A Portuguese company, Quarkson, plans to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to transmit internet access “to every corner of the world.” The company’s SkyOrbiter program is similar to Google’s Project Loon, according to Gizmag, which also seeks to deliver internet access to remote places. “Where Google plans to float internet-enabled balloons above the earth, however, Quarkson intends to use a fleet of high-range UAVs much like the Titan Aerospace Solara 50 to deliver connectivity from orbit.” It has obvious attractions for remote mines and exploration projects.
The SkyOrbiter fleet comprises six different low-altitude models and three high-altitude models. The most basic SkyOrbiter is the LA25. It is designed for commercial and government use and is able to provide connectivity to areas where none is available. The LA25 has a wingspan of about 25 m, operates at 3,500 m and has a range of over 42,000 km or up to two weeks.
Each of the subsequent low altitude SkyOrbiters has an increased wingspan and range right up to the LA75, which has a wingspan of 75 m and a range of over 150,000 km or up to seven weeks. Unlike the low-altitude models, the high altitude UAVs orbit at 22,000 m and can stay in orbit for years as opposed to weeks. The most advanced of the high-altitude models, the HA75, has a wingspan of around 75 m and a range of up to 5 million km or five years.
The low-altitude SkyOrbiters series will be powered primarily by fossil fuel based technology. According to Quarkson, this will provide the best performance in terms of endurance. The high altitude SkyOrbiters, however, will be powered more similarly to the aforementioned Solara, with a solar array on wings and body parts.
Quarkson says that the SkyOrbiters can accommodate different weights and types of payload depending on what data may need to be collected. The UAVs can be used for a variety of purposes in addition to providing internet access, including, for example, environmental monitoring.