SoftBank subsidiary HAPSMobile has joined Facebook’s High-Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) flight demonstration programme in South Africa.

The programme is part of a collaboration between the two companies to accelerate the development and adoption of HAPS communication technologies.

They aim to leverage HAPS systems to build stable internet connectivity environments at locations such as mountainous terrain, remote islands and developing countries not served by the telecommunication networks.

A mini aviation aircraft equipped with Facebook’s advanced communication system was selected for the flight demonstration, which flew at an altitude of 4km.

The test flight used the same 26GHz and 38GHz HAPS spectrum bands, which will be considered for HAPS at the World Radio Conference (WRC)-19 in Egypt this year.

As part of the flight demonstration, the HAPS system proved its capability of providing mobile backhaul to enable mobile operators to expand broadband connectivity to rural areas or allow them to upgrade 2G or 3G base stations depending on the current broadband speed.

Facebook connectivity vice-president Dan Rabinovitsj said: “Our work with HAPSMobile and this flight demonstration is an example of how we can share knowledge and best practices from our investment in HAPS to connect more people and further catalyse the industry around next-generation broadband connectivity.”

HAPSMobile president and CEO Junichi Miyakawa said: “Our collaboration with Facebook has been fruitful to HAPSMobile’s efforts to promote the adoption and development of HAPS.

“Building on this flight demonstration, HAPSMobile will continue to develop technologies and standardise the spectrum for HAPS with the aim of revolutionising the world’s mobile networks.”

Both the companies will jointly continue to promote the HAPS spectrum prior to the WRC held by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

In April, the HAPSMobile joint venture (JV) between Japan’s SoftBank and US-based aerospace company AeroVironment developed an unmanned aircraft to deliver telecommunications connectivity from the stratosphere.