SoftBank Corp announced that it collected the data necessary for flight verification and aircraft design as part of its development of a next-generation uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) designed for High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) by testing a sub-scale model. A low altitude flight test for the sub-scale model, a small-scale version of an actual aircraft, was conducted on March 14, 2023 (U.S. Mountain Time) in Willcox Playa, Arizona.
The sub-scale model used in the flight test was based on “Sunglider,” a UAS designed for HAPS-based stratospheric telecommunications. The current version of Sunglider, developed by Softbank’s subsidiary HAPSMobile Inc.
(“HAPSMobile”)*1 and AeroVironment Inc., successfully reached the stratosphere during a test flight conducted in September 2020*2. Based on the achievement and lessons learned from Sunglider’s stratospheric flight test, SoftBank and AeroVironment are developing a next-generation UAS. When developing an aircraft, it is necessary to verify whether it will fly as designed before actually developing and producing the actual one. In this flight test, carefully crafted multiple sub-scale models were used to create conditions equal to those of the full-scale aircraft’s shape and characteristics. In addition to verifying whether the aircraft could fly with stability as designed, following the actual flight test, SoftBank collected and analyzed various data, including data on the aircraft’s structural characteristics that could not be otherwise obtained from computer-based simulations.
SoftBank and AeroVironment will apply the data and know-how obtained in this flight test to the development of the next-generation UAS. Both companies are also continuing to focus on acquiring Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) type certification and making design improvements to enable mass production.
“By creating multiple sub-scale models that replicate the shape and characteristics of the full-scale next-generation candidate aircraft and conducting repeated flight tests, we were able to obtain crucial data on next-generation design and control policies that could not be otherwise obtained from computer-based simulations,” said Junichi Nakajima, Director of SoftBank’s Advanced HAPS Research Office and Senior Vice President of HAPSMobile’s Technology Administration Division. “We will continue our efforts to develop aircraft and foundational technologies to realize commercial HAPS-based stratospheric telecommunication services.”
SoftBank will continue to promote its HAPS business with the aim of creating a society where all can be connected to stable networks, anytime and anywhere, and to bridge the digital divide.