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To Scotland, from Cambridge: Your 5G airborne delivery service

Stratospheric Platforms’ current fundraising round will boost development for its projected 5G coverage of Scotland using hydrogen-powered aircraft.

The Stratospheric Platforms Stratomast
The Stratospheric Platforms Stratomast

The Granta Park-based company launched in 2016 to address wide-area 5G technological challenges. Backed by Deutsche Telekom, it has developed a high-altitude, hydrogen-powered aircraft – technically known as a HAP or High Altitude Platform – which can provide uninterrupted 5G connectivity direct to consumer smart phones for areas up to 70km from the aircraft and, at the same time, direct broadband connectivity to properties.

Stratospheric has put a proposal to the government via the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport for complete 5G coverage of the UK with a small fleet of aircraft. The proposal goes far beyond studies by Cambridge Consultants, the Science Park-based technology leader whose advocacy of hydrogen for aviation has been a clarion call in a sector confused and divided about how to become sustainable.

Operating from an airfield located in Scotland such as Prestwick Spaceport, the HAPs – currently at demonstrator level – could provide full geographic ubiquitous telecommunications coverage not just to Scotland, but the whole of the UK and large parts of Northern Europe.

SPL’s Stratomast HAP delivers wide area, high data rate, flexible telecoms capability. Acting as a network of masts in the sky, a single Stratomast system can simultaneously provide home broadband services to properties in rural and remote areas and 4G/5G mobile phone coverage.

The Stratomast delivers 5G connectivity in a 50km radius
The Stratomast delivers 5G connectivity in a 50km radius

Each Stratomast HAP carries a large high-power telecommunications system capable of covering up to 15,000km. The aircraft and payload are powered by a zero-emissions system using sustainable hydrogen. A fleet of 21 aircraft, capable of providing 100 per cent coverage over Scotland, require only eight offshore wind turbines to generate the power needed to produce hydrogen from sea water and a service throughout the year with an availability greater than 99.9 per cent.

The Stratomast system benefits remote and rural regions by providing a communications service which only requires standard mobile phones for mobile connectivity or, for home broadband services, a low-cost low-power MiFi device (costing less than £100). The hardware doesn’t involve any unsightly expensive additional infrastructure or towers on the ground, and removes the need for costly fibre-optic cables laid across the seabed to island or rural communities. Furthermore, rural businesses such as farming, fishing and tourism could increase their efficiency by being able to use IoT devices anywhere and access big data.

Richard Deakin, CEO, Stratospheric Platforms
Richard Deakin, CEO, Stratospheric Platforms

The coverage capability is particularly well suited to the challenging terrain of Scotland, explains Neil Taylor, business & systems analyst and a co-founder at Stratospheric Platforms.

“Scotland is a very ready market from our point of view as its population is so low, especially in the Highlands and on the islands,” says Neil.

The company is led by CEO Richard Deakin, a former BAe, Thales and GKN drones expert, and has a headcount of “15 or 16”. The team has gauged the aircraft’s capabilities carefully.

“We want it to be in controlled air space,” Neil says. “That means we fill out a flight plan like everyone else. It flies at 18.5km, or 60,000 feet – it’s called Flight Level 600.

“The expectation is that it will stay in the air for between five and nine days – depending on conditions such as wind speed – and has a 30,000km range. The whole idea is that it will get into the stratosphere and then loiter in a 10km circle at 60,000 feet. It can beam out a 5G signal around 50km, depending on the various levels of service. The maximum would be 70km – 30km in a densely populated area.

“We have the platform, 5G array and the aircraft,” concludes Neil. “That’s unique.”

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