in Aerospace

Cambridge Consultants and SPL unveil airborne 5G

Posted 3 November 2020 · Add Comment

Cambridge Consultants, in collaboration with Stratospheric Platforms Limited (SPL), have unveiled a new antenna capable of delivering 5G connectivity to the ground from a fleet of unmanned aircraft flying at an altitude of 60,000 feet.



Image courtesy SPL


The zero-emissions aircraft would be powered by liquid hydrogen fuel cells and capable of staying aloft for up to nine days.

SPL is developing a high-altitude platform (HAP) and communication system that can operate in the stratosphere to bring affordable, fast connectivity to every corner of the world.

A single HAP could provide coverage over an area of up to 140 kilometres in diameter, equivalent to deploying hundreds of today’s terrestrial masts.

A fleet of around 60 HAPs could blanket the whole of the United Kingdom with connectivity, providing geographic coverage with peak 5G speeds in excess of 100 Gbps in aggregate with a latency of just one millisecond.

With radically cheaper costs, Cambridge Consultants says this new platform has the potential to connect the unconnected in the developing world, to fill gaps in coverage across the developed world and to ensure rural areas aren’t left behind anywhere across the globe.

In addition, the hydrogen fuel cell power system creates a long endurance, low environmental impact aircraft, with low noise, zero CO2 and zero NOx emissions.

SPL completed its first successful test trial during September 2020 and roll-out of the first commercial service is anticipated to begin in Germany during 2024.

Each aircraft’s antenna produces 480 individual, steerable beams, creating patterns that can be ‘painted’ onto the ground to cover specific areas such as roads, railway lines or shipping lanes.

The ability to produce hundreds of beams enables the antenna to reuse spectrum, ensuring fast and even coverage across the entire covered area. SPL says a unique, wholly-digital beam forming capability gives massive flexibility in how services are deployed, allowing in-flight reconfiguration to deliver services beyond the reach of conventional fixed terrestrial networks.

This includes following mobile users, including trains and autonomous vehicles, and providing coverage exactly where required, for example ending at national borders.

Richard Deakin, chief executive officer, Stratospheric Platforms, said: “It was essential that we overcame significant technical challenges in the design of the antenna to enable us to deliver massive data rates in a unique environment where power was limited, where weight was critical and where cooling in the thin, stratospheric air was difficult.

“The development and testing of the antenna has met or exceeded the design criteria and working with such a talented team at Cambridge Consultants has been one of the highlights of the programme to date.”

Tim Fowler, chief sales officer at Cambridge Consultants, added: “Four years ago SPL approached Cambridge Consultants with an ambitious vision – to revolutionise the telecoms experience by beaming connectivity from the sky.

“Our role, to design and build this ‘mega cell tower in the stratosphere’, has seen us make breakthrough after breakthrough and we’re excited to build on these innovations with SPL, on the path to commercial deployment.”

 

Other Stories
Advertisement
Latest News

Leonardo contracts next stage of Tempest FTA

Leonardo has placed the latest in a series of contracts with UK-based aviation services company 2Excel to commence the next stage of the Tempest flight test aircraft (FTA) programme.

Farnborough International renews BIAS partnership

Bahrain’s Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications has renewed its long-standing partnership with aerospace event organiser Farnborough International, to organise the 2022 and 2024 editions of the Bahrain

Shell calls for more action on aviation emissions

Royal Dutch Shell plc (Shell) today announced its ambition to produce around two million tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) a year by 2025, whilst it also aims to have at least 10% of its global aviation fuel sales as SAF by 2030.

BAE Systems awarded £85m MoD future submarine programme contract

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded BAE Systems an £85 million contract to support early design and concept work on the Royal Navy's next generation of submarines.

Atkins to support AERALIS in digital enterprise implementation

Atkins has entered into a strategic agreement with British Military jet developer AERALIS, marking a key milestone in the development of AERALIS' pioneering modular military aircraft.

Launch of Space to Innovate Campaign Bravo Drop

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) Space Programme and UK Space Agency (UKSA) are working together with the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), to launch the Bravo Drop of the Space to Innovate Campaign.

ODU UK SK0902311221
See us at
RAF Museum BT