Thales is partnering with the climate and space research project Airbus Perlan Mission II, with plans to create the ‘highest ever Wi-Fi hotspot’.
Through the partnership, Thales will strive to operate its latest mobile satellite communications system, FlytLink, in a zero-emission glider to more than twice the height of a commercial airline flight.
The Airbus Perlan Mission II team, based in Nevada, is planning a possible return to flight this year in the US and El Calafate, Argentina. The group has already set world aviation altitude records in the Perlan 2 glider, which is designed, built and deployed to fly up to 90,000 feet.
Launched in 2015, the Perlan 2 reached its highest record flight of more than 76,000 in 2018. The organization’s mission is to conduct climate, atmospheric and aeronautical research at extremely high altitudes. Applications of her research include informing more accurate climate change models, innovating zero-emission aviation, and demonstrating the feasibility of using energy-efficient winged aircraft on Mars.
The world will get a “live, front row view” of the stratosphere through the partnership, Thales said, as the Perlan 2 glider is equipped with the FlytLink Thales Iridium Certus-based satellite communications system (satcom). The live feed provides access to real-time data downloads.
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FlytLink provides coverage and connectivity for critical operations around the world. Thales said the system’s resilience, high reliability and low dimensions, weight and power make it suitable for any aircraft.
“By exploring the stratosphere in a non-polluting airborne research vehicle, we hope to unlock discoveries never before possible,” said Ed Warnock, CEO of The Perlan Project. “Through this exciting partnership with Thales, we also look forward to inspiring new generations of scientists, engineers and pilots in environmentally conscious aviation.”
Marc Duval Destin, VP of strategy, product policy and innovation for Thales’ Flight Avionics business, said the Airbus Perlan Mission II aligns with Thales’ strategies for future, greener aviation and the environment.
“Our equipment will be in a pressureless environment,” added Duval Destin. “So this is a great opportunity for us to validate the design and performance of our solution in such extremely harmless conditions.”
When Perlan 2 reaches its target altitude of over 90,000 feet, it will be the highest a winged aircraft has ever flown in level flight. Its glider wings can fly in less than three percent of normal air density at temperatures of minus 70°C, which is similar to the atmospheric conditions on Mars.