According to The Asahi Shimbun, it's a bird, it's a plane--no, it's a new aircraft developed by SoftBank Corp. in Japan for delivering Internet and phone connectivity from 20 kilometers up.
The 80-meter-wide flying communication base station, named "HAWK30," is equipped with solar panels that allow for six months of continuous flight.
SoftBank hopes to use the aircraft to provide expanded coverage and make mobile connectivity available to those in developing countries where terrestrial base network stations are not yet well-established.
The aircraft can be operated at altitudes of about 20 km to communicate with mobile phones on the ground.
As the jet stream in the stratosphere is relatively stable, the aircraft is able to circle over areas to provide a connection, according to the company.
Multiple base stations are necessary on the ground because typically the service area for each station is a few km in diameter, whereas the HAWK30 is expected to cover a diameter of about 200 km.
SoftBank anticipates demand in areas in Africa and Southeast Asia where communication bases are not available and aims to start service there by 2023.
The company also aims to start its service in Japan around 2025, anticipating that it will supplement terrestrial base stations when they are down during times of disaster.
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