AALTO’s Mission: Democratizing High-Speed Internet with Solar-Powered Drones

Where Loon relied on balloons, however, the newer project utilizes Zephyr solar-powered drones. “[Loon] got really good customer engagement,” AALTO CEO Samer Halawi told TechCrunch in a sit-down interview last week at Mobile World Congress. Airbus acquired the technology for the fixed-wing drones from U.K. Ministry of Defence and Space spinoff QinetiQ in 2022. Every six months or so, the system will land for a battery swap, as these still have a limited shelf life. Like Loon before it, the company is also exploring temporary deployment for downed cell towers following natural disasters.

Space Perspective proposes to use balloons for an exhilarating journey to the highest reaches of the skies, leaving rockets behind.

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The husband-and-wife duo departed World View in 2018; the following year, they started another balloon company, Space Perspective, this time squarely focused on ultra-high-altitude tourism. Space Perspective, which aims to commence commercial service as soon as the end of this year, is entering a nascent market: its closest competitors are Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, which offer rides to suborbital space. There’s duration: a flight on New Shepard takes 11 minutes from lift-off to landing; Space Perspective’s will last six hours. Simultaneously, Space Perspective is working with the U.S. Coast Guard, which maintains regulatory authority over space-related activities that occur in water. One notable difference is development costs: Space Perspective has raised $77 million from investors since 2019, while Virgin Galactic has spent more than $1 billion developing its system.