ABOVE: Stratospheric Platforms, Marshall Futureworx and Britten-Norman will collaborate on a project developing airborne 5G connectivity

 UK aircraft manufacturer Britten-Norman will join a team of companies in a contract to trial advanced airborne 5G connectivity from a Britten-Norman Islander aircraft.

Led by Stratospheric Platforms Limited (SPL), a Non-Terrestrial Networks telecoms provider, the project will pioneer the concept of using a high-altitude platform with airborne antenna to provide widescale coverage of high-performance 5G from the stratosphere.

To achieve this ambitious intention, the project’s goal is to deliver an unmanned, liquid hydrogen-powered aircraft with a flight endurance of over a week; assisted by the new platform’s 56 metre wingspan.

Initial tests will see Stratospheric Platforms’ phased array integrated to a turbine-powered BN2T-4S Islander, chosen for its performance and ease of modification. Flight trials (conducted under Britten-Norman’s CAA test conditions) are due to begin in July 2024. Britten-Norman will operate the aircraft from its Solent Airport facility and the mission will be performed over the North Sea.

“This project includes deliverables from our design, manufacture, MRO, continued airworthiness, flight test and flight operations teams,” said Garnet Ridgway, Flight Test Engineer and Britten-Norman; adding that the BN2T-4S Islander “has a combination of payload capacity, endurance, climb performance, twin engine reliability, robustness and electrical power generation that makes is unbeatable for this mission”.

IMAGE: Britten-Norman