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Pioneering Airborne 5G: Boosting High-Speed Access or Risky Venture?

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The telecommunications development firm, Stratospheric Platforms Limited (SPL), has almost reached new heights. Alongside other UK companies, they are leading the charge in pioneering advanced airborne 5G connectivity system, thanks to a substantial contract to trial this technology via a Britten-Norman Islander aircraft.

Key design and trial support is provided by Britten-Norman, a notable aircraft manufacturer while cooling systems technology is supplied by Marshall Futureworx. The combined efforts of these companies will realize the up-and-coming concept of a High-Altitude Platform (HAP) with an airborne antenna to deliver large-scope, high-performance 5G from the stratosphere.

The ambitious project envisions an unmanned aircraft, powered by liquid hydrogen with a wingspan of 56 metres. Its lightweight structure and generous power source allow for an impressive flight endurance – lasting over a week.

Scheduled for July 2024, flight trials will integrate SPL’s 5G airborne phased array with a Britten-Norman Islander. Their choice of the turbine-powered BN2T-4S Islander variant didn’t happen by accident. Its performance, payload capacity, and easy modification for equipment accommodation make it prime for the programme. All trials will adhere to Britten-Norman’s Civil Aviation Authority test conditions.

“Britten-Norman will manage aircraft operation from Solent Airport’s aircraft maintenance (MRO) facility on a mission over the North Sea. The 5G phased array will be networked via a backhaul link to Adastral Tower in Suffolk, England. Here, all telecommunications and mission equipment will be operated.”

Garnet Ridgway, Britten-Norman’s Flight Test Engineer, expressed excitement over the project and said, “This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the full capabilities of both Britten-Norman as an accomplished trials organisation and the Turbine Islander as a highly capable trials aircraft.”

Furthermore, Kevin Bean, Chief Technical Officer at SPL mentioned the Islander’s versatility in terms of rapid and extensive modification makes it an optimal choice for their engineering requirements.

Kieren Paterson, Managing Director of Marshall Futureworx recognizes the collaboration with SPL as a positive move, showing potential to vastly improve access to high-speed communication and break into uncrewed aviation and zero emission flight markets.

In conclusion, this ambitious project has the potential to reshape the telecommunications landscape. The successful deployment of this high-performing 5G tech could transform access to high-speed communication and put global leadership into play in the uncrewed aviation and zero emission flight industry. Every success counts as a leap forward in bridging the digital divide.

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