Aircraft

SkyOrbiter UAVs will fly for years at a time and provide global internet access

SkyOrbiter UAVs will fly for y...
Quarkson wants to provide internet access to every person in the world using its SkyOrbiter UAVs
Quarkson wants to provide internet access to every person in the world using its SkyOrbiter UAVs
View 5 Images
Quarkson wants to provide internet access to every person in the world using its SkyOrbiter UAVs
1/5
Quarkson wants to provide internet access to every person in the world using its SkyOrbiter UAVs
Quarkson's low-altitude SkyOrbiters will orbit at 3,500 m (11,500 ft) and operate for weeks at a time
2/5
Quarkson's low-altitude SkyOrbiters will orbit at 3,500 m (11,500 ft) and operate for weeks at a time
Quarkson's high-altitude SkyOrbiters will orbit at 22,000 m (72,000 ft) and can operate for years at a time
3/5
Quarkson's high-altitude SkyOrbiters will orbit at 22,000 m (72,000 ft) and can operate for years at a time
Quarkson says that the SkyOrbiters can also be used for aerial imaging, security and military applications, environmental monitoring and in agriculture
4/5
Quarkson says that the SkyOrbiters can also be used for aerial imaging, security and military applications, environmental monitoring and in agriculture
Quarkson wants to achieve a number of flight challenges as a means of testing and developing the SkyOrbiters
5/5
Quarkson wants to achieve a number of flight challenges as a means of testing and developing the SkyOrbiters
View gallery - 5 images

The internet has become a critical means of communication during humanitarian crises and a crucial everyday tool for people around the world. Now, a Portuguese company wants to make sure everyone has access to it. Quarkson plans to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to transmit internet access "to every corner of the world."

Quarkson's SkyOrbiter program is similar to Google's Project Loon, 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.

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 (82 ft), operates at 3,500 m (11,500 ft) and has a range of over 42,000 km (26,000 mi) or up to two weeks.

Quarkson's high-altitude SkyOrbiters will orbit at 22,000 m (72,000 ft) and can operate for years at a time
Quarkson's high-altitude SkyOrbiters will orbit at 22,000 m (72,000 ft) and can operate for years at a time

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 (246 ft) and a range of over 150,000 km (93,000 mi) or up to seven weeks. Unlike the low-altitude models, the high altitude UAVs orbit at 22,000 m (72,000 ft) 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 (246 ft) and a range of up to 5,000,000 km (3,000,000 mi) 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 its 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 aerial imaging, security and military applications, environmental monitoring and in agriculture.

Quarkson says that the SkyOrbiters can also be used for aerial imaging, security and military applications, environmental monitoring and in agriculture
Quarkson says that the SkyOrbiters can also be used for aerial imaging, security and military applications, environmental monitoring and in agriculture

Users can manage their fleet of SkyOrbiters using the Constellation Manager system. Its HC-LOS ground antennas can be used to connect to the UAVs using the company's Q-SATCOM bi-directional data link or its SkyLink wireless communication system.

Quarkson is in the process of fundraising and development for a number of "challenges" that it aims to complete for testing. Its Maiden Flight challenge will see the SkyOrbiter LA25 fly for the first time and provide proof of concept. The challenges will culminate Pole-to-Pole and Around the World flights.

Update 23 Sept 2014: This article has been updated to include information on how the UAVs are expected to be powered.

Source: Quarkson

View gallery - 5 images
13 comments
Dirk Scott
Sounds far fetched, but do not underestimate Portuguese innovation and technologies. I took an apartment in Lisbon, the capital, and ordered internet and TV. The guy came round, sorted the TV then plugged a box into the mains electricity and said "there you are". I was shocked (we are still trying to install copper wire in the UK). "You can take it to two other locations and use use it there too and your house phone runs on it too". Despite metre thick walls in the block I am getting 50mb from the air here and 10mb in the middle of nowhere on a farm up in the mountains. 58% of the country's energy is from renewables too. Way ahead.
EddieG
Only the ISP industry will benefit from this. The rest of us will never know the difference.
Freyr Gunnar
The article doesn't say how those UAVs will be powered. Solar?
Dirk Scott > The guy came round, sorted the TV then plugged a box into the mains electricity and said "there you are". I was shocked (we are still trying to install copper wire in the UK). "You can take it to two other locations and use use it there too and your house phone runs on it too".
Powerline adapter?
Michiel Mitchell
The real issue is, how do we prevent the internet from going down, the moment Shiat hits the fan. These things are sitting ducks for any government's military.
Cristian Raicu
The company is not Portuguese. The UAV will be solar. Internet only in sunny and windless days.
Brian Mcc
Never going to happen. Obsolete before it gets built.
Reason
Quarkson?
I suggest the first one built should be christened the Jeremy ;)
Mark C
@Cristian Every day is sunny @ 75000ft...
And we already have a solar plane successfully flying thru the night - see Solar Impulse
Why are there still people who cannot get the fact that the planet is already 100% solar powered.
Laurent Panetier
This is great however this set up will require many authorizations at several states an authorities levels before being operational. It will also require time to be fully operational, never mind the expenses it will incur. All initiatives to give access to the internet to people everywhere in the world is worth trying. But the needs have to be fulfilled now, not in 2 or 3 years. More and more people in developing countries, in Africa, in Asia and elsewhere now have access to smartphones but cannot afford dataplans. Connecting the world is an issue that needs to be addressed today not tomorrow. The latest FAO/UNESCO report shows that new technlogies can reduce the number of people who suffer from hunger in the world. A light and simple mobile application on the most affordable smartphone operating Android and allowing a connection to the internet no matter the carrier, no matter the network is more than sufficient and can help millions better their lives...
Nuno Terra
@ Cristian Titus Raicu:
Yes, it is a Portuguese company and Yes, you can have solar power even on cloudy days. And these UAVs are supposed to fly above them!
Check the link: http://www.quarkson.com/about/