Boeing Frontiers
August 2002 
Volume 01, Issue 04 
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Industry Wrap

High-altitude telecom test complete

Pathfinder-PlusA high-altitude unmanned solar-electric airplane recently doubled as a giant telecommunications tower while hovering high above the Hawaiian Islands, reported

The Pathfinder-Plus aircraft, designed and built by AeroVironment Inc., transmitted hours of next-generation mobile voice, data and video services, including high-definition television signals to handheld devices on the ground. The tests were conducted over Kauai.

Pathfinder-Plus cruised to an altitude of about 65,000 feet, positioning itself above the weather and commercial air traffic.

During the tests, the world's first digital HDTV broadcast transmission from the stratosphere yielded "a picture-perfect video signal to a fixed receiver on the ground," the report said. The signal was said to have achieved twice the resolution of conventional broadcast transmissions.

The project, called SkyTower Inc., a subsidiary of AeroVironment, based in Monrovia, Calif., is being done in collaboration with the Japan Ministry of Telecommunications and NASA.

The aircraft is being designed with the hopes of grabbing market share from telecommunications satellites, according to the report. It would largely be marketed as a way to fill in coverage gaps missed by terrestrial and satellite broadcast transmissions because of skyscrapers, terrain and other obstacles.

SkyTower plans to launch commercial service within three years by offering fixed wireless broadband infrastructure.


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