Softbank, Altaeros Launch Autonomous Aerostat

ST-Flex launches at Hokkaido Spaceport.

SoftBank Corp., Japan’s mobile carrier, completed initial testing of Altaeros’ ST-Flex™ autonomous aerostat. Operational and telecom tests were performed at Hokkaido Spaceport, Taiki Town, Hokkaido, Japan.

SoftBank and Altaeros first launched the ST-Flex on May 2, 2022 and performed evaluation tests through May. ST-Flex carried SoftBank’s base station system, which was equipped with its proprietary cylindrical antenna that realizes communication area footprint fixation, to a height of 816 feet (249m), where it was connected to their ground equipment via optical fiber and power conductors embedded in the tethers.

Softbank Logo

From SoftBank’s announcement: “The newly developed high-altitude tethered aerostat base station system was operable at higher altitudes and carried heavier communication payloads, and it also achieved wider area network coverage with greater communication stability during the trial.”

Aerostat Autopilot™, Altaeros’ proprietary autonomous control system, eliminates on-site crew for daily operations and ensures the highest level of reliability, making ST-Flex the most cost-effective aerostat solution in its class. During the test program, the ST-Flex excelled in highly variable weather conditions, including gale-force wind.

Altaeros’ three tether autonomous controls create stability in the aerostat and control pitch, roll, and yaw to keep the aerostat steady even in varying weather conditions. The autonomous features provide a level of performance and flexibility unparalleled amongst commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

“We are incredibly excited to have completed the first international launch of the ST-Flex,” said Altaeros CEO, Ben Glass. “Successful testing of SoftBank‘s Footprint Fixation Technology on the ST-Flex is a huge milestone which will further the development and effectiveness of many aerial telecommunications platforms to help bring critical services around the world.”