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Airbus, Japanese Consortium Invest USD 100M in AALTO HAPS Expansion

Our Bureau - : Jun 3, 2024 - : 7:20 pm

A consortium of Japanese businesses, led by NTT DOCOMO, Inc. and Space Compass Corporation, along with Mizuho Bank Limited and the Development Bank of Japan Inc., has committed to investing USD 100 million in AALTO HAPS Limited, which manufactures and operates the stratospheric, solar-powered Zephyr High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS). The investment will be made through the consortium’s investment vehicle, HAPS JAPAN Corporation.

This investment initiates a strategic alliance aimed at commercialising connectivity and earth observation services using HAPS in Japan and across Asia. It will also support AALTO’s industrial and commercial roadmap, with services expected to launch in Japan and globally by 2026.

The Zephyr HAPS, capable of flying for months in the stratosphere, offers advanced capabilities for mobile connectivity and earth observation. As a payload-agnostic platform, it can provide low latency 5G direct-to-device mobile connectivity and can be used for various monitoring, tracking, sensing, and detection applications, leveraging Airbus’s earth observation service, Strat-Observer. This makes AALTO well-positioned to expand mobile network coverage and provide high-capacity connectivity, including during natural disaster responses in Japan.

This investment enhances the collaboration between AALTO, NTT DOCOMO, and Space Compass, a joint venture between NTT and SKY Perfect JSAT focusing on establishing a Space Integrated Computing Network. The roadmap to commercialise HAPS began with an agreement to explore collaboration with AALTO signed in 2022. Alongside this investment, AALTO and Space Compass will sign commercial agreements to deepen their engagement in Japan and Asia.

Airbus Defence and Space will remain the majority shareholder in AALTO. The investment is subject to closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

“NTT DOCOMO continues to improve network quality and has been focused on establishing new technology frontiers that enhance access to connectivity services. Working with our partners Space Compass, AALTO and Airbus, we are excited by the potential of HAPS-based NTN solutions,” said Takaaki Sato, Chief Technology Officer of NTT DOCOMO.

“This technology brings together unique cutting-edge engineering with economics that are aligned to expand coverage to rural and remote areas, and support our collective response to natural disasters.”

“Non-terrestrial networks have the potential to transform Japan’s communications ecosystem, addressing access to connectivity in hard-to-reach areas while supporting our country’s response to emergencies. Japan has many remote islands and mountainous areas, where there are uneconomic connectivity solutions. Our strategic relationship with AALTO, underpinned by technological innovation and the opportunity of the connectivity market, will help us build a new telecommunications infrastructure in these areas and during an era of population decline,” said Shigehiro Hori, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Space Compass Corporation.

“As the leading HAPS technology of its kind, Zephyr is a unique capability that we will leverage over the coming years. We want to create a successful use case in Japan and expand it to Asia,” added Koichiro Matsufuji, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Space Compass Corporation.

“After a decade of stewardship by Airbus Defence and Space, Zephyr has established itself as a leading HAPS platform in the world. Zephyr plays a key role in the space and defence ecosystem, addressing commercial and government sectors from the stratosphere. With the creation of a dedicated HAPS Services Business in 2022, AALTO has been propelled to a global leadership position in the industry,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Air Power at Airbus Defence and Space and Chair of the AALTO Board of Directors.

“Airbus Defence and Space has enhanced its partnership with NTT, NTT DOCOMO and SKY Perfect JSAT, while demonstrating the breadth of its portfolio capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region. AALTO now has an excellent investor to help drive its ambitious growth plans over the coming years.”

“This is a landmark investment for AALTO. It is the natural next step in the roadmap of the Company’s targeted entry-into-service in 2026, as we industrialise and commercialise our technology. With world leaders in aviation and connectivity as shareholders, AALTO now has the combination of technological expertise and global reach to capitalise on the growth opportunities in substantial total addressable markets across connectivity and earth observation,” Samer Halawi, Chief Executive Officer of AALTO, commented.

“This investment comes as AALTO moves into its next phase of development. This includes launching several customer missions over the coming year, establishing launch and landing sites for Zephyr, and advancing our certification process. We are excited to forge a new frontier in sustainable connectivity and earth observation from the stratosphere, while generating significant value for all our stakeholders.”


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