High altitude pseudo satellite (HAPS) firm Mira Aerospace has conducted a successful 5G trial from the stratosphere - which ranges from 4-12 miles (6-20km) above the Earth's surface to around 31 miles (50km).

“Our team is excited to announce that our ApusDuo aircraft achieved the world’s first successful delivery of 5G connectivity from a fixed-wing HAPS (high-altitude pseudo satellite) aircraft in the stratosphere last month,” Mira announced last week. “Reaching a maximum flight altitude of 16.9 km, our stratosphere-ready communications payload delivered Rwanda's first 5G-enabled Zoom video call.”

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– Mira Aerospace

Mira said the communications payload continuously delivered 5G connectivity for approximately 73 minutes, during which it reached a maximum altitude of 16.9 km. During the test, the stratosphere-ready 5G communications payload enabled a 5G Zoom video call.

Mira is a joint venture of UAVOS and Bayanat. The former is a developer and manufacturer of advanced unmanned systems; Bayanat, part of G42, offers applications, services, and components for satellites and aviation including surveying, geospatial, and earth observation data analysis as well as satellite radars.

UAVOS is developing the ApusDuo platform. The company said it will be able to operate in the stratosphere at an average altitude of 59,000 feet/18 kilometers. The ApsDuo HAPS has a wingspan of 15 m (49.2 ft) and a maximum take-off weight of 95lb (43kg). For the test flight, Mira had to construct three temporary runways for takeoff and landing, using artificial grass.

Though the company said it was the “world’s first” successful delivery of 5G connectivity from a fixed-wing HAPS (high altitude pseudo satellite) autonomous aircraft in the stratosphere, SoftBank conducted its own successful 5G connectivity trial from a stratospheric HAPS in September as well.

Announced earlier this month, SoftBank said the company tested its proprietary 5G communications payload in the stratosphere in late September. The company said the communications payload continuously delivered 5G connectivity for approximately 73 minutes in the stratosphere at a maximum altitude of 16.9km and enabled a 5G-based Zoom video call between an unmodified 5G smartphone at the test site in Rwanda and SoftBank team members in Japan.

Though the companies don’t mention one another in their respective announcements, the similarities of the trials suggest they may have been working together.

HAPS – whether they be airships, balloons, or fixed-wing drones – offer a way to provide connectivity to rural and unconnected areas from high altitudes without the upfront costs of cell towers or satellites or the need for specialist receivers.

Mira said it plans to commercialize this technology by 2025. Its platforms will be able to provide services in connectivity, Earth observation, weather, security, and emergency disaster management. A successful platform high-altitude test flight was conducted over the summer.

Other players in the HAPS space include BAE, Airbus, Avealto, Stratospheric Platforms, and Sceye.