Airbus and NTT DOCOMO Validate Future Ad-Hoc Comms Concept
Airbus and NTT DOCOMO, the Japanese mobile telecoms operator, have proven the airframer’s ZEPHYR high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAS can be used to provide a wireless broadband capability. The 18-day flight is preparatory to deploying ZEPHYR – which Airbus refers to as a HAPS [high altitude pseudo satellite] – for commercial communications roles, but the ability to deploy a broadband capability at short notice for an extended period on-demand will be of interest to the aircraft’s current and future military customers, too.
“DOCOMO believes that HAPS will be a promising solution for coverage expansion in 5G evolution and 6G,” commented Takehiro Nakamura, GM of DOCOMO’s 6G-IOWN promotion department. “In this measurement experiment, we were able to demonstrate the effectiveness of HAPS, especially for direct communication to smartphones, through long-term propagation measurements using actual HAPS equipment. Based on these results, we would like to further study the practical application of HAPS in 5G evolution and 6G with Airbus.”
The tests involved the ZEPHYR providing an agile datalink during the flight, to simulate direct-to-device connectivity. Test data were captured at different altitudes and at different times of day and night, to assess the effects of weather, elevation and aircraft flight patterns on connectivity. The demonstration confirmed that the 2GHz spectrum is viable for HAPS-based services, and that a narrow (450MHz) band can provide connectivity at a range of up to 140km. The companies plan to use the aircraft to provide communication service provision in remote or mountainous areas, and to islands and maritime locations.