UK-based drone supplier Stratospheric Platforms Ltd (SPL) is collaborating on a project to create a network of drones capable of circling around in the stratosphere for days at a time with the purpose of beaming 5G signals down to earth.
Stratospheric Platforms and Cambridge Consultants plan to use a fleet of around 60 drones, each one carrying a three metre square antenna, to cover the whole of the UK.
Experts have said that integrating a complex network of constantly airborne drones into the UK’s air traffic management system within four years will be difficult. Funding will also be a challenge.
But the two UK companies involved in the project said the network will be able to provide “widescale coverage of high performance 5G at a fraction of the cost of terrestrial networks”.
Deutsche Telecom has already backed the project and Cambridge Consultants says it will target other similar companies.
The drones, which weigh the same as a medium-sized van, will fly at an altitude of about 20,000 metres (65,600 feet). They will use a hydrogen power system to increase endurance, whilst reducing environmental impact and noise.
The antenna will include more than a million components and provide 5G coverage to areas up to 140km in diameter.