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The high-altitude pseudo satellites (HAPS) market is poised to register a CAGR of over 8% during the forecast period 2020-2025. HAPS are potential substitutes for conventional satellites and once deployed, these aerial platforms generally hover at stratospheric altitudes, ranging between 10 miles and 30 miles above sea level. HAPS are geostationary, hence their effectiveness for providing services is localized.
- HAPS incorporates the best aspects of terrestrial and satellite-based communication systems. They eliminate the capacity and performance limitations of satellites by efficiently delivering voice, video, and broadband services at much economical pricing vs performance margins than conventional geostationary satellites. Hence, they are being increasingly adopted by telecommunication service providers to satiate the demand for high-capacity wireless services, especially the last mile delivery in remote areas with the limited ground-based network coverage.
- Though HAPS are more economical to manufacture and operate, their effectiveness is limited by the endurance of such platforms. In the case of HAPS platforms, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), an electric propulsion system is integrated to enhance the endurance of the platform. This has resulted in significant R&D investments towards the development of powerful battery systems and high-charge density solar panels to enhance the endurance of HAPS platforms, thereby making it more feasible for adoption by telecom and emergency service provider end-users.
- HAPS operate at the stratospheric layer of the Earth’s atmosphere where the air density is around 7% compared to that at sea-level, hence the airborne systems face several operational challenges. For instance, since the lift generated is a direct function of air density, such platforms may also require larger wing area (in case of fixed-wing UAV) or volume (in case of an airship or balloon) to achieve sustained flight. To ensure compliance with the design’s weight specifications, system designers must incorporate relatively advanced and lightweight materials for achieving weight optimization. For instance, Google has been experimenting with a variety of materials for Project Loon. They have envisioned using a combination of metalized mylar, Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate (BoPET) and highly flexible chloroprene for the Loon stratospheric balloon project. Similarly, Facebook used T700 carbon fiber for the construction of the prototype for Aquila. Ongoing development of HAPS models is also envisioned to foster the R&D towards lightweight materials during the forecast period.
Scope of the Report
The market study is based on the ongoing R&D of the various types of HAPS platforms. The study also takes into account the production of HAPS by the market players and also considers the instances of deployment during the considered timeline. Market estimates do not include the sales and replacement of individual components of a HAPS system.
Key Market Trends
Performance and Cost Benefits of HAPS over Conventional Satellites
The proliferation of high-speed wireless services to a rapidly increasing consumer base has cropped up several critical challenges for the telecommunication service providers. Since the coverage of terrestrial networks is limited in some regions, and satellite-based telecommunication services have many capacity and performance limitations in voice and video communication applications, HAPS are being used to provide data services in remote areas as they demonstrate superior propagation characteristics over a terrestrial and satellite-based telecommunication network. HAPS can deliver cost-effective broadband services in an efficient manner and are viable as a suitable alternative infrastructure for the long-term provision of broadband access to fixed or mobile users. For instance, stratospheric balloons can stay afloat over their destined region for long periods of about 3-5 years and provide coverage over an area of around 500 km2. A HAPS offers enhanced network flexibility and configurability and is hence well-suited for temporary provision of basic and additional capacity requirements while providing an excellent option for emergency communications. Thus they are being increasingly adopted by agencies during rescue operations. For instance, in October 2017, Google deployed its Project Loon balloons to enable data services to residents of the hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. They possess the potential to deliver cost-effective broadband services in an efficient manner and are viable as a suitable alternative infrastructure for the long-term provision of broadband access to fixed or mobile users. This feature favors their selection by operators to provide services in remote areas. Moreover, due to the possibility of rapid deployment and flight-control in compliance with changing communication demands,
Technological Advancements Bolstering Adoption of HAPS in Emerging Economies
The adoption of HAPS is significantly high in developing countries in Asia-Pacific and Europe region due to the absence of critical infrastructure to ensure telecommunication services in remote locations. HAPS platforms are instrumental in search and rescue (SAR) missions, disaster relief, environmental monitoring, and precision agriculture. Several governments, including that of Kenya and India, have permitted the pre-deployment testing of HAPS to critically analyze the feasibility of such systems in the countries. For instance, in November 2015, the Indian government approved the use of Loon balloons in the country. Market players are keenly investing in developing advanced HAPS platforms to bolster adoption. Research efforts are being diverted towards the development of advanced power systems that can enhance the endurance of HAPS platforms. The Formira Hydrogen-On-Demand technology, developed by Neah Power System in October 2015, synthesizes hydrogen from liquid formic acid. The system is designed to transfer formic acid from the tank to a reformer, where hydrogen is generated and immediately consumed by the stack. Since the gases so produced are not stored at any time, the technology makes HAPS UAVs less prone to flammability issues pertaining to high temperatures prevalent in the stratosphere. The system is also highly modular and reflects a compact design. The technology can provide unlimited endurance benefits to HAPS platforms. Thus, the R&D efforts of the market players, coupled with favorable adoption trends in different countries is anticipated to drive the global adoption of HAPS during the forecast period.
The high-altitude pseudo satellite market has a few dominant vendors operating on a global level. The market is highly competitive, with players competing to gain the largest market share. Spectrum management challenges, endurance limitations of HAPS, and the cancellation of ongoing projects are envisioned to impede the growth of the market. Market players compete based on their in-house manufacturing capabilities, global footprint network, product offerings, R&D investments, and a strong client base. AeroVironment Inc., Airbus SE, Loon LLC (Alphabet Inc.), Prismatic Ltd., and Thales Group are the five major market players. They compete based on technological offerings and integration capabilities at a given price point. An increase in the high-altitude platform procurement rate is expected to fuel the market growth during the forecast period, thereby making it an ideal time to launch new products. Since the threat of new entrants is moderate, the competitive environment in the market is likely to intensify further due to an increase in product/service extensions and technological innovations.
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