A startup developing a high-altitude telecoms airship has launched a legal bid against an Airbus subsidiary to protect its trademarked name, Avealto.
Airbus HAPS Connectivity Solutions, a subsidiary created to bring the Zephyr high altitude persistent drone to market, rebranded to Aalto HAPS in January this year.
The move coincided with a marketing and PR campaign emphasizing the Zephyr drone’s capability to act as a telecoms platform capable of providing 5G mobile connectivity.
However, UK-based Avealto, which was founded in 2013 and is developing a high altitude pseudo satellite/station (HAPS) to provide internet connectivity, slammed the Airbus subsidiary’s approach and has issued a cease and desist letter regarding its trademarked name.
Walt Anderson, managing director of Avealto said, “Airbus is not a competitive factor in telecoms, but I want my name and I don’t want it associated with a crash-prone drone.
“The two vehicles are different tools for different jobs. The Zephyr is fixed wing and we are an airship. It’s wrong to suggest that Zephyr is suitable for use as a telecoms platform.”
According to Anderson, Zephyr is unable to carry sufficient payload to make it viable for commercial telecoms, but is suitable for military applications “where you just want to move a tiny amount of battlefield data from point to point”.
Avealto’s helium-filled airship will be 100m long and 17m in diameter with a radome containing a 55kg telecoms payload. The airship will be battery-electric and powered by solar panels installed on the top of the vehicle.
It will stay aloft for three-to-six-month stints at altitudes of 60,000-65,000ft in the stratosphere, periodically landing to replace the batteries. The platform will operate in regions where there is minimal wind and around two billion people currently with little or no internet connectivity, said Anderson.
Avealto has been flight testing with sub-scale vehicles and plans to perform flight tests at a site in Snowdonia, UK later this year. It is currently in talks with the Indonesian Government to supply three of its vehicles.
“We completed our fundamental R&D about 18 months ago. We are finishing a round of fund raising to build three vehicles for use in Indonesia. Once we have $35 million we are 23 months to having operations there,” said Anderson.
Airbus Defence and Space has been developing Zephyr since 2013, but the aircraft began life in 2003 as a project with UK aerospace and defense firm QinetiQ. Up until recently Airbus has primarily promoted Zephyr, which has flown for 64 days continuously at altitudes of around 70,000ft during testing, to governments around the world as a communications and ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platform.
Airbus declined to comment on the trademark infringement case.
Andeson added, “This appears to be a rather cynical attempt by Airbus to restrict our ability to raise funds, market our services and to stifle competition. I am calling directly on the leadership of Airbus to take action to correct this wrongdoing.”