Services Enabled by HAPS (Unisphere) - Services Enabled by HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo Satellites) – Feasibility Study (Unisphere)

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A number of High Altitude Pseudo Satellite platforms (HAPS) operating in the stratosphere at above 20km altitude have reached a level of maturity which indicates first operational services in near future.

Within the context of satellites, terrestrial infrastructure and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), HAPS are a new platform offering unique advantages, but also complementing existing services. A successful market entry for HAPS depends on the identification of early technically and economically sustainable business cases. 

Three major areas for HAPS services are studied: 

  • HAPS for Broadband Telecommunication
  • Communication Relay for RPAS
  • HAPS for Maritime and Border Surveillance
  • The necessity of Flight Management for HAPS

 HISPASAT, Rohde & Schwarz and the Federal Institute of Hydrology Germany (BfG) are partnering with UNISPHERE in the consortium. The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), EU SatCen and Frontex are supporting the study as external stakeholders.

Users and their needs

The targeted user communities of HAPS range from broadband service providers, to surveillance and earth observation communities.

 Broadband telecommunication providers require highly focused beams providing high speed internet in urban areas complementing service from GEO satellites. Main benefits seen are:

  • Lower delay
  • Higher bandwidth
  • More flexibility in changing payload as well as to relocate the system
  • Lower costs

 HAPS play an essential role in earth observation and border surveillance for both maritime borders including the high seas and land borders. Also the so-called pre-frontier area with 3rd country coast lines and ports are of interest. The reasons are the following:

  • At land borders the application of HAPS ensure an increased coverage of surveillance activities due to their elevated observation points and Near Real Time access to the data.
  • For the high seas increased surveillance endurance in combination with an all-weather capability in a geostationary position or a programmed flight pattern day and night close the gap between satellites and RPAS.

The initial target group for the services are European countries, Northern- and Southern American countries and littoral states of the Mediterranean Sea.

Service/ system concept

Today, a number of projects working on HAPS platforms and numerous customers have payload or/and observation requirements. Historically, this set up was typical for space applications – the satellite was built, launched into orbit, tested and then handed to the operator who started to roll out a permanent service for decades. 

In contrast, observation and communication services provided by conventional planes include an airframe/payload manufacturer, an airplane operator and customers. 

Nobody argues the fact that conventional planes require a flight dispatch, pilots and a maintenance crew, all operating within the legal framework provided by an aviation authority. One of the key advantages of a HAPS it the long endurance combined with the capability to land and takeoff again. Even in the stratosphere, a HAPS is subject to meteorological conditions and therefore the operation is closer to a conventional plane than a satellite. 

Fleets of HAPS have several takeoffs and landings every day and deal with surface weather, air traffic management but also with payload exchanges, pre- and post-flight inspections, maintenance, and release to flight processes. 

HAPS provide a new infrastructure solution for communication and observation applications. They can be profitable and create a viable business only if the platform is managed efficiently and the service is brought to the customer in a high quality and availability manner. Hence flight management plays a major role in the service value chain of HAPS services.

Service Value Chain of HAPS Services - Credits, Unisphere GmbH

Space Added Value

Worldwide and in remote areas HAPS operations require the use of satellite navigation and satellite communication. The airframe and payload must withstand harsh environmental conditions for prolonged time at low weight while consuming minimal power. These requirements are similar to the space industry and the technological expertise obtained in the development of satellites and their payloads cross-fertilize the engineering of HAPS. 

Controlling a complex platform and operating a payload for prolonged time is a core capability of the space industry. The procedures established and lessons learnt in the satellite control centres are of tremendous value for HAPS operations and support the fast entry into service of HAPS constellations. 

HAPS services benefit from a number of space assets such as: 

  • Satellite Navigation
  • Satellite Communication
  • Lightweight Structures
  • Standard Operating Procedures for Mission Control Center 

Prime Contractor

Project Managers

Contractor Project Manager

Michael Anger
Unisphere GmbH
Friedrichshafenerstr. 1
82205 Gilching

ESA Project Manager

Laurence Duquerroy
Keplerlaan 1
2200 AG Noordwijk ZH

Status Date

Updated: 26 December 2018 - Created: 26 December 2018