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Airbus Launches Connectivity Unit With Solar-powered Zephyr

Airbus is launching a new connectivity service this week using its Zephyr High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS). The initiative will build on recent successful flight trials with the solar-powered Zephyr aircraft which the European Space Group said enabled it to move forward with plans to launch the new service quickly.

The new HAPS Services business is a subsidiary of Airbus Defense and Space. In a July 18 announcement, the company said its mission is focused on “bridging the digital divide by connecting the unconnected on land, air and sea.” It will provide low latency connectivity services from the stratosphere for telecommunications and earth observation applications.

The autonomous Zephyr recently broke its own endurance record by flying 26 days continuously during trials conducted mainly between Arizona and Belize. The aircraft weighs only 75 kg (165 lb), has a wingspan of 25 m (82 ft), and can operate at altitudes of up to 70,000 ft to stay above bad weather and out of the way of airline, military and business routes. Jet traffic

Airbus has appointed Samer Halawi as chief executive of its HAPS services business. He was previously executive vice president and chief commercial officer of satellite services group Intelsat.

“With thousands of flight hours in the stratosphere and an admirable entrepreneurial spirit, the Zephyr team is well placed to develop future connectivity services,” said Halawi. “This is an exciting time for the team, building on our success with pioneering HAPS, and now is the time for the next step.”

According to Halawi, the new venture’s connectivity services will offer a sustainable alternative and complement to terrestrial and satellite-based connectivity solutions. He said it would “provide low-latency and massive geographic and cost-effective direct-to-device connectivity for the first time.”

Airbus says that more than 3.7 billion people are now underserved or severely underserved by existing terrestrial and space-based telecommunications networks.

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