Japanese consortium invests $100M in Airbus’ stratospheric Zephyr platform

A group of major Japanese companies and banks led by NTT DOCOMO and Space Compass has committed to invest $100 million in AALTO, an Airbus subsidiary that manufactures the solar-powered Zephyr high-altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS).

The investment by the Japanese consortium, which also includes Mizuho Bank and the Development Bank of Japan, aims to accelerate the commercial deployment of Zephyr for providing mobile connectivity and earth observation services from the stratosphere.

“Working with our partners, we are excited by the potential of HAPS-based non-terrestrial network solutions,” said Takaaki Sato, chief technology officer at NTT DOCOMO, Japan’s largest mobile operator. “This technology brings together unique cutting-edge engineering to expand coverage to rural and remote areas, and support our response to natural disasters.”

Zephyr is a solar-electric unmanned aerial vehicle capable of flying at an altitude of over 60,000 feet for months at a time. It can function as a “multi-functional tower in the sky” to provide low-latency 5G connectivity directly to devices on the ground, as well as enable various earth observation applications.

“With world leaders in aviation and connectivity as shareholders, AALTO now has the combination of technological expertise and global reach to capitalize on growth opportunities across connectivity and earth observation,” said Samer Halawi, CEO of AALTO.

The strategic alliance between AALTO and the Japanese consortium aims to commercialize Zephyr-based services in Japan and across Asia, with an anticipated global entry into service in 2026.

Airbus Defence and Space will remain the majority shareholder in AALTO. The investment is subject to closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

Dirk Andrei Salcedo Avatar

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