StratoBus is a new innovative project proposed by the Thales Alenia Space, a French group founded in 1893, that promises to offer Internet, surveillance, security, telecommunications, broadcasting and navigation capabilities. Our regular readers may recall two similar projects launched by Google and Facebook. Google had announced Project Loon which plans to put a blanket of air-balloons covering the Earth to deliver Internet. Facebook too is planning for something similar through the acquisition of the drone making company called Titan Aerospace. Each of these projects, however, have their own shortcomings.
Both the drones and balloons do not have a long lifespan and they keep moving, resulting into limited autonomy. Moreover, the payload carrying capacity of drones and balloons is is very limited. The project StartoBus aims to fix these by putting up an airship midway between the flying heights of drones and the satellites to do multiple tasks. The airships will have a life-span of about 5 years and better endurance to the atmosphere. In addition, these airships will be stationary and capable of carrying payloads of about 200 Kg each. The ships will be positioned at an altitude of about 20 km, in the stratosphere.
Each of the airship will be about 70 to 100 meters long and approximately 30 meters in diameter. Because of its location and shape, it will be able to capture solar power in all directions all the time. The solar energy derived will be used to charge an ultra-light fuel cell for energy storage and to power all the equipment on the airship. Major portion of the energy will be derived to run two electric motors to keep the airship at its position against the air-drifts, which can have speeds of about 90 km/h.
The first prototype of the StratoBus airship is expected to be rolled out in the next 5 years. Here's an animated video of the airship. Check it out -
Source: Thales Group