SoftBank to develop ‘airborne base stations’, report says

7 Jan 2021

The Nikkei reports that Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp is looking to usher in ‘airborne base stations’ on a commercial basis, with test flights pencilled in in Japan possibly as early as 2021. The paper notes that SoftBank subsidiary HAPSMobile is coordinating efforts to deploy unmanned aircraft operating as base stations at altitudes of 20km to deliver ‘global mobile communication services’. The pair aim to realise a commercial launch by fiscal 2023 but admit that many challenges lie ahead, not least legal ones given that currently, no country has legislation ‘covering flying objects in the stratosphere’. The Nikkei goes on to point out: ‘HAPSMobile is considering using its services in Japan as a backup in case base stations on the ground become unusable in natural disasters. With one aircraft covering an area 200km in diameter, several dozen aircraft are expected to be able to cover the entire country.’

Japan, SoftBank Group Corp