Strarsopheric aircraft developer HAPSMobile acquires Loon patents


One of the parent companies of stratospheric aircraft developer HAPSMobile, SoftBank has acquired the patents for the technology developed by Google’s failed Loon subsidiary.

Google shut Loon down in January this year after it decided the concept of floating helium-filled balloons loaded with communications equipment for months to spread the internet into sparsely populated rural areas was not commercially-viable. However Loon, which was launched in 2021 and employed around 200 people, had developed a significant amount of technology and reached several technical milestones.

This includes 200 patents, including patents pending, for High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) that Japanese company Softbank has acquired and has said it will put to use through its HAPSMobile company.

HAPSMoible is a joint venture with US-based aerospace development company AeroVironment that is developing the Sunglider stratospheric aircraft.

The Sunglider has a wingspan of 78m (256ft) and a cruise speed of 110 km/h (68mph). It is designed to stay mobile for several months and is powered by a Lithium-ion battery.

HAPSMobile said the acquisition of Loon’s IP (intellectual property) means it now collectively owns 500 HAPS-related patents. The patents are related to network technologies, services, operations and aircraft for HAPS.

Loon had been a major part of the push to develop stratospheric aircraft and a founding member of the HAPS Alliance consortium of companies which seeks to drive forward the development of such aircraft.

“The sale of Loon patents is in line with SoftBank’s commitment to support the HAPS industry and find ways for Loon’s innovations and technology to live on,” said HAPSMobile.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering 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 becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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