High altitude broadband is the platform for the future

A three-year project led by the University of York, which aims to revolutionise broadband communications, reaches its climax later this year.

The CAPANINA project, which uses balloons, airships or unmanned solar-powered planes as high-altitude platforms (HAPs) to relay wireless and optical communications, is due to finish its main research at the end of October.

The consortium behind the project will open York HAP Week, a conference from 23 to 27 October, which will showcase the applications of HAPs, as a springboard for future development in this new high-tech sector.

The CAPANINA Final Exhibition will open the conference by highlighting the achievements of the project, which received funding from the EU under its Broadband-for-All, FP6 programme.

The consortium, drawn from Europe and Japan, has demonstrated how the system could bring low-cost broadband connections to remote areas and even to high-speed trains. It promises data rates 2,000 times faster than via a traditional modem and 100 times faster than today's 'wired' ADSL broadband.

CAPANINA's Principal Scientific Officer Dr David Grace said: "The potential of the system is huge, with possible applications ranging from communications for disaster management and homeland security, to environmental monitoring and providing broadband for developing countries. So far, we have considered a variety of aerial platforms, including airships, balloons, solar-powered unmanned planes and normal aeroplanes -- the latter will probably be particularly suited to establish communications very swiftly in disaster zones."

The final experimental flight will use a US-built Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and will take place in Arizona days before the York HAPs Week conference at the city's historic King's Manor.

Following the CAPANINA event, a HAP Application Symposium led by Dr Jorge Pereira, of the Information Society and Media Directorate-General of the European Commission, will provide a forum for leading experts to illustrate the potential of HAPs to opinion formers and telecommunications providers.

Completing the week, will be the first HAPCOS Workshop, featuring the work of leading researchers from around Europe. It will focus on wireless and optical communications from HAPs, as well as the critically important field of HAP vehicle development.

The Chair of HAPCOS, Tim Tozer, of the University of York's Department of Electronics, said: "There are a number of projects worldwide that are proving the technology and we want to convince the telecommunications and the wider community of its potential. We are particularly keen to attract aerial vehicle providers."

The CAPANINA and HAPCOS activities have helped to forge collaborative links with more than 25 countries, including many from Europe, as well as Japan, South Korea, China, Malaysia and USA. They are seeking to develop existing partnerships and forge new ones, with researchers, entrepreneurs, industry, governments as well as end users.

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Notes for editors:

  • The University of York leads the EU FP6 project, known as 'CAPANINA'. The team is developing HAP-based systems which can use the spectrum efficiently to reach all areas. They will include steerable antennas which will use the latest digital signal processing. The team is also assisting in techno-economic aspects of HAP based systems and has developed a number of business models for communications applications from HAPs.

  • Graham Long, Manager of the York Electronics Centre at the University of York is co-ordinating the international project.

  • The other European and Japanese partners specialise in various aspects, including the development and construction of equipment for trials, , and free-space optical communications.

  • The first objective of the CAPANINA project is to show how broadband can be delivered to rural areas across Europe.

  • CAPANINA is a 6 million Euro project involving 13 partners from across Europe and Japan. The majority of the funding comes from the EU's Framework 6 Programme.

CAPANINA partners are:

University of York UK
Jozef Stefan Institute Slovenia
CERCOM/Dipartimento di Elettronica - Politecnico di Torino Italy
EuroConcepts s.r.l Italy
Universitat Politecnica Catalunya/Department.TSC Spain
Carlo Gavazzi Space S.p.A. Italy
Budapest University of Technology and Economics Hungary
BT UK
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. Germany
Centre Suisse d'Electronique et de Microtechnique SA Switzerland
Contraves Space AG Switzerland
National Institute of Information and Communications Technology Japan Japan Stratospheric Corporation Inc. Japan

Further details about all the partners can be found on the following web site page www.capanina.org/partners/partners.php

  • HAPCOS – COST 297 HAPCOS was established in 2005 as a collaborative discussion forum funded by the European Science Foundation's COST initiative, following the initial success of CAPANINA. More information at www.hapcos.org.

  • HAPCOS has three working groups, specialising in 'Radio Communications', 'Optical Communications', 'Platforms'.

  • The Secretariat of HAPCOS are based at the University of York.

  • It has technical experts from 17 European countries.

The Department of Electronics at York has a high reputation for teaching and research, with current research funding exceeding 5 million Euro. The key personnel for CAPANINA and HAPCOS are the members of the Communications Research Group and Physical Layer Research Group, which collectively have more than 50 staff and research students. The Groups have participated in a number of EU projects including the HeliNet project, the forerunner of CAPANINA, and FLOWS which dealt with flexible convergence of wireless standards and services, including multi-band antenna array design. More information at www.elec.york.ac.uk/


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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