FAA Approves Solar Drone Flights Over Hawaiian Island.

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Photo courtesy of HAPSMobile

Japanese drone company HAPSMobile has soared into a COA2 (Certificate of Authorization) from the FAA to fly HAWK30, a solar-powered unmanned aircraft assembled in April 2019.

The drone will provide a stratospheric telecommunications platform system across the stratosphere of the Hawaiian island of Lanai.

The project is a collaboration with the Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex, which is operated by public university research institutions.

HAPSMobile partners with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which manages the PPUTRC, and the University of Hawaii to conduct stratospheric test flights using HAWK30. The University of Alaska Fairbanks applied to the FAA for the COA2 on behalf of the partnership.

With the FAA’s blessing, the team will prepare for test flights at Lanai later this year “by conducting safety verifications while coordinating with the island authorities and respecting business-related legislation and regulations.”

The trio also plans to hold information sessions for community residents in due course to discuss safety considerations and to promote understanding of the vision to utilize HAPS in the future.

AeroVironment, Inc. serves as HAPSMobile’s aircraft development partner for HAWK30, a solar-powered unmanned aircraft designed for stratospheric telecommunications platform systems. Last year, the company formed a $65 million joint venture with HAPSMobile.

HAPSMobile CEO Junichi Miyakawa said:

“We are extremely pleased to receive this COA2 from the FAA. In taking up this major challenge to provide telecommunications connectivity from the stratosphere, this approval represents a major step forward. We will continue to work toward our goal of bridging the world’s digital divide and revolutionizing mobile networks by leveraging HAPS.”

Solar drones continue to “shine” across the UAV industry as technology improves:

Solar electric drone company Silent Falcon UAS Technologies was one of the first to offer a compact-sized solar drone that is composed of carbon fiber and weighs under 100 pounds.

In 2017, Facebook successfully tested its Aquila solar drone in Yuma, Ariz. as part of a project to bring Internet service to remote parts of the globe via UAV.  The drone got scuffed a bit in a hard landing but exceeded planned flight time of 30 minutes by more than an hour.


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