The aircraft’s development and testing is funded by HAPSMobile Inc. a joint venture between the Simi Valley unmanned aircraft manufacturer and SoftBank Corp., a Japanese telecom and internet company.
During the test flight, conducted in late September, an AeroVironment team took the aircraft to an altitude of 62,500 feet above Spaceport America in New Mexico.
The broadband communication demonstration successfully linked teams at Spaceport America, Tokyo and Silicon Valley. Employing standard smartphones, a team at Spaceport America conducted multiple video calls via the Sunglider’s payload while the aircraft circled for more than five hours in the stratosphere, the company said.
AeroVironment Chief Executive Wahid Nawabi said that over the last three years, the company and HAPSMobile have made great progress with the unmanned aircraft.
“Reaching stratospheric altitude, maintaining continuous flight for more than 20 hours, achieving key test objectives and demonstrating seamless broadband communication illustrate the tremendous potential (high-altitude pseudo-satellite) technology offers to expand connectivity globally,” Nawabi said in a statement.
The Sunglider is propelled by 10 electric motors powered by solar panels and is designed for continuous flights of months without landing.
Shares of AeroVironment (AVAV) closed up on Thursday $4.26, or more than 6.5 percent, to $69.50 on the Nasdaq on a day when that market closed up less than 1 percent.