HAPSMobile to flight test high altitude drone at Spaceport America

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HAPSMobile has chosen Spaceport America in New Mexico, USA for test operations and development of its high altitude endurance communications platform.

The company, which is a joint venture between aircraft development company AeroVironment and Japan’s SoftBank, is developing an unmanned solar-powered High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) called the Hawk30.

The Hawk30 has a 260ft (80m) wingspan and is designed to circle in the stratosphere at an altitude of around 65,000 feet above sea level for extended periods of time, while carrying a telecommunications payload. The solar-powered drone made its first flight last September.

A lease for development and flight testing at Spaceport America was signed in March by HAPSMobile and an investment into the site is planned. The work at Spaceport America will help HAPSMobile and AeroVironment obtain government certification for the unmanned aircraft system.

Spaceport America’s 18,000 acre site is located next to the US Army White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in southern New Mexico and is the first purpose-built commercial spaceport in the world. It has access to 6,000 square miles of restricted airspace – surface to unlimited, low population density, a 12,000-foot spaceway, and 340 days of sunshine and low humidity.

Four other companies are already based at the site: Virgin Galactic, SpinLaunch, AeroVironment and Up Aerospace.

Daniel Hicks, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority said, “The project is an exciting concept that can positively impact communities and relief efforts throughout the world with internet connectivity. We are tremendously proud to have this program, along with their high-tech staff, as our newest collaborator at the Spaceport.”

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before eventually becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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