High Altitude Aeronautical Platform

Published : 01-01-2015 by : Pawan Janorkar

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High Altitude Aeronautical Platform Stations (HAAPS) is the name of a technology for providing wireless narrowband and broadband telecommunication services as well as broadcasting services with either airships or aircrafts. The HAAPS are operating at altitudes between 3 to 22 km. A HAAPS shall be able to cover a service area of up to 1'000 km diameter, depending on the minimum elevation angle accepted from the user's location.

The platforms may be airplanes or airships (essentially balloons) and may be manned or un-manned with autonomous operation coupled with remote control from the ground. HAAPS mean a solar-powered and unmanned airplane or airship, capable of long endurance on-station –possibly several years.

A high altitude telecommunication system comprises an airborne platform – typically at high atmospheric or stratospheric altitudes – with a telecommunications payload, and associated ground station telecommunications equipment. The combination of altitude, payload capability, and power supply capability makes it ideal to serve new and metropolitan areas with advanced telecommunications services such as broadband access and regional broadcasting.

The opportunities for applications are virtually unlimited. The possibilities range from narrowband services such as paging and mobile voice to interactive broadband services such as multimedia and video conferencing. For future telecommunications operators such a platform could provide blanket coverage from day one with the added advantage of not being limited to a single service. Where little or unreliable infrastructure exists, traffic could be switched through air via the HAAPS platform.

Technically, the concept offers a solution to the propagation and rollout problems of terrestrial infrastructure and capacity and cost problems of satellite networks. Recent developments in digital array antenna technology make it possible to construct 100+ cells from one platform. Linking and switching of traffic between multiple high altitude platforms, satellite networks and terrestrial gateways are also possible. Economically it provides the opportunity for developing countries to have satellite-like infrastructure without the funds flowing out of the country due to gateways and control stations located outside of these countries.

The platform is positioned above the coverage area. There are basically two types of HAAPS. Lighter-than air HAAPS are kept stationary, while airplane-based HAAPS are flown in a tight circle. For broadcast applications, a simple antenna beams signals to terminals on the ground. For individualized communication, such as telephony, "cells" are created on the ground by some beam forming technique in order to reuse channels for spatially separated users, as is done in cellular service.

Beam forming can be as sophisticated as the use of phased-array antennas, or as straightforward as the use of lightweight, possible inflatable parabolic dishes with mechanical steering. In the case of a moving HAAP it would also be necessary to compensate motion by electronic or mechanical means in order to keep the cells stationary or to "hand off" connections between cells as is done in cellular telephony

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