Zephyr HAPS, at Airbus, we are committed to developing, building and testing alternative-propulsion systems, powered by electric, hydrogen and/or solar technology. Enabling the aviation industry to disruptively reduce the CO2 emissions of commercial aircraft, helicopters, satellites and future urban air mobility vehicles.

Airbus’ position as an executive member of the HAPS Alliance, enables us to share our experience with other companies across telecommunications, technology, aviation and aerospace industries to create the vital HAPS ecosystem that will accelerate the development and commercial adoption of HAPS technology and business solutions for the good of the planet.