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Alphabet, SoftBank Complete Communications Payload Development For Aircraft

Alphabet's Loon LLC and SoftBank Corp.'s HAPSMobile Inc. said that they successfully developed a communications payload for HAPSMobile's HAWK30, a solar-powered unmanned aircraft system that flies in the stratosphere.

The communications payload consists of a number of components that enable it to serve as a stratospheric cell tower. Millimeter wave communication systems provide the backhaul links that connect the vehicle to a physical internet access point on the ground, and allow multiple vehicles to connect with one another in the stratosphere.

HAPSMobile noted that the payload houses highly accurate antennas that are capable of establishing point-to-point connections at distances of up to 700 kilometers and carrying data at speeds up to 1Gbps. In order to keep a stable connection, the antenna is designed to rotate as flight vehicles move.

The communications payload also utilizes a custom-designed LTE system that operates on various 3GPP-compliant frequency bands. The payload allows the HAWK30 to provide a wireless link that enables LTE connectivity directly to standard LTE smartphones and other mobile devices.

In combination with the millimeter wave communication system, the Loon payload is able to serve the internet to a large number of smartphone users at a long distance from existing ground infrastructure.

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