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New Technology Strategies Will Move the Market from the Development Stage to Early Adoption by 2026
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The lighter-than-air (LTA) and heavier-than-air (HTA) high-altitude pseudo satellite (HAPS) projects have had a long period of gestation, starting in the 1970s. Technological challenges, especially solar panel efficiency and battery density, have held the market back. The recent closing of the Google Loon project has raised questions on the feasibility of HAPS to close the business case, especially in light of the low-cost LEO satellite proliferation. The market is not helped by the fact that the only customer to date has been the UK Ministry of Defense, which bought 3 Zephyr S for an operational concept demonstration in 2016.This scenario, however, is set to change with new advances in technology. Technology has made significant advances in terms of solar cell efficiency, battery density, advanced materials, and control (stability) to make HAPS a technically and economically viable product. The HAPS technology advancement will also benefit from the current developments in electric mobility, electric aircraft, and unmanned aerial mobility (cargo airships).The LEO satellites come at significant capital expenditure (CAPEX) even as they continue to suffer from certain disadvantages. The HAPS value proposition lies in lower latency, persistence, maneuverability, and quick capability insertion. Increasing technology capability will also bring down the manufacturing and operations cost curve in the future. Lower costs and advantages will enable the closing of business case in the select military and commercial applications.The market is moving to an early adoption stage, and Frost & Sullivan expects the market size to be between USD 750 M to 1 B by 2026. The Airbus model, Zephyr, is likely to be the first to be adopted for military applications; the expected timeline for the same is 2023–2024. HAPS Mobile is likely to be the leader in commercial applications with its vehicle, the Sunglider. The maturing and fielding of LTA airships with higher payload weights and capability will accelerate their adoption, beginning 2025–2026.
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